So here's a tragically funny story. Halfway through writing this article, I realized I hit almost every single point indicating I was lying to myself about the signs that I'm in a dysfunctional relationship.
They say hindsight is 20/20. And here’s the thing. There’s this nugget of wisdom that I know to be true, but somehow find a way to deny in my personal situations. Based on a study The Huffington Post referenced, when a relationship is going poorly, people waste a lot of time and energy lying to themselves about it. We tend to project our fantasies and desires onto our partners, and put on those all-too-common rose colored lenses that blind us to the reality of the situation. Maybe we’re so determined to make it work, that we fail to see what’s right in front of us. Or we don’t want to believe it. Or we’re convinced it’ll change. Either way, in these situations, it’s best to gain some outside perspective.
I'm sure I'm not alone when people have told me I should follow my own advice and I just don't. We may all want to continue to hold on to some kind of hope that we're in something good. We've invested the time, energy, and the best of ourselves and it can feel like defeat to give up. But it's important to know when it may not be the right thing. So tune in to these seven signs that you may be lying about your relationship.
1. You Catch Yourself Justifying Every Little Thing
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made when finding myself in a relationship that just wasn’t right for me was making excuses for my partner and defending them when others would point out issues. I didn’t even realize how often I did it. My friends would say, “Isn’t it a little weird that it takes him two days to text you back?” To which I’d quickly reply, “No, you just don’t understand how busy he is. We don’t need to text every day or anything. And I don’t mind that he takes forever to respond because I definitely do the same thing.” Or something like that.
While there may be some truth to that, these sort of defensive responses gradually became a growing pattern that escalated into some more serious issues. As relationship blogger Natalie Lue put it, the "justifying zone" will always appear when someone fails to live up to the initial promise that he or she first exhibited, or does something inappropriate and red-flag indicative of a bad relationship. Lue also pointed out that people tend to look for the smallest of things to feel better about investing time and emotions into a person, and this often causes us to spend more time on a relationship than is necessary.
2. You Avoid Others' Opinions/Advice
Most of the time, when we’re in shitty situations that prompt that bad gut feeling, we want reassurance from others to tell us what we want to hear. It’s all in our head. Everything’s fine. It’ll get better. Things will change. Unfortunately, when we do hear some unfavorable feedback, it’s tempting to want to block it out and further convince ourselves that they just don’t understand. And so we may avoid doing so altogether. According to eHarmony, if you suspect you can predict your friends’ doubts and objections, there’s a good chance you’ve got the same doubts and objections but can’t admit them to yourself.
Just think about it this way. If you were in something about which you felt confident, reassured, and honest, you wouldn’t feel the need to obsess over others’ approval, or lack thereof.
3. You're Always Convincing Yourself Of Something
Just like the defensive need to justify, if you find that you have to talk yourself through certain aspects of the relationship, or that you're even compromising some of your values and critical judgments just to make it work, this is a huge red flag. It’s perfectly normal to feel a little nervous and uneasy because hey — love and feelings and all that fun stuff can be scary as hell and beg for a personal pep talk every once in a while.
But as Elite Daily's Jessica Cooper wrote, you shouldn't need to convince yourself you're happy. She brought up the quote, “If you find something good, hold onto it. If you have to convince yourself that it’s good every day, let it go.” And I think this absolutely rings true and speaks for itself. Because though they can be a lot of work — at the end of the day — relationships should be a grounded source of happiness and comfort, not uncertainty and stress.
4. You Can't Be Yourself
When you have to pretend to be someone you're not in the relationship, it's time to jump that ship, pronto. Because anything falsely built will eventually sink. (You can tell I'm really trying to extend this brilliant metaphor.) But anyway. This isn't some huge revelation, because if you have to lie about who you are, it's kind of a no-brainer that you're lying to yourself about the relationship. Yet it can be another one of those annoyingly difficult things to admit to yourself for sure. Whether you're trying to change or conceal yourself, eHarmony explained that you’re not only denying warning signs about the relationship, you’re also denying yourself the opportunity to be loved for who you really are. And real intimacy can never grow from that.
5. Your Behavior Is Irrational/Inconsistent
Are you jumping to extreme conclusions? Are you having ungrounded fantasies? Maybe making impulsive decisions that aren't consistent with who you are? This may be another sign that you’re feeding yourself false sentiments — whether negative or positive. Cortney S. Warren, Ph.D. told Psychology Today that when we desperately want our behavior to be separate from our identity, we don't want to believe that the way we act reflects who we are.
She brought up the following two examples: You don't want to admit that you are jealous even though you check your partner's' phone messages; you don't want to have intimacy issues even though you sabotage your relationships by breaking up with people when they get too close. Check in with yourself to make sure that the decisions you're making about the relationship are really reflective of who you are and what you want.
6. You Feel Uneasy, Guilty, And/Or Stressed
This is a red flag more red than a stop sign, people. Because why on this beautiful Earth would you want to stay in something that leaves you in a perpetual state of uneasiness? Lifehacker actually lists feeling anxious all the time as the third sign you're lying to yourself. In the context of a romantic relationship, I can certainly attest to this being true. Like, say, I don't know...my last one. Pretty much from start to finish, I constantly experienced an anxiety deeply rooted in the relationship — either I knew I was in something I shouldn't be or I was questioning if I was doing something wrong. No matter what, there was always something I was worried or unsure about. And come on — who needs that? Your body has its way of telling you when something isn't right, so listen to it.
7. You Question And/Or Doubt Everything
If you have to doubt, evaluate, or analyze every little occurrence and detail about yourself, your partner, or the relationship, there may be some real discord here as well. This falls right alongside needing to constantly convince yourself of things and always feeling uneasy. But this time you're just in the straight up depths of the murky, dark waters. You don't quite know where you stand or what's what, but you're just going with it for the sake of going with it. That's just not okay and it's certainly not honest.
After appearing on Oprah, bridal counselor Sheryl Paul M.A., built upon Oprah's "doubt means don't" statement. She said that while doubt doesn't necessarily mean you have to call the whole thing off, it's certainly a prompt to turn things inward and slow down so you can examine the root of the issue.
So while these seven signs may indicate that you're not being 100 percent honest with yourself in the relationship, it's important to remember them for what they are — signs. Because just as important as it is to have this little conversation with yourself, it's just as important to communicate these issues with your partner.
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