If we’re taught that you can’t help who you’re in love with, why do we have to fight so hard to stay in love with the same person?

If you’ve ever been in a relationship before, chances are, you know that relationships are a lot of hard work. Ideally, they shouldn’t be all work, but after a certain point you have to make a conscious effort to feel the same way.

Why does this happen, and what can you do to make it easier?

This probably isn’t going to be a very popular opinion, but there’s a simple answer for this:

Not every relationship is meant to last.

Sadly, not every relationship is meant to be saved, and there is also a chance that what you thought was “love” was really misappropriated infatuation. (I know I’ve been there.) If all signs are pointing to how difficult it is to love your partner, consider taking a step back and seeing if you miss them, or if you feel free. Take a look at the criteria below and see which category you fall into:

Problem #1: You grow comfortable with your partner.

After a certain point, you’re not as dazzled by your partner as you were in the beginning. It’s not because they’re any less dazzling. Where once was a brand-new Mercedes, now they’re an old Pinto. They’ll still get the job done, but they don’t have the same luxury anymore. When you start to feel comfortable with them, you no longer think of them as perfect.

Once you’ve grown comfortable with someone, you’ll see them in a way that you haven’t seen most of the people in your life. You may go to the bathroom in front of each other, which can lead to less-than-stunning experiences sometimes. You might have seen your partner give birth, or you might associate them with your family. This makes them less of a “lover” in your mind, and you begin to grow bored.

Fortunately, there are ways to remove some of that “safety”. You can keep an element of mystery while still being in an honest relationship. Have a hobby that’s just yours, for example. Make sure it’s not something that your partner would disapprove of, but don’t actually tell them the details. Keep this one (or two) sections of your life private, just for you, and encourage your partner to do the same.

Chances are, if you’re forced to be apart for awhile, your mind will remember you that you miss them. In leaving out this one part of your day, you won’t feel like they’re tied to every aspect of your life – and you can keep a little “you” time in your day.

Problem #2: You know all of each other’s flaws.

If you’ve been together awhile, you begin to learn things about each other. You’ll learn things about her past that you don’t agree with, and she’ll learn these things about you as well. You’ll know how her breath smells the morning of a hangover, and you’ll know how her temper flares while she’s drinking. Obviously, these are just examples, but you get the picture – you start to see things you don’t like.

In the beginning, we all put our best face forward. We want our partners to like us, so we choose only the best aspects to showcase. However, after awhile, these walls fall down, because we’re more comfortable together. At the time, it’s an intense bonding experience – but when you’re bored, your mind may go to those “flaws” and make something substantial out of the little things.

This isn’t necessarily avoidable; all you can do is prioritize the flaws in order to see what you can handle. If it’s a bunch of little things that aren’t a big deal on their own, why should they matter together? Chances are, some of these flaws seemed cute to you the first time you noticed them. It’s not always the case, of course, but if they were cute once, you can find a way to make them cute again.

If at some point you notice that the flaws really aren’t tolerable anymore (such as, you’ve mentioned them to your partner and they’ve since gotten worse), then it’s time to begin evaluating your relationship on a deeper level. The only thing you can do in this case is to take a mental inventory of the flaws you can’t handle in the future, think about the things you choose to do differently in your future relationships, and move on with your life.

Problem #3: Our tastes change.

This is one that I don’t think gets a lot of attention – sometimes, your taste in women will change over the years. Of course, you can choose to make the effort to make it work anyway, but if the attraction isn’t really there anymore, there’s not too much you can do to force that.

For example, when I was in high school and I first came out, I had a strong preference for extremely feminine, extremely good looking, not particularly intelligent girls. I’m talking the prom queen type. (No offense to any former prom queens, of course!) I wasn’t particularly feminine myself, either; I probably wouldn’t have considered myself very attractive, but I was pretty intelligent. So why was I spending my time with these girls who were so much different than I was? Because I found them attractive.

