It's perfectly natural to experience ruts in a long-term relationship: life with your partner might feel a little too routine or stagnant, or maybe there's a lack of passion and excitement that you crave. But if you've been feeling a bit meh in your relationship, how can you tell whether it's just a phase, or whether your gut is telling you to move on? It's crucial to learn how to work through ruts with your partner, but sometimes, feeling unfulfilled or dissatisfied in a relationship simply means it's time to let go and find something new.
"In any relationship, even marriage, there is always an option to leave and date other people," Samantha Burns, Relationship Counselor and Dating Coach at Love Successfully, tells Bustle. "Typically this happens because individuals feel their emotional needs for attention, support, and praise, and physical needs for affection and sex are not being met. In happy, satisfying