Relationships

21 Questions That Can Help You Find Clarity In Your Relationship

BTW: It’s normal to feel unsure.

If you're unsure about your relationship, these 20 questions can help you find clarity.
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It’s only natural to occasionally feel unsure about your relationship. It’ll most certainly happen in the early days of dating when you’re still deciding if you’re right for one another. But it can also happen months or years down the line where one day you wake up and ask yourself, “Am I truly happy?”

While it can come as a shock, it isn’t a question you’ll want to ignore. In fact, “you should use the doubts and/or negative feelings you are having as a signpost indicating the need to take a pause and reflect,” Kate Engler, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. Jonathan Bennett, relationship and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, echoes this. "If you are feeling uncertainty about a relationship, it’s important that you address the reasons for those feelings," he tells Bustle. "Usually, it’s your gut telling you that there are unresolved problems."

Once you take a closer look and ask yourself a couple of questions, you may uncover why you aren’t feeling totally sure about your relationship. Perhaps you and your partner need to learn how to communicate, find better ways to compromise, or offer each other more support. If you have an honest heart-to-heart and notice serious change, the doubt can fall away with time.

That said, you might realize that you feel unsure about your relationship because there are deep, unfixable problems, a lack of compatibility, or other toxic traits that you don’t want to live with anymore. And that’s OK. To determine the future of your relationship, take a step back and ask yourself a few of the questions below, which experts say may help you gain more clarity about the future of your relationship.

1

“How often do I feel this way?”

If you currently feel unsure about your relationship, start by asking yourself how often doubt creeps into your head, Engler says.

Is it a fleeting thought on a random Tuesday afternoon? Are you having a moment of doubt following a big argument? Or do you lie awake night after night wondering if your partner is the right person for you?

Since absolutely no relationship is perfect, you can expect to have a doubt or two on occasion — especially during tough times. But if you’re constantly weighing pros and cons it likely means you aren’t fully comfortable, and that you may be happier moving on.

2

“Have I noticed a pattern?”

To go one step deeper, ask yourself if there’s a pattern attached to these feelings of doubt. If you’re going through a tough time at work, for example, you may notice that you have a shorter temper around your partner.

In that case, it may mean that outside stressors are having an impact on your relationship, but that the relationship itself isn’t the problem. To test it out, find ways to practice empathy around each other and see if it helps you feel more connected.

3

“Are we working on relationship problems together?”

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If you want a healthy relationship, it’ll require both you and your partner to put in the same amount of effort. So take note if it seems like you’re the only one who cares to make an effort, address problems, and find solutions.

“If you have brought up issues to your partner and they have ignored, dismissed, gaslighted, or shut it down over and over again, this is an indicator that they are not interested in owning their part or working to fix things,” Engler says. “Many, many issues can be resolved when everyone participates. When this isn't what's happening, the long-term prognosis for the relationship isn't very promising.”

4

“Is this relationship exactly like all my past relationships?”

If you notice that you’ve been repeating old relationship patterns with your new partner, “it is most likely an enactment of something else in your earlier life,” Engler says. “In that case, it would be best to explore things that might be going on within you before making a firm decision about the relationship.”

This is especially true if your partner and your relationship seems really “good on paper” — meaning your partner is loving, supportive, committed, etc. — and yet you still can’t shake the feeling that sometimes is wrong.

It may help to get an outside perspective, whether it’s from a friend, your mom, or a therapist. Talk about your doubts while including an honest take on your partner. “You may still end it,” Engler says, but you also might realize you just needed to work on healing old hurts in order to be fully happy.

5

"Do I feel safe and cared for?”

"This question is meant to identify any dealbreakers or unacceptable behavior," Lesli Doares, a couples consultant and coach, tells Bustle. Be honest with yourself about things that go wrong, poor treatment, tension, or anything else that puts you on edge — even if it doesn’t happen every day. "Any behavior that gives you qualms needs to be acknowledged and addressed," she says. "It won’t magically get better."

Point out issues to your partner and talk about what needs to change in order for you to feel secure. If they’re willing to change, the relationship may be salvageable.

6

“Are we both willing to compromise?”

Being in a relationship means you need to find ways to compromise as a couple on things both big and small. If your partner is willing to meet you halfway, cool. But if you’ve talked about an ongoing issue, and your partner dismisses it or shows no signs of changes, Doares says this may not be the best relationship for you.

The right relationship won’t include ultimatums or guilt. Neither of you will feel like you have to change who you are or go against your morals in order to make it work. If you don’t want to meet in the middle, or there’s an entire laundry list of compromises that need to be made, it simply means you aren’t a good match.

7

“Does my partner have my back no matter what?”

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“You want to be able to identify if the person can support you in the way you need to be supported,” Meredith Prescott, LCSW, a psychotherapist, tells Bustle. So take a second to think if that’s the case in your relationship. If your partner has your back when times are tough, if they support your goals, and if they’re attuned to your emotional well-being, you likely have a good thing going.

8

"Is my relationship negatively impacting my self-esteem?”

Ask yourself a few questions about your overall self-esteem as it relates to your partner and your relationship. "Answering this question will help you recognize the impact of your relationship on your self-worth and self-esteem," relationship coach Melissa M. Snow tells Bustle.

Do you feel good about yourself in their presence? If you answered yes, Snow says you may decide this is something you want to continue.