Later in life, our priorities change. I care much less now whether a girl identifies as a femme or a stud, and I usually tend to go for girls who alternate between the two labels, or choose no label at all. I’ve changed myself, as well – rather than dressing in a pinstriped suit (you know I rocked my prom), I’m just as likely to wear a dress. I still consider myself intelligent – even more so now that I’ve got some real-world experience behind me and noticed that life is not like high school.

My point is, sometimes the person we loved when we were younger isn’t meant for you when you’re older. This is especially true if you met your partner when you were very young, and even into your 20s. Where once you may have wanted someone who was fun and brought the party, now you’re ready for someone who wants a family and a business – and if your partner hasn’t changed to the same point you have, it’s not going to work out.

Problem #4: We’ve been together too long and we’re tempted to explore our other options.

This one can be particularly hurtful if both partners aren’t on the same page. Sometimes, if we feel that we’ve grown “bored” of each other – or we think we’re missing out on experiences we could have had if we hadn’t settled down – it can feel like a tremendous amount of pressure to remain attached to the same person. This is the main cause of infidelity in relationships, and a big contributor to divorce and break-ups.

Sometimes, this falls in line with the “comfortable” relationship we talked about in Problem #1. Other times, we get anxious that we’re wasting our lives, or that there’s a better option out there for us.

I firmly believe that, if you’re tempted to cheat, you’re not with the right person. This doesn’t mean that you can’t love someone and at a later point cheat on them – nor does it mean that polyamorous relationships are doomed from the start. Certainly, there are some people who work better when not in a committed situation, but if you have to sneak around to do it – you would be better off with someone else. Monogamy requires monogamy in kind.

If you’re dealing with this type of a problem in your relationship, you should evaluate why you’re tempted to stray. If it’s something your partner can easily fix, try talking to her about it. For example, if you’re tempted to stray because you’re bored of your sex life, ask your partner how you can spice things up. If it’s not something she can fix, you can try talking to her about your urges, and see how she feels about the idea. Some women may see it as a threat, but others may be surprisingly okay with it. You won’t know until you talk about it.

Problem #5: One of you feels used, neglected, or abused.

This can be another tough position to be in.

Sometimes, it’s unintentional – for example, if one partner isn’t doing her fair share of the chores at home. You feel like you’re being taken advantage of. You could try asking her if she could help you out more around the house. She may respond with something about how she’s tired from work or school, but that she’ll try to make more of an effort in the future. Occasionally, when one partner feels they are being taken advantage of, it is by intentional design of the partner – in which case you should move on from that relationship as soon as possible.

Sometimes, it’s a matter of a simple understanding. For example, my partner told me she was feeling neglected because I’m a bit of a workaholic. This resulted in me setting stricter office hours for myself when she was home – and making a point to spend time with her once I shut down. Feelings of neglect in a relationship are almost always caused by misunderstandings and miscommunication. Sometimes, however, a partner truly isn’t willing to give the relationship its proper effort – in which case it may be best to move on.

If you’re feeling abused in your relationship, it’s important that you realize these feelings are almost never wrong. I have been in situations in the past where I thought I was being abused, but I was afraid of what my (at the time) girlfriend would do if I falsely accused her. You should understand that these thoughts are directly indicative of an abusive relationship. If you love the person, this can be a hard fact to accept, but it’s nonetheless important. If you think you are being abused, leave her and get help.

What now?

Once you’ve determined whether your relationship is worth staying in or not, you can begin to decide which steps are necessary to move forward. If you plan to stay in the relationship, communication is key! The problem isn’t going to go away on its own. Likewise it’s selfish to assume that your partner will figure out “what they’re doing wrong” if you don’t tell them. This relationship takes two players on the same team.

If you’ve instead determined that the relationship is no longer a good fit for you, it can be hard to move on. This can even be true if the love has faded almost completely away. If this woman was a part of your life for a long time, you won’t want to let go – but sometimes you have to.

Finally, if you think that you are in any danger from your choice to leave your partner, it’s important that you take the proper measures to protect yourself. In many cases, you can get a restraining order against them – although the specific laws vary from location to location. Remember, as much as we value love, our lives are always more important than our relationship.