There is a culture in our relationship-obsessed young women's world that has obfuscated a dark truth: We are so overly focused on fixing our relationships that we have become completely blind to the fact that we're in terrible relationships. We read articles and talk and think for days about how to improve ourselves, our boyfriends and the health of our relationships. We give advice and listen to stories. But all this has inured us to the fact that we're just dating the wrong guy.
Maybe if we actually told our friends this, many of us would have gotten out of relationships we wasted years trying to fix. As friends, we want to be supportive and often we're afraid of taking a stance against a friend's boyfriend, lest he turn into a fiancé and we find ourselves at the worst table at the wedding. But it's become so commonplace, I personally can't keep my mouth shut anymore.
Part of the blame for this is the conventionally accepted wisdom that we're supposed to "work on our relationships." Today, men are expected to change: to communicate and share feelings and compromise with us women. But up until the sixties, if there were problems in a relationship, the woman had to evaluate the relationship, including the problems, because she would have never entertained the hope that her husband might change into a more sensitive, communicative man. Today, we evaluate our relationships and assume we can fix these problems because we're told to talk things out and tell our men what we need from them. But we've ignored the most important part of working at relationships -- determining if we're in the right one.
We as women have deluded ourselves into believing that if we talk things out we can fix things and then we will have just the good portion of our relationship left. I hear friends say all the time, I just need to trust him more, then we'll be great, or once we figure out where to live, our relationship will be perfect, or he makes me so happy, except for [fill in the blank] which we'll fix by communicating better. But there is very little you end up fixing in a relationship. Your relationship very often has the same problems two years from now that you have today. So you need to evaluate your relationship assuming the problem won't be fixed. I'm not saying be pessimistic and forget about trying to work out problems. By all means, try. But suppose things aren't fixed, suppose he still can't deal with you making more money than him, or suppose you two still want to live in different places, or suppose you don't trust him any more than you do now, is this still the relationship you want to be in? Women used to have no choice but to evaluate relationships exactly as they are -- it was essentially an adhesion contract: Take it or leave it. Luckily, there is some room for negotiation these days. We can get men to talk with us and share more, maybe even get a manicure once before they die. But don't let this blind you to the fact that you might just be in a relationship that isn't right or isn't as good as one you could be in with someone else. I've had to give up talking to some of my friends about their relationships because every time I get on the phone with them, they're depressed about the same problems with the same men. And of course they can see fifty possible answers but none of them include the obvious: BREAK UP WITH HIM.
I used to think that finding the right person to be with was about finding the person in the world who makes you the happiest. And that if you achieve that feeling of such complete love and euphoria and bliss with someone, you know you're with the right person. But it turns out, you can even achieve that feeling with the wrong person. The trick is of those people you could potentially love, finding the one who also upsets you the least. I believe finding the right person is about choosing the person who not only makes you feel that euphoric aura of love, but who also doesn't make you cry. And so I give you:
TWELVE SIGNS YOU NEED TO BREAK UP WITH HIM, yes even if you love him.
1. You Don't Trust Him
If I hear one more friend tell me how she is learning to rebuild trust with her boyfriend because of some incident with another girl, I'm going to start losing friends. All the time, I hear girls discuss bouncing back from an incident where she went through his phone and found inappropriate texts or facebook messages where he was asking to be [expletive deleted] by another girl or simply obsessing about where he might be, every time she can't get a hold of him. Why are you torturing yourself every moment you are not with your boyfriend because of your lack of trust? There is way too much talk and focus on rebuilding trust. Trust is foundational. If you're in the beginning of a relationship and not married with no kids, you shouldn't be attempting to rebuild it. Just find someone else you don't have to build on a broken foundation with. Get in a relationship with someone you do trust!
2. You Often Feel Compelled to Snoop
You look through his phone call log. You read his text messages. You check his email. And you're never satisfied with what you find. Three weeks later, you're wondering if he's done something recently that he didn't tell you about, so you check again the moment he leaves you in the car with his phone while he's double parked. Worse than that, you blame yourself! You think the reason you do this is your own anxiety or because your Dad cheated on your mom or that you have trust issues and you believe you will be acting like this no matter whom you're in a relationship with. But have you considered that maybe it's not you? It's your relationship with him! Have you thought that perhaps if you are in a relationship with a different man, you might trust him so much that you won't feel compelled to snoop? So what are you waiting for?
3. You Want to Live in Different Places
Our relationship would be perfect, if only we could find a city where we both could have our dream jobs. I have a heard a variation of this for many years. This idea that you have a good, healthy relationship and that the location is just a logistical thing to figure out is a complete fallacy. If you can't both be happy in one location together, you do not have a happy relationship because by definition, one of you will always be in a place that you don't want to be in. Girls in this category are constantly evaluating a fictitious relationship in a dream world. STOP pretending you both are going to live in paradise! If your relationship is only good in the utopian place where you can live in a big city and work on Wall Street and at the same time he can till the soil on his farm far away from city lights, you two are just not meant for each other. If he will only be happy in his country, which is a continent away from the only place you want to work, stop imagining what your relationship would be like when you two are together. You need to start evaluating the relationship as it is -- in a place that actually exists. Logistics can sometime be a sign that you are not meant for each other.
4. You Cry Because of Your Relationship All the Time
You tell everyone you are in a great relationship. You love him and he loves you. But you cry often and easily and because of him. This is a huge sign. How do people miss this? And yet I did, too. It never occurred to me that I was crying because I was in a relationship I shouldn't have been in. I thought I was crying because I needed him to understand me more or we hadn't spent any quality time together or we hadn't had a chance to talk about last week's incident yet. But now, I can count on one hand the number of times my relationship has made me cry. So stop making excuses for why and take this as a sign you need to break up. And don't tell me it's because of your special circumstances -- you're unfulfilled in your job or in a depression or haven't found yourself yet. Wake-up, you're not the first person in the world to go through tough times. If you're crying all the time because of your man, stop telling yourself it's going to be better after the tough times. There will always be tough times. If you're crying over little things like hasn't texted you back, your missing the writing on the wall. Your relationship sucks. Because if it were just the fact that he didn't text you back, it wouldn't make you cry.
