Almost every day, I am bombarded with post after post urging couples everywhere to fight for their relationship, to never give up on each other, and to stay strong until the very end.
For years I’d been led to believe this. For the longest time, I had struggled, clinging onto something I thought to be right, even though what I was holding onto made me sink deeper. Even when faced with doubt and setbacks, I thought that if I grit my teeth harder and quietly tolerated the suffering, my perseverance would be rewarded. One day, I finally listened to my intuition. I learned to let go.
Are you struggling to keep your relationship afloat? Do you feel that the more you strain to keep the ship from sinking, the more drained you feel?
If you are struggling to fight for your relationship, or if you are having a hard time believing your friends when they say you should let go, here are 7 red flags that will help you identify a sinking ship.
#1: When you feel alone together.
Single or married, young or old, every person will experience loneliness throughout their lives. It is a completely normal feeling, but what should NOT be normal is if you’re in a relationship with someone who makes you feel alone ALL the time.
What does this mean? No, I am not talking about space or physical distance! (Note: If your partner respects you enough to allow you to live your life independent of their control, feel blessed!) However, the kind of loneliness I’m referring to is silence.
Do you two have nothing to say to each other anymore? Do your conversations feel forced? No common topics to bond over?
Not only that, loneliness can be the loudest when you feel unheard. Let’s say you’re in a bad place, or going through some troubles that may or may not have concern your partner. If your partner doesn’t pick up on this, or if they chose not to do anything about it, you may feel truly deserted. Two people who are in a relationship are not just partners, they are a team. That means helping each other navigate turbulent seas, providing support, and lifting their spirits. In other words, their troubles should be your troubles and vice versa. Your partner does not have to fix your problems. (In fact, you should not expect them to!) Instead, the best thing someone can do for a person who is hurting would be to just listen to them and provide heartfelt assurance that they won’t have to go through it alone.
Don’t be afraid of being alone. It’s being lonely in a relationship that should pose a bigger concern to you.
#2 When past memories are all that holds you two together
This is a no-brainer. What happened in the past will always remain fond memories. However, if you two find that energy and passion draining, replaced by feelings of doubt or even indifference, take heed! Will you be able to be with this person for the rest of your life, as should be the ultimate goal of every serious relationship?
This happens when you find out who your partner really is. Over time, you will start to become more comfortable in the relationship, and certain aspects of your partner you never saw before will be revealed. Will you be able to tolerate their flaws for the rest of your life? Nobody’s perfect. You’ll never find a partner without fault. With this in mind, can you imagine living with this person (and their imperfections) for many years to come?
People who hold onto the past may be afraid of the future and terrified to let go of someone who once journeyed a part of their life with them.
Please be careful here. Just because you’ve been together with someone for a long period of time, (even if it’s a decade!) does not make it a reason to stay “stuck” with them. Just because you are afraid of starting over doesn’t mean you should hold onto something that has long passed its expiry date. What’s a couple of years compared to the rest of your life? If you realize now that you two aren’t meant to be, it’s best to break off the relationship now than to suffer even more in the many years you two are “compelled” to spend together.
#3 When either one or both of you aren’t sure on the direction of the relationship
I’m not asking you to be able to predict the future, nor am I implying that you need to have your life all mapped out! As university students, many of us are not even sure what we’ll have for lunch, let alone what kind of job we will be taking on in a couple of years’ time. It’s fine if a couple doesn’t know what the future has in store for them, but it becomes dangerous when they are not working together towards a common goal/destination.
What I’m asking you to consider (at a more stable period in the relationship) are your hopes for the future. What are your intentions with your partner? Do you truly believe them to be your one and only? Are you two on the same path? Is your partner as serious about the relationship as you are? Most important: can you see yourself with your partner ten, thirty, fifty years from now? Many put it down to “wrong timing” but still cling to that one relationship when really they should move on.
#4: When you have to justify why you are with your partner to others and to yourself
One of the signs that you should end your relationship is if your friends and family share their doubts with you. Yes, your friends are on your side, and they know who you are and how you deserve to be treated in a relationship. Your friends may notice your suffering and observe certain *undesirable* behaviours in your partner. Therefore, don’t disregard what they are telling you, but also be sure they aren’t biased against your partner. As long as you know your friends and family want the best for you, and if you’re secretly agreeing with them, it’s best to seek some solutions. Don’t live in denial.
If you find yourself constantly defending your partner in front of your friends, even though deep down you’re hurting because of his/her actions, please don’t push aside the issues in your relationship. Find a good time to sort them through with your partner and not only take your complaints to your friends. If you’re unhappy about the way you are treated, let your partner know.
#5: When your partner is holding you back from growth opportunities
This one is pretty much self-explanatory. You need to be with someone who will encourage you, who will be on board with whatever you decide to do with your life and not someone who limits and prevents you from expanding out. Are they supportive of your goals and dreams? Or do you feel tied down in the relationship?
Furthermore, if you and your partner’s fundamental values and belief systems don’t align, you are going to have some major arguments over important life decisions further down the road. This may not bother you now, but wait till you’ve been on the journey a little longer. You will start to want certain things in life that the other may not prioritize.
#6: Unresolved issues and emotional baggage
This is one of the most common reasons why couples in long-term relationships start to drift apart. Your partner may still be brooding over a past relationship, or there could be certain areas in their life that they feel ashamed of.
Honestly, the best thing to do when faced with these problems is to give your partner some time to figure it out for themselves. If they are certain they want to be with you for the rest of their life, you need not worry. However, if your partner takes too long to “think”, or refuses to talk about his/her past emotional baggage and declines your help, you will find that they will start to grow distant.
A very troubling problem that could arise is trust issues. A healthy relationship should be centred around good communication, openness, and honesty. If you can’t find healthy and effective ways of addressing and moving on from these issues, you need to ask yourself if you can be in a relationship but have no real bf/gf role. If this is how your partner deals with their problems, you can be sure their ways won’t change over the years.
#7: When one of you has already given up
You don’t feel the effort from your partner anymore.
If it’s not a HELL YEAH, it’s a HELL NO.
Dearest one, if you’ve got this far and you could relate to the points I’ve brought up, I sincerely hope you will be strong enough to either fix your relationship or end it. You can always decide to give your partner a chance if they give you reasons to believe that the relationship is worth saving.
If you can’t salvage your relationship, don’t force love. It all boils down to this question:
Can you envision building a life with this person?
Take it from me, it’s better to end it early before you acquire a few more years’ worth of experiences you’ll have to get over when you finally go your separate ways.
Here are some important things to note:
Never make the mistake of giving your partner an ultimatum. Never ask them straight out to choose between you or someone/something else equally important to them. Bottom line: never put them under pressure to make a decision they aren’t ready to make! Moreover, don’t expect them to magically change who they are for you.
I hope I’ve assured you that you are making the right decision! Dearest one, don’t be afraid to let go of someone who’s keeping you in chains. When you make that decision to step out of a dark place, remember to close the door behind you. Only then you will be able to step into new rooms filled with tons of unexpected opportunities!
XX, Tiff <3