In a perfect world, every relationship would be happy, healthy, and built to last a lifetime. Unfortunately, that's simply not reality: sometimes relationships that were once mutually satisfying run their course, and become a source of stress instead of a source of joy. But when you're in a relationship that's gone stale, how can you tell whether it's worth salvaging, or whether you should cut the cord and move on?
"I believe that many relationships are past their 'sell by' date and one or both partners simply sticks around out of habit and convenience," Jonathan Bennett, dating and relationship coach and owner of The Popular Man, tells Bustle. "Most people know deep down if they’re faking it with another person. Trust your gut. You likely know the truth... and what you have to do."
When you've been with someone for a long time, it's obviously easier said than done to know what the right decision is. If you're uncertain about the future of your relationship, all you can do is self-reflect and be honest with yourself about what you want and need in a relationship, and whether your current partner meets those standards. Here are seven signs you might want to bite the bullet and end your relationship — it won't be easy, but sometimes moving on is the best thing you can do for yourself.
1You Live Separate Lives
One of the best parts of being in a relationship? Having a partner to tackle life with, including the mundane, everyday things. "No couple should spend every waking moment together," Bennett says. "But, if you hardly ever see your partner and find no joy in couple time, it’s a bad sign. This is especially true if you view your moments with your partner as a joyless burden or an obligation."
2You Wonder "What If" About Others
It's totally normal to have harmless crushes while in a relationship, but if you start to fixate on the idea of having a relationship with someone who's not your partner, that might mean you really need to move on. "If you’re constantly looking at other people in your life (or even strangers) and wondering if it would be better to date one of them instead of your current partner, it might subconsciously indicate you’re dissatisfied with your current situation," Bennett says.
3Your Partner Annoys Or Embarrasses You
At the beginning of a relationship, it's easy to find your partner's quirks cute — but if you find yourself inexplicably irritated by those same quirks years down the road, that might not bode well. "If your opinion of your partner has become extremely negative, it’s probably time to end it," Bennett says. "While you don’t have to idolize your partner, if you regularly feel disgusted, annoyed, or embarrassed by his or her behavior, what’s the point of sticking together?"
4You're In The Relationship For Someone Other Than Yourself
In a long-term relationship, your lives naturally become intertwined, which can make a breakup feel even harder than it needs to. "If you’re staying with a person because of someone else’s expectations or opinions, then the relationship will never work in the long term," Bennett says. "So, even if your mom loves your partner or your dad is bugging you for grandkids, you can’t let that drive your decision."
5You Seek Validation Elsewhere
If you don't feel valued in your relationship, it makes sense to crave that attention and affection — but it's not healthy to always seek that from others instead of addressing the problem in your own relationship. "If you're seeking emotional validation elsewhere (intentionally or otherwise) it may be worth taking a step back to look honestly at your relationship," Deborah Reynolds, dating coach and owner of SingleBees.com, tells Bustle.
6You Have Regular Thoughts About Cheating
When they occur regularly and in detail (as in, you have an idea of who you'd want to cheat with), thoughts of cheating are a major red flag. "If you're considering cheating (it doesn't have to be about the sex), you may also want to take a deeper look at things," Reynolds says. "Some people cheat for the emotional connection, others cheat for the physical connection, others just fall in love and end up cheating for both of those reasons."
Take some time to think about why you're having those thoughts, and figure out how to address the issue with your partner... even if that means going your separate ways.
7Your Gut Is Telling You Something Is Off
Like Bennett mentioned, having a gut feeling that something isn't right in your relationship really is a telling sign that ending things might be for the best. It's hard to make sense of our feelings sometimes, but it's not healthy to ignore an unsettled feeling without communicating that to your partner — whether that's to work out your issues together, or spend some time apart.
Ultimately, only you can decide what the right path is for your romantic future. It might be scary to end a long-term relationship, but if you're unhappy and craving a change, breaking up might help you find the new beginning you need to get back on track.