Most people think that a long-term relationship automatically guarantees that there’s growth potential and compatibility. Unfortunately, though, that’s not always the case. Sometimes, we stay together not because we want to be together, but because it’s easier than the alternative. Sometimes, our relationships last a long time because we don’t care enough to actually work things out. We don’t care about the problems, because all relationships have problems – and isn’t it better to just ignore the problems until they go away on their own?
Well, no. It doesn’t actually work like that.
Of course, not all problems are worth making a big deal about, but if your relationship is starting to show these 7 signs, the relationship itself probably isn’t anything to make a big deal about. Let’s go over some of the biggest clues that your relationship just isn’t going to grow.
1. You don’t talk about the future.
If one (or both) of you absolutely refuse to talk about the future of your relationship – or maybe even the future of your lives as a whole – there’s a good chance that your relationship doesn’t have a future. Humans tend to feel guilty about this bleak end-game, so instead of telling our partner what we really see, we just change the subject instead.
What’s more is that some people don’t even know what they want out of their own future, which means they really don’t know if you fit into it or not. While not having a plan isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the people who fly by the seat of their pants don’t have a spot carved out for their relationship. In fact, nothing is set in stone – and that makes it incredibly difficult.
It’s not always about the long-term plans, though. If you and your girlfriend have been together for more than a few months and you’re not able (or willing) to set plans for more than a few days ahead, at least one of you is probably on the fence about where your relationship is headed. Make it easier on yourself and say goodbye before someone gets hurt.
2. When you do talk about the future, you’re not together in it.
Some people choose to make it look like they don’t think about the future, when in fact, they think about it a lot. Maybe you’re already thinking about the qualities you want in your next girlfriend, or she’s been talking about how things are going to be different the next time she’s single. If you’re already thinking about moving on, you need to move on.
What if you’re not really sure how she feels? Sometimes we over-complicate things for ourselves by trying to come up with excuses for behavior we know is wrong. Maybe you’ve talked about moving in together, but she made it clear that she wasn’t interested in a long-term lease. Maybe you have moved in together, but she doesn’t want to share any of the big expenses – “just in case” something happens.
You know that these signs mean she’s not in it for the long-haul, but you write it off that she’s just being practical. And, in a way, you’re right – but the fact that the relationship needs an exit strategy means that the most practical thing to do is to just get out now. Why postpone the inevitable?
3. You’re not really a part of each other’s lives.
First, let me say that there are absolutely good reasons to leave your partner out of your “personal” life. For example, if you’re not out to your homophobic family, you’re obviously not going to introduce your girlfriend to them. If you’re out to your friends, but they’re super racist (and your partner is from a different ethnic background), you probably won’t want to show her off to them. I’m not saying that these reasons are wrong – I’m saying that they close off the chances of a future together.
Let’s face it: No one really wants to be the one to cause an upset. I know I’ve dated women whose families definitely wouldn’t want to meet me, for whatever (usually bigoted) reasons. I’ve dated women whose families were in some type of weird feud with my family. (I don’t really have a Romeo-and-Juliet complex, I swear.) No matter what the reasons were, one thing was abundantly clear every time: You can’t have a future with someone if you’re not fully a part of their present.
Of course, there are some grey areas, too. What do you do when it comes to social media? She accepted your friend request, but you rejected her relationship-status-change request. Does this mean that you’re ashamed of her? Well, not necessarily, but it does mean that things are being hidden. Healthy, happy relationships are private without being a secret – there is a huge difference.
4. Your relationship feels very “part-time”.
Even in a long-term relationship, you can get the feeling that the relationship has a shelf life. Truthfully, all relationships are (most likely) going to end at some point, whether due to a break-up or a death or just some weird freak circumstances. But you shouldn’t get the feeling ahead of time – that’s not really a good sign.
Long-distance relationships are particularly at risk of becoming “part-time”. It’s easy to talk to someone who’s too far away to really be a fixture in your life, and then just never make plans to actually get together. If you’ve been long-distance for more than two years and have never discussed moving closer to each other, you probably never will.
Likewise, relationships can become “part-time” when you go out of your way to spend time away from each other. It’s great to spend time on your own, especially after you’ve been together for a few years and gotten really, really comfortable, but in order for your relationship to grow, you have to spend time together, too. If either of you is always coming up with an excuse to go your separate ways, you should probably make the split permanent.
5. You’re only together because it’s easier than not being together.
I know, after you’ve been together for a few years, it can be really easy to stay in the relationship just because “it’s what you do”. I’ve been there myself. I think it stems from the idea that we’ve put all this time and effort into the relationship, and it feels like it would be a waste to throw all that time away.
But the truth is, if all you’re doing is putting in time and effort, you are wasting your time. Maybe you’ve even thought about breaking up before, but you stuck it out because you had that wedding to go to, or you’d already bought tickets for something next month (even after your girlfriend told you she wasn’t making plans that far ahead). Whatever the reason is, you shouldn’t compromise the things you want and need, just because it’s easier to not be single.
This sort of extends to those inklings you’ve got about your partner, too. Are you bored by your sex life, but it seems like your partner is being satisfied some other way (or by someone else)? While your suspicions don’t always mean that your partner really is cheating, if you stay with someone you can’t trust, you’re definitely taking the easy way out, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Just walk away, and know that you’re doing yourself a favor.
6. Your relationship doesn’t bring you joy.
A happy relationship definitely isn’t going to fix the problems in the rest of your life, but the right partner is the one who makes you happy – even if it’s in an abstract way. Your partner should make you smile, and you should find her fun to be around. Of course, she’s going to make you sad sometimes, and she might even bug the hell out of you – but that shouldn’t be all she does.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be black and white, though. You can have a partner who doesn’t do anything to you, and still not feel the things you want to feel for her. Just because someone treats us right, doesn’t automatically guarantee that we’ll have true love for them. Sometimes you have to admit that your relationship doesn’t actually make you happy, even if it doesn’t necessarily make you sad, either.
Now, the tricky part here is that different people have different thresholds for unhappiness, and I can’t tell you what yours is. It’s completely reasonable to expect happiness most of the time, and it’s completely reasonable to expect happiness only about half the time. But if your relationship makes you happy less than half the time, you need to find a way to be happy more – even if that means you go out on your own.
7. You’re trying too hard to make things work.
All relationships require some effort – but effort isn’t the same thing as work. If your relationship feels like a chore, an obligation, or a job, it’s probably because it’s all wrong for you. Your relationship isn’t going to solve everything, but it should never feel like something you have to do.
Sometimes, though, the things aren’t so obvious from the surface. Maybe your partner wants you to do more in the relationship, or expects more out of the bedroom. Maybe she expects you to handle all the bills, or all the housework, or all the nurturing. This isn’t right. It might not be split straight down the middle, but if either partner isn’t pulling their fair share, it’s bound to lead to resentment – unless you use it to guide you towards the break-up that’s long overdue.
Finally, if you’ve been reading every item on this list and just hoping that there’s a sign that your relationship isn’t doomed… I have some bad news for you. Your relationship shouldn’t require that you constantly defend your partner’s actions, especially if those actions are against you. Don’t settle for someone who makes you feel like you’re already getting what you deserve – go for the woman who reminds you that you deserve to have everything you want.