9

“Is my relationship holding me back?”

In a healthy relationship, both partners will feel like they are still individuals who are capable of growing and changing, not only because there's room to do so, but because they both offer each other support.

"The right person will support your growth and your goals and want to do everything they can to help you succeed," Snow says. "If they don't, they likely don't have your best interests in mind."

10

"Can I accept our differences?”

That said, not everything ends in compromise. “Considering what is changeable, what is not changeable, what we can tolerate, and what we cannot tolerate, are all important questions to ask when considering whether someone is a good match,” Shannon Gunnip, LMHC, a licensed mental health counselor, tells Bustle.

When it comes to things they can’t change — like personality traits or quirks — ask yourself, “Can I love them as they are?” It’ll be necessary to accept each other without holding a grudge or secretly hoping a miraculous change will occur.

You want to be able to laugh about each other’s quirks and love each other in spite of your “flaws.” If that isn’t possible more doubt — and eventual resentment — will build.

11

“Do all our biggest goals align?”

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If you're on the fence, it might be because a few major questions have yet to be answered, such as whether or not you want kids, if you plan to get married, if you want to move far away, and so on. "Too often people ignore these questions and think love will figure them out," life coach Dr. Benjamin Ritter tells Bustle. But the reality is you need to talk about these things early and often. If you don’t agree on the big stuff related to family and general life direction, you’ll have your answer.

12

“Am I excited to see my partner?”

While you can’t expect to be elated to see each other 24/7, there should be a general sense of happiness whenever you meet up.

"Does the thought of your partner bring a smile to your face? If the answer is yes, fantastic,” relationship coach Ann Ball, tells Bustle. “If the answer is no, there's still a shot you can make it work, but you'll want to find a counselor to help guide you through."

13

“What does a happy relationship look like to me?”

Ask yourself what your ideal relationship looks like — including which values you'd like your partner to have, how you want to feel on a daily basis, what you want the future to look like, and so on — and see how close you got.

"Asking yourself this question will force you to think about the traits you want in a relationship and see how yours measures up," says Bennett. If they’re far from hitting the mark, and show no signs of improving, you may have your answer.

14

"Where do I see myself in a year?”

Imagine where you'd like to be a year from now. How do you want your life to look? "Asking this question allows you to focus on your own needs and goals," Bennett says. "If you ask this question and don’t see your partner playing a major role in your life a year down the line, then the relationship probably isn’t worth keeping."

15

"Am I willing to change?”

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Of course, you'll also want to take your own flexibility into account. "If you aren’t willing to make room for your partner and their needs, the relationship will not be a good one," Doares says. And in that case, it may be best to move on.

16

“Why have I stayed this long?”

Whether you've been in the relationship for a month, a year, or 10 years, go ahead and ask yourself why you've stuck it out this long, Snow says. Is it because you are scared to be alone? Afraid to get out of your comfort zone? Or because you’re actually quite happy? If the relationship feels fulfilling and worth it, that's great. But if you're only staying out of habit, you may want to start looking for better reasons.

17

“Do we have a similar approach to life?”

You don't have to be with someone whose habits perfectly match up with your own, but you do want to see eye-to-eye when it comes to the big stuff, such as how you handle money, make decisions, and socialize.

As Dr. Ritter says, "These areas of your life can [...] cause large amounts of conflict if there are not similarities or ways to communicate and manage differences."

18

"Am I happy?”

While you can't expect your relationship to be sunny and rosy 100 percent of the time, the overall vibe should be one that makes you feel good.

"Seems obvious, but most people get caught up in the day-to-day of life and forget to think about themselves," RMT Certified Coach Ann Ball, tells Bustle. "Are you finding joy in your life? Does your partner contribute to your joy? Can you rekindle the flame?"

19

"Do we have a similar approach to life?”

You don't have to be with someone whose habits perfectly match up with your own, but you do want to see eye-to-eye when it comes to the big stuff, such as how you handle money, make decisions, and socialize.

As Dr. Ritter says, "These areas of your life can [...] cause large amounts of conflict if there are not similarities or ways to communicate and manage differences."

20

"Do I like how we communicate?”

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"If your needs are not met now and there are not any conversations happening about them, then it will be difficult to suddenly make those changes in the future," licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Molly Giorgio tells Bustle.

So take note if your partner doesn't listen, can't communicate, or refuses to share their feelings. If that's the case, it may be best to go your separate ways.

21

“Do I like who I am around my partner?”

Most important of all is whether or not you like yourself in your relationship. If it’s right for you, you’ll feel secure, grounded, and ready to take on the world as a couple. You’ll be happy and light and excited. Your partner won’t hold you back but instead will boost you up and vice versa. If it isn’t right, you’ll notice that you’re always angry, defensive, that you tune out, and that you don’t feel heard or understood. However difficult it might be, that’ll be your sign it’s time to move on.

Sources:

Kate Engler, LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist

Lesli Doares, couples consultant and coach

Shannon Gunnip, LMHC, licensed mental health counselor

Melissa M. Snow, relationship coach

Meredith Prescott, LCSW, psychotherapist

Dr. Benjamin Ritter,, life coach

Ann Ball, relationship coach

Dr. Molly Giorgio, licensed clinical psychologist

Jonathan Bennett, relationship and dating expert