Dating is hard, and finding the right partner can be even harder. Once you find someone you're pretty compatible with, it's easy to settle into the comfort of that relationship. That's why it can be difficult, and take a long time, to recognize the signs you're in the wrong relationship.
We still hear people joke about how oppressive commitment is, comments about getting home to the "ball and chain". Many think this is what relationships are supposed to look like, but it's not. Anita Chlipala, LMFT and author of First Comes Us: The Busy Couple's Guide to Lasting Love, often sees clients who don't realize that relationships aren't supposed to feel like a prison.
"People think 'well this is the way a relationship should be,' or they didn’t know it could be any better," Chlipala says. "People buy into the 'shoulds'. Like 'I should move into the suburbs', or [think] 'well, my life is over', and I don’t think that has to be the case."
When talking to singles about dating, Chlipala encourages finding a "good fit" not a "right fit".
"Sometimes people think there’s this one person out there for them, or there’s this right person, but I think there’s multiple people who might be a good fit, so it kind of expands your dating pool or your options," Chlipala says.
Here are 12 thoughts you may have if you're in the wrong relationship, according to experts.
1. "I Always Have Butterflies In My Stomach."
Butterflies aren't always a good sign. Chlipala often sees that people date based on their initial attraction to someone, or the initial chemistry in a relationship. This isn't the best indicator of who will make a good partner in the long run, and it's easy to confuse your lust at first sight with anxiety and other negative emotions.
“That’s not always the best indicator of who would be a good fit, because some of my anxious clients have a tendency of going for the people who are emotionally unavailable, and so that creates feelings, but those are not healthy feelings," Chlipala says. "What they think is butterflies and a connection is actually anxiety, we all have anxiety when we first start dating someone but it should go away."
2. "We're Not On The Same Page."
Chlipala warns against focusing if you're on the same page, but not for the reason you'd expect.
"If you worry about being on the same page, [you] might be trying to get [your] partner to be more like [you], instead of accepting them for who they are," says Chlipala.
Chlipala says you and your partner won't be on the same page about everything. Probably not on most things. But when couples focus too much on differences, it's often a sign they're not accepting their partners for who they are.
3. "I Don't Know If I Can Tell My Partner How I Feel."
"You need to be vulnerable in order to have a deep connection," Chlipala says. "It doesn’t mean you share everything but you have to be able to let your partner know how you feel, the vulnerability in a relationship in order for there to be deep intimacy. So when that’s missing it’s not a good sign."
If you feel as if you can't tell your partner how you're feeling, take a step back and question why that is. It could be because you don't feel totally comfortable being yourself around your partner, or because your feelings are about a relationship dealbreaker. Either way, it's always best to address your feelings and try to identify the root problem.
4. "I’m Afraid To Tell Them What Really Turns Me On."
"Compatibility isn’t about wanting the same things or desire sex with the same frequency," Jess O’Reilly Ph.D., host of the Drive Him/Her Wild With Pleasure Webinar Series, tells Bustle. "I believe that compatibility involves being willing to put in a similar amount of effort to meet one another’s needs and being open to understanding your partner’s desires without judgment."
O'Reilly says that compatibility is a big part of any relationship, and partners should be striving to meet each other's needs.
"You may not be compatible today, but you can become compatible if you’re willing to consider your partner’s needs and make an effort to find common ground," Dr. O'Reilly says.
5. "I Don't Know How They Fit Into My Future."
If you're imagining big plans for your future, and you forget to include your partner, that's usually not a good sign. If you're unsure how your partner fits into you life in the long run, it's a good idea to figure out why that is.
"A lack of commitment to the relationship results in relationship dissolution," Dr. O'Reilly says. "Sometimes this commitment is lacking from the beginning and in other cases, commitment erodes over time. It can erode gradually or drastically in response to relationship events like infidelity."
6. "I Feel Powerless In Fights."
Not all fights signal the end of a relationship. But if you have constant fights with your partner and nothing seems to change, chances are your fights aren't productive.
"If you have the same fights over and over again and fighting affects your levels of love, affection, and commitment, conflict can lead you to break up," Dr. O'Reilly says.
