Having one foot out the door in a relationship may not feel as obvious as it sounds. Even if your heart has checked out, it can be difficult to differentiate between a rough patch and a relationship that is no longer working. When it comes to
knowing whether to stay in a relationship or not, you may have to look at the subtle habits you and your partner have developed as time has passed.
Staying in a relationship that has no growth left can provide a bit of emotional security, even if it isn't for the best. "People stay in relationships past their expiration date for several reasons, the most common being that they become comfortable
settling for less than they deserve," Len Rubel, the founder of Strategy For Dating, tells Bustle. "It could be that they’d rather be with someone than alone, it could be they’ve gotten into a comfortable routine, or it could be that they’ve given up on being able to achieve their dream relationship." Whatever the reasons, staying in a relationship that's already ended emotionally probably isn't the best idea.
Still, it's tricky to recognize whether or not the relationship is really done. "Sometimes people stay in a
relationship past its expiration date because they are in denial that their relationship is over," relationship expert and spiritual counselor, Davida Rappaport, tells Bustle. "[...] Unfortunately, the longer they stay, the more painful the relationship becomes." It's important to examine your feelings, and the way the relationship currently looks, to know whether it's really the end.
Here are eight subtle habits that indicate your relationship is past its expiration date, according to experts.
Date Night Is A Forced Thing
If you two have recently been feeling a bit of extra pressure and stress when it comes to planning dates and mustering the energy to get out of the house, you may be pushing your relationship past where it has naturally settled.
When a relationship is strong, both partners love having fun and spontaneous dates," David Bennett, certified counselor and relationship expert, tells Bustle. "If 'date nights' become highly scheduled and 'forced' it is a bad sign. By 'forced' I mean one or both partners is pretty much dragged there out of a feeling of obligation, and it's not even fun." You should be enjoying your dates, and looking forward to them. If date night is a chore, it may be time to check in on things.
You Both Avoid One Another
If your relationship is past its expiration date, you and your partner might have a physical distance start to grow between you. "[It's not a good sign] if a couple starts to live as they are just sharing space and seem to be living in the same place as roommates," Rappaport says. Everyone needs their space, but being in a relationship should mean at least some desire to be physically close.
"When couples are happy, they want to see each other," Bennett says. "[...] While having alone time is important, if partners seem to avoid hanging out and seeing each other, it's probably past the expiration date." If you've noticed that you're always in different rooms when you used to share a couch, or are only hanging out once a week when previously it was almost daily, you may need to take a deeper look at things.
You Keep Getting More Serious For The Wrong Reasons
It's possible for a relationship that's getting more serious to already be past its expiration date. Whether you're trying to prove something, or you simply haven't examined your reasoning, it's possible for you and your partner to keep making steps in your relationship without really growing together.
"I have dealt with many couples who have gotten engaged and married not because their relationships were strong, but because of other factors — [like that] they wanted a
big wedding, their friends were getting married, [or] they were getting older," Bennett says. "If you are taking the next steps in your relationship for the wrong reasons, the relationship may be past its expiration date." Think about what steps you took recently, then, and why you may have decided it was the best idea.
Sex Feels Like An Obligation
Some relationships past their expiration date rely heavily on sex. Some, on the other hand, don't maintain the spark. But couples might still end up attempting to keep up the sexual relationship when it just isn't working.
"One major sign a relationship is past its expiration is when couples only get intimate because they feel obligated (such as on birthdays, holidays [...] )," Bennett says. "And, usually in this case, it's not very enjoyable." The couple may still want to have sex with one another, but for complicated reasons beyond simple attraction and desire. If you feel that you've been having sex for reasons other than pleasure, it may be worth exploring this further.
You Plan Time With Friends To Avoid Your Partner
The separation that grows between two partners when their relationship is past its expiration date can mean much more than sitting on opposite sides of the room. One habit that you might fall into if your relationship is over is scheduling as much time as possible with friends, to avoid being around your partner.
"Another habit that could be a sign that your relationship has expired is more [time with friends]," Rubel says. "Having time with your friends and having a separate life from your relationship can be very healthy. However, if you start doing that as a way to avoid spending time with your partner that is an unhealthy habit and a sign your relationship is past its expiration date." It's important to keep hanging out with your friends when you're in a relationship, but if you're using them as a crutch, that may be a bad sign.
You Don't Show Affection Like You Did Before
Couples tend to develop certain habits of showing affection, small ways they show each other that they love and care for each other in daily life. If your relationship is past its expiration date, these things might show up less and less, even if you don't realize it at first.
"Its the little things we do at first that become habits," Rubel says. "Things like not saying, texting, or kissing goodnight [...] Those little signs of affection are done happily when things are good but feel like routine when things aren’t good. And once you stop it becomes more uncomfortable to go back to how things used to be." Part of a healthy relationship is showing affection, so check in and see whether you and your partner still do these things.
You Keep Blaming Them For Things
If you feel like you have one foot out the door, you might start to stir up trouble in your relationship, even if you don't quite realize it. One of the ways this tends to happen, according to experts, is by picking fights.
"If one partner stays in a relationship too long, they may feel unhappy and start finding fault with their partner," Rappaport says. "They may find things to blame them for, [like] their unhappiness, because they may think that whatever they are feeling is a result of what their partner does or doesn’t do, rather than take responsibility for their own happiness." It's important to take accountability for your role in the relationship and talk to your partner about how you're feeling if you've been sensing distance.
You Take On The Role Of Victim
Another thing that may happen if you're feeling stuck is that you might take it out on your partner by behaving like they're hurting you, even if the thing hurting you is the nature of the relationship itself.
"If one partner knows they should end their relationship, but has a problem doing so, they may fall into a victim or martyr pattern of behavior," Rappaport says. "[...] They may feel stifled to the extend that they may start resenting or making their partner feel guilty for their unhappiness." So if you recognize yourself falling into these partners, or have noticed your partner playing more of the victim than usual, you two might be growing apart.
Whether a relationship is past its expiration date, or simply has issues that need to be worked through, is a distinction only the individuals in the couple can make. Still, if your heart is telling you that it's time to leave, that's perfectly valid. When there's confusion about this, however, looking at what habits you two have already developed might be able to provide some insight.