When it comes to relationships, you never want to feel like you've settled. It's better to be single, after all, than to be in a relationship that makes you unhappy. But what if the unhappiness is temporary and you actually have a relationship worth fighting for? Giving up a relationship that's truly meaningful and worthwhile is just as bad as staying in one that's not.
"The life of every relationship is unique, so only the people in it can truly know if the relationship is worth fighting for," practicing psychologist and Harvard lecturer Holly Parker, PhD, author of If We're Together, Why Do I Feel So Alone?, tells Bustle. "What makes the difference between a relationship that’s best to walk away from and one that’s facing challenges but is worth effort and persistence isn’t always clear. It often takes time to sort that out, but in the end, if you can be patient with yourself and really listen, you can figure it out."
Ultimately, if you have an intuition that you should stay or go, you should go with that. But if you're right on the fence, looking out for these signs may give you an idea of what to consider.
1You Haven't Had Doubts Before
If this is the first time you're reconsidering your relationship, it's probably stronger than a relationship between people who had doubts from the beginning, says Parker. Think about your biggest milestones, like becoming exclusive or moving in together. Did you have a feeling from the beginning that it wouldn't last, or were you totally confident? One study in the Journal of Family Psychology found that people who had cold feet before their weddings were more likely to leave their spouses four years later.
2The Problems You're Facing Are Temporary
Ask yourself whether the issues that may cause you to leave your partner come down to fundamental differences in values or temporary situations, says Parker. For example, if you're fighting more because you're both very stressed out at work, maybe your relationship's going through a rough patch that will clear up soon. But if you're always fighting because you disagree on how it's OK to treat each other, you either need to make changes or reconsider the relationship.
3You Bring Out The Best Of Each Other
One of the best barometers of a relationship is who you are around each other. "A way to zoom out and get the big picture of your relationship —beyond present difficulties — is to think about whether your partner has been a positive presence in your life," says Parker. "If this relationship is probably a beneficial one, chances are you’re having struggles in the here and now with someone who, on the whole, has been good for you."
4Your Partner's The Type Of Person You'd Be Seeking If You Were Single
Imagine you and your partner have just met, but you knew everything about them that you know now. Would you date them? Ask yourself whether they have all the qualities you're looking for and whether they demonstrate any of your dealbreakers. "A partner who is a really good match for you will probably not map onto your deal breakers, and will fit your must-haves," says Parker. "And they may even match some of your would like-to-haves, too."
5You Actually Like Them
If you met your partner now, would they make a good impression on you? Do you think highly of them? Or are you just in a relationship because you're attached to them and have a history together? You can like someone without loving them, and to stay in a relationship, you need both, says Parker.
6You're Able To Resolve Conflicts
Strong couples will come out stronger after conflicts, as long as the conflict is something that can be resolved. Ask yourself if, given your communication as a couple, you're able to use whatever roadblock you've hit to build a stronger relationship.
7Your Intuition Tells You To Stay
If part of you wants to stay and part wants to go, ask yourself what part is advocating each option. "We humans can be good at allowing other voices to drown out our own, including when it comes to deciding whether to remain in a relationship or walkaway," says Parker. "Those voices could be fears of the future, the notion that tough times in the relationship mean you must not be right for each other, minimizing or excusing bad behavior, or believing you’ll never find anyone better. Give yourself space to listen to your own true inner voice, not one of fear or expectations, but of quiet, still awareness."
However, Parker adds, "keep in mind that if these signs don’t all apply to you, it doesn’t automatically mean the relationship isn’t worth fighting for. These are just ideas to explore as you decide what’s best for you."