5. You Want Him To Have a Different Career
He's an actor/model/musician and he hasn't been paid for anything but waiting tables in eight years and you're hoping the two of you move back to Michigan and that he takes over his Dad's contracting business. Or he's on Wall Street working 100 hours a week and the two of you have imagined a life where he takes a job a 9 to 5 government job. Or your supporting him with two jobs until the brewery he's opening up takes off. Regardless of what it is, if you are imagining your life with him in a way that includes him having a different job, you need to stop fooling yourself. He may never give up on his music career. If you can be in a happy relationship while he's tending bar, enjoy your happy relationship. If your happiness is contingent upon his job changing, accept that you are not in a happy relationship.
6. You Want Him to Be More Thoughtful
I used to constantly be hoping that my ex would make restaurant reservations. It didn't have to be anything fancy. I just for once wanted him to plan some time with me. Even when every once in a blue moon, he would remember to make reservations like on my birthday, I would still get upset that he only called the day of the dinner. I'd be mad at myself for caring and call myself a spoiled brat. But what I should have accepted was that it wasn't that I need a boyfriend to make reservations for dinner, it was indicative of how thoughtful and considerate he was of me in his life. Now, I could care less if my boyfriend makes reservations at a restaurant. Often he does well in advance, sometimes he doesn't and sometimes he makes them the day of. But he is constantly doing things that are thoughtful and considerate, so that if he doesn't make restaurant reservations, I could care less. If you go into birthdays and Valentine's Day hoping he will break the mold and do something special and then you get upset when he doesn't, you're not being superficial. You're hoping for something special because you feel ignored and under-appreciated all year. Find a guy who is thoughtful the entire year and you'll stop wasting all your energy hoping against hope that he'll finally prove how much he does care about you.
7. You Want Him to Compliment You More
You wish he complimented how you looked or told you why he loved you or just generally commented on everything you do for him. I used to constantly ask my ex to tell me he thought I looked pretty or liked the new dress I bought or that he was still attracted to me. These things are especially hard to give over time, and if you're twenty years into marriage I think this is a normal problem. But it should come easily early on. It's hard for the same man to make a woman feel desired over a long period of time. However, if you've only been dating a year or even a few and this is problematic, it's not going to get better. Early on, he should make you feel like there is no one in the world he desires more than you. And early on is longer than just the first time you sleep together. If this isn't good in the beginning, it's hard to see it ever getting better so ask yourself if you can accept his current level of compliment offerings and still be happy.
8. You Want Him to Be a Different Kind of Man
I have a good friend that went through a divorce at age 29. It's especially sad because in my opinion it could have been avoided. He came from a blue blood east coast background where men don't talk about how they feel. She was from a ribald Latino California family and she needed him to talk to her. Especially when their relationship underwent a lot of stress. She desperately needed him to communicate and even after therapy he still couldn't. She kept saying to me, "our relationship would be perfect if I could just get him to talk to me more and tell me how hard it is for me." But she never did. Because she couldn't get him to be a different type of person. If you're saying things are good except I need him to be different, things are not good. It's not meant to be.
9. You Want Him to Prioritize You More
If he acts like his job comes first and you're not okay with that, no amount of communicating with him will improve this. I notice this especially among people in their early twenties. Men are less likely to put their relationship in front of their careers, especially on the early side of 25. And yet most women in relationships need to feel like they are the number one priority in their man's life. This creates obvious dissatisfaction and can breed contempt for your partner. You have a right to be the most important thing in your partner's life. If he doesn't like that, it may be because you're not the most important thing in his life, regardless of what he says on occasion.
10. You Want Him to Enjoy the Things (or Even Any One Thing) That You Enjoy
You like to go surfing or hiking or on a bike ride. He likes to stay in and watch Seinfeld re-runs. You can easily love a person you have nothing in common with, and although it's true that opposites attract, research suggests that similarities are what make for a good relationship that can withstand the test of time. As passion dies, most couples will be left with a friendship. Friendships are hard to sustain if you don't enjoy the same activities. Telling yourself that he will learn to love to exercise or cook or leave the house is giving you a myopic view of the relationship you are in now. If he continues to only enjoy the things he enjoys now, is this still the relationship you want to be in?
11. You Don't Orgasm During Sex and He Has No Idea
You have sex. Often, in fact. He says it's the best sex he's ever had and tells his friends you have a great sex life. You tell him the same. Except that is a complete lie. You rarely, if ever, orgasm from your sex with him. It's not that it's bad. It's just that if you told him you needed your vibrator or your own hand in order to orgasm, he'd be so offended and it would be so damaging to his manhood and he'd be so crestfallen that your relationship would never recover. So you don't say anything. And you settle into a routine of faking every single orgasm and he has no clue. If you fake the majority of the time, it's not just that your sex is bad, it may be that your relationship is rotten, too.
12. You Are Staying in This Relationship Mainly for Premium Cable
Yes, HBO is expensive. I get that you can't afford to double your cable bill and that your boyfriend has every channel under the sun, but no television show, not even Game of Thrones,is worth your soul. So if every time you start thinking about breaking up with your beau you start considering your addiction to Girls and how you'll never find out what happens with Adam, let it go. If you need to ask him for his HBO Go password first, do it already. Premium channels do not a relationship make.