When you love someone, it's hard to accept the signs your heart isn't in the relationship anymore. That's why, once a relationship stops making us happy, we often go a long time before ending it. But when we do this, things are rarely the same as they were in the beginning, since we know we've got one foot out the door, and our partners sense it, too.
There have been multiple times when I've known a relationship would end eventually but stayed. I don't necessarily see a problem with that. Not every relationship is meant to last forever, and the fact that a relationship has ended doesn't make it a failure. So, I don't think you have to break up the moment you realize a relationship's temporary if you're still getting enough out of it.
I do think you should probably break up once you know your partner's hurting your life more than they're improving it — once you spend more time fighting than having fun together, or once the thought of your partner makes you worry more than it makes you smile.
"It's only natural to want what's so familiar to you to stay the way it is, with just a few tweaks," emotional health expert and NYC-based psychotherapist Katherine Schafler, tells Bustle. "But sometimes those tweaks aren't possible, because one or both people are already checked out. If you're staying out of guilt or a desire to not hurt the other person, your hearts definitely in a good place, it's just not in the relationship anymore. Staying with someone out of pity is not kindness and ultimately, it hurts your partner more in the end, which is not loving at all."
Here are some signs that you've reached that point where your heart isn't in the relationship and you're better off moving on than dragging out its downfall.
1You're Making Plans Without Them
I knew I was halfway out of my last relationship when I was trying to decide where to live. My company was based in a city near my partner and one farther way, and I found myself thinking, "you shouldn't live somewhere just to be near him, because you may not be together for long anyway."
Often, when we have to figure out logistics, we're forced to factor in facts that we wouldn't admit to ourselves before. If you're trying to make plans for the future and realize your partner isn't in them, your subconscious may have already cut them out.
2You're Daydreaming About The Freedom Of Singlehood
Being single is pretty awesome, so it takes a great relationship to give up singlehood. Even if we view commitment or compromise as a sacrifice, we'll consider that sacrifice worth it if we really want to be in our relationship. Once a relationship weakens, the tradeoff doesn't become as clear, and we start to feel like we're missing out on our potential single lives.
3They've Demonstrated One Of Your Big Deal- Breakers
Usually, before we get into a relationship, we know what our deal-breakers are. But once we're in one, we might overlook them because everything else seems so perfect. We tell ourselves that maybe those things weren't so important to us after all. But they usually are. If you date someone with qualities you don't want in a partner or without the qualities you need, you're going to resent them because you'll feel shortchanged. But if you know what they're like and are staying with them, you're the one shortchanging yourself.
4You Don't Think As Highly Of Them As You Let On
One of the biggest predictors of divorce is when couples roll their eyes at each other, because this demonstrates that they've lost respect. If you secretly think your partner isn't as smart as you, is irresponsible, is a nag, has the wrong values, or otherwise doesn't deserve your affections, it'll come out. In fact, they might already sense it and feel bad about themselves because of it. You deserve someone who you feel is on your level, and they deserve someone who appreciates them, so you're both losing out if you stick around when you feel like you're settling.
5Your Fights Boil Down To Basic Moral Disagreements
It's normal to fight over small things, but fights in positive relationships end with at least one person admitting they were wrong and resolving to do things differently in the future or with both people realizing it was a misunderstanding. If your fights can be summed up as one person saying "that's morally wrong" and the other person saying "no, that's perfectly fine; what you're doing is morally wrong," there's not much you can work with there. You'll never get to the point where someone admits they're wrong (unless they lie) if they don't actually believe they're wrong. One or both people will feel pressure to adapt values that aren't their own — or at least hide their disagreement — in order to keep the peace, which can lead them to lose themselves.
6You're With Them Because You Don't Think You Can Do Better
There's this false idea around us that in relationships, you need to settle. You can't find physical attraction and intellectual stimulation. You can't find a guy who's not a little bit of a jerk. Um, sure you can. Higher standards may mean more time spent single, but we're allowed to have whatever standards we want. If you stay with your partner because you've noticed things about them you don't like but figure that just comes with the territory and there's nobody better out there, then you'll never find out of there is, in fact, someone better.
7The Things That Used To Rekindle Your Love Don't
It's normal to start feeling annoyed by or distant from your partner in a long-term relationship, but usually, these feelings pass. Maybe, for example, you've gotten less excited to see your partner since you moved in together, but once one of you goes out of town for a few days, the excitement returns. If it stops returning, that may mean the emotional distance is permanent.
8You Were Happier Single
What's the point of being in a relationship if it's not helping you enjoy life? You may stay out of loyalty or love for your partner, but breaking up doesn't negate those things; it just changes the type of loyalty or love you have. I've learned after several relationships ended that transitioning to friends or acquaintances actually helped us love each other, because we weren't always arguing or trying to make each other something we're not. Don't feel like you have to force something into a predetermined formula to justify its existence. Dating may have been best for you a year ago, but something else may be best for you now. There's no shame or failure in that, and it doesn't make your connection less special.
If you notice a few of these signs but aren't ready to end it yet, that's OK. Sometimes, we need to see a relationship run its course and be 100 percent sure we want to break up before we do.
When in doubt, Schafler recommends asking yourself, "If I somehow knew that in six months after we broke up, this person would fall in love with their dream partner and feel more loved and safe than ever before, would I feel more comfortable leaving?"
We usually know in our intuitions if we're hanging onto a relationship because we genuinely want to or because we're too scared to leave. If it's the latter, staying together won't make that fear go away; it'll only drag it out and foreclose better options.