Early in my 20’s, I thought I had everything figured out when really, I wasn’t even close (#realtalk). I let go of jobs that didn’t fulfill my soul, people who didn’t seem to care, and past traumas that plagued me. But there was one thing I had a hard time letting go of. He was my high school sweetheart and husband at the time, and though we tried everything imaginable to make things work, I woke up one day with this overwhelming realization that is just wasn’t working anymore. I couldn’t pinpoint any definitive moment or argument through the years (aside from being way too immature to be married), but instead, had a list of all the little things that turned into this really big thing. We soon parted ways. He went off to live his new life, and I did the same a state away. It was for the best. After we split, I realized all that hanging on we had done only hurt us more.
Relationships are complicated beasts. Sometimes it feels so easy, and other times it feels like you’ve drifted miles apart. With most of my relationships, there was more of the latter. Sometimes, I selfishly stayed in the partnership out of convenience or fear of hopping back into single-hood again. It’s normal for partnerships to ebb and flow because it can’t be crazy good all the time. I get that now. And in all these years since that marriage ended, we’ve both moved on and found people who are better for us. But in the process, I’ve learned how to recognize when something is truly over. If you find yourself wondering “is this working?”—it’s time to do a relationship roll call. Ask yourself the following questions. Your answers might tell you what you already know deep down in your heart.
Are you moving forward together?
Life goes in one direction – forward. It’s fast and unflinching and doesn’t stop for you to figure things out in times of distress. If you’re feeling stuck in your relationship, it’s almost impossible to go with the natural flow of things until you’ve dealt with the roadblocks. I know it’s time to re-evaluate who I spend my time with when I feel like I’m evolving but s/he seems to still be in a space or mindset that doesn’t match mine. Life is ever-changing. If your relationship can’t keep up with those changes, however subtle, it’s a good sign you may need to have the old “where do I see myself in 5 years” talk.
Are usually easy conversations becoming difficult to have?
When asking “how was your day?” and it ends in a fight, it might be time to re-consider your current situation. I knew this time came for me when my partner and I would go out for a “romantic” dinner and sit in total silence so as not to argue. If it gets to the point of not knowing what to say at all, that might be a red flag. If you can’t even speak to one another, why are you still together?
Do you prefer to do most things solo?
Independence is great but if you’d rather, say, go out every Friday and Saturday night with your friends instead of with your partner, maybe you should ask yourself what the reasons are behind it. Did you used to go out together? Do you still have dedicated couple time aside from solo time? Does being together lift you up or bring you down? All these questions may help you create a clear picture of where you relationship currently is, and where it should be.
Has your vision of the future changed?
When I was little, I thought for sure I’d grow up and be a mega rock star (or a veterinarian). Now, I’d rather avoid being the center of attention in any capacity and the mere thought of being any kind of doctor makes me nauseated. The point is, my idea of what I thought life would be changed dramatically because I’m human. Think about all the dreams you had as a child and how many of them stayed with you into adulthood. It’s natural for what you want to change over time. If you sit down with your partner and talk about what the future looks like and your ideas are very, very different from what they were when you first entered into the relationship, it may be time to think about moving on so you can both live your best life.
And the biggie: Do you feel like you’ve changed and grown in a different direction from your partner?
When you sit down at the end of the day and think about all the ways your relationship isn’t working, it might come down to one truth: you’ve changed. It’s completely normal to be a different person at 25 than you were at 17, so if you’ve been with someone for a long time, and you’re not growing together, and you feel stuck, and something just isn’t right, as hard as it might be, take a look in the mirror. When my past relationships ended, some of them were because the relationships ran their natural courses and weren’t meant to last,but others were because I grew out of them, or my partner outgrew me. It hurts at the time but I’d rather be with someone on my level. You deserve someone on your level, too. Trust.
Realizing a relationship isn’t working doesn’t make you, or your partner, a bad person. If anything, you’re more mature for knowing when to call it quits instead of dragging things out, further preventing you, and your partner, from true happiness. After all, you went into this because you cared for one another. That doesn’t have to change, even if your relationship does.
(Image via Focus Features)