No one goes into a relationship wanting it to end. You start off with good intentions, hoping that whatever differences or red flags emerged early on, you and your partner can conquer together because you have great chemistry, right? But when time goes on and little has changed, you may find yourself sticking around out of fear or the unknown or comfort with the familiar. How do you know you’re staying with someone for the wrong reasons? We talked to the experts to find out the tell-tale signs you’re in a relationship you shouldn’t be in.
You and your partner are in very different places.
It’s normal for people in relationships to lean on each other for both emotional and financial support at times. But if there’s an extreme imbalance between you and your significant other, it might be time to move on.
“We all need a sense of security—it is one of our key emotional needs,” says relationship expert Patrick Wanis. However, he adds, “some people who make security their priority will ignore the other needs in a relationship and will marry someone who is at a different life stage (older, already has children and doesn’t want more) or someone who they don’t really love but who will offer them companionship and a pathway to raise children.” If you love the finer things your partner provides, but don’t love much else, it’s time to break up.
Or you have all the same likes.
When you’re in a healthy partnership, you find ways to prioritize each of your wants and interests. In unhealthy relationships, on the other hand, you might notice that you’ve completely given up pursuing your own interests or goals in favor of making the other person happy. Whether this stems from your own desire to always put your partner first or from your partner’s attempt to control you, too many similarities could mean one of you is sacrificing too much of yourselves.
You’re more focused on photographing your dates than enjoying them.
After a certain point, you might find that your relationship truly only exists to fuel your social media image—and this is definitely unhealthy territory, according to David Bennett, a relationship expert, and creator of The Popular Man, a men’s dating publication. “It makes a person look better on social media to be coupled up than it does to be single,” he says. “Unfortunately, this means that the partner is mainly just a prop for photos or a way of being able to say, ‘Look at me. I’m not single!’” No one wants to uncheck the “In a relationship” box, but it’s definitely not a good enough reason to stick with someone you’re no longer into.
You’ve stopped seeing your friends.
The first sign of an unhealthy relationship? You can’t remember the last time you hung out with your friends. Shutting out people you care about hints that there’s a major flaw in the foundation of your romantic relationship. Maybe it’s because you’re ashamed to introduce your partner to your friends, or maybe your partner isn’t accepting of the people who matter to you. Whatever the reason, neglecting friendships outside of your relationship means something is amiss.
You embellish their qualities to your family and friends.
Are you constantly telling everyone in your life how much your partner does for you when really, you can’t remember the last time they took out the trash? If you always feel the need to convince others that you’re in a healthy, balanced relationship, you might also be trying to convince yourself of the same thing.
For example, you might say, “‘They’re an entrepreneur’—when really they have an idea for an app that they work on about once a month,” says relationship coach Natalie Turner. “‘They’re a free-spirit and we give each other lots of freedom’—when they only text you back when they get around to it. Who are you trying to convince of their greatness?”
The bedroom is the only place you’re happy.
t can be easy to confuse sexual chemistry for compatibility. How could someone you have such great sex with not mesh with other aspects of your life, right? But if you find that the bedroom is the only place you and your significant other are on the same page, you might be sticking around not because you love them, but because you can’t live without the sex.
“Most people think this is a great sign of compatibility, but typically if you are sexually attracted to somebody at a level 10 out of 10, it’s because, without that intense attraction, you would more readily notice glaring red flags that would otherwise make you run in the other direction,” Turner says.
You only talk about work.
Your partner’s drive and ambition might be something that you find attractive. However, if you go to your partner solely for professional advice, you’re looking for a career coach, not romance. If you’re truly being honest with yourself, dating someone only for the sake of your professional development isn’t fair to them, and it’s not great for you, either. A romantic relationship is not a business transaction.
You can’t remember the last time you were single for more than a month.
“Many of our clients have rarely, if ever, been single in their lives,” Bennett says. “They go from relationship to relationship because they fear to be alone. Pairing up with someone because you are afraid to be single or alone is not a great way to pick a partner or a recipe for a healthy relationship.”
In the end, being alone and taking the time to learn your wants and needs could be the key to finding a partner who suits you. But if you’re a serial monogamist, you’re not giving yourself the opportunity to do that.
You see them more as a potential co-parent than partner.
If you’re getting older and haven’t found your forever person, you might find yourself willing to settle for someone who can fulfill your desire to become a parent. Sure, you see qualities in them that would make a great mom or dad. But if you can’t define what makes them your better half beyond that, it’s time to part ways.
You’re worried about losing your free therapy sessions.
If you tend to be an anxious person who isn’t solution-oriented, you might go to your partner as your fixer. And maybe they’re very good at resolving all your problems, from helping you improve your credit to advising you on how to handle your difficult boss. But that doesn’t mean that your relationship is fulfilling. Chances are, this partner brings you a sense of security that you feel is impossible to achieve on your own. If you’re constantly looking to your partner to help you and nothing more, you should be looking for a life coach instead.
And your at-home caregiver.
While it is normal to want to be taken care of by a romantic partner, you are ultimately putting your relationship in a precarious place if you expect them to care for you as your parents once did, says Heidi McBain, a therapist specializing in women’s mental wellness. “Wanting your partner to take care of you as a parent would instead of learning to parent yourself and be partners to one another can create an unhealthy dynamic within your relationship where one person may have more power and control than the other person,” she explains.
It all comes down to your living situation.
If the only thing keeping you with your significant other is your shared collection of movies and kitchen gadgets, you’re in it for the wrong reasons.
Sure, after you’ve lived together for a certain amount of time, it can seem daunting to split your very conjoined life into two separate halves. The shared belongings and routines are comfortable and easy—and doing away with all of that can seem incredibly scary. But convenience isn’t a reason to stay with someone.
According to Bennett, some couples “won’t break up because they already live together and share so much in common … even if the relationship is dead.”
You feel like “nothing” without your partner.
In a healthy relationship, your partner should not be the only thing that brings you happiness. Ideally, you should be able to draw joy from multiple people and avenues in your life. If your partner is truly your everything—and we mean everything—you’re relying on your significant other too much. That’s emotionally draining for them and frightening for you, not to mention it can make a relationship turn sour when they inevitably fail to keep you happy.