Dr. O'Reilly recommends learning how to argue constructively. This means actually listening to your partner's concerns, and looking for win-win compromises.
7. "I Don't Know Who I Am To My Partner."
If you're unsure of where you stand with your partner, or what your future looks like, it's time to re-evaluate your relationship.
"[It's] not healthy [if] you don’t know where you stand in the relationship, like you don’t know how your partner really feels about you. This is someone who’s been with their partner for a while, you might be with them for several months sometimes several years and you’re not sure where the relationship is going, or how your partner really feels about you," says Chlipala. While it's always a good idea to ask, it's worth it to look at why you feel this way as well.
8. "They're Not Really Listening To Me."
Chlipala says a big problem in relationships is when one person does speak up for their needs, but nothing changes or gets better. Maybe because your partner isn't willing to make changes, or you're asking too much of them.
"You have to be very clear with your partner on what’s important," Chlipala says. "You’re not going to see eye to eye on everything, but I do think a sign of a healthy relationship is when you state something that you need, your partner is willing to listen, understand you, and make it happen if possible. This doesn’t mean your partner is at your beck and call [...] but at least there’s a willingness." If that willingness is not there, it may be time to reconsider the relationship.
9. "I Can't Remember The Last Time We Were Intimate."
"Oxytocin, the cuddle hormone, makes us feel more attached to our partner, and that does get released in physical touch and during orgasm," Chlipala says. "I think [not enough touch] is a sign that something’s up. Not necessarily that you’re in the wrong relationship, but if physical touch has decreased, that’s not a good sign either."
Chlipala says it's important to note that people speak different love languages, and just because your partner isn't very touchy-feely, that doesn't mean they don't love you. However, she has found that affection is important in relationships, and if you're unsatisfied with the physical attention you're getting (or not getting) you should bring it up to your partner.
10. "I'm Spending Time With My Partner, But Feel Kind Of Lonely."
If you feel lonely or distant in your relationship, despite spending time with your partner, you may not be developing a deeper connection with your partner.
"I think there is a difference between quality time and just spending time together," Chlipala says. "It’s really about continually getting to know your partner on a deeper level [...] if the loneliness has been around for a while, that would be a sign to look out for."
11. "I Don't Know If I Can Talk To My Partner About My Future."
"Sometimes people avoid talking about the things that might be dealbreakers or their non-negotiables because they’re scared to lose the relationship, but this is something that I think every person has to do, especially if you’re considering a long-term relationship with your partner...the content doesn’t necessarily matter for every couple if they’re willing to compromise," Chlipala says.
You should be bringing up your feelings and differences of opinions to see how your partner responds and if they are willing to compromise with you. If they're unwilling to compromise, or you're asking them to change who they are, chances are you're not in a compatible long-term relationship.
12. "It's Normal To Feel Distance In A Relationship, Isn't It?"
Chlipala says that anxiously attached people in relationships are "hyper-sensitive" to whether or not feelings are reciprocated in their relationships. It can be difficult to recognize that your partner is really keeping you at bay when you're naturally anxious. But this likely means you and your partner are incompatible, and it can cause you more stress and anxiety.
"Sometimes people who are anxiously attached have a tendency of going for those people who are emotionally unavailable [...] they keep going for people who are maybe the wrong type or a person who is not going to make them satisfied in a relationship. Because by default, people who are [...] emotionally unavailable types keep their partner at arm’s length," Chlipala says.
It can be hard to recognize you're unhappy in your relationship, and even if you do know you're unsatisfied, it's often easier to just stay in that relationship.
"Sometimes people will stay with someone who they know isn’t right for them for a lot of reasons," Chlipala says. "Sometimes out of pity, they don’t want to hurt their feelings, and a common one is they don’t want to go back out into the dating pool. It’s easier for people to have the comfort of their current relationship [...] versus dealing with the uncertainty of getting back into the dating pool and not knowing if you’re going to meet someone."
When looking a compatible partner, Chlipala recommends seeking someone who speaks the same love language as you. She also recommends looking at what your non-negotiables are, and even questioning why you have them, to find someone who shares the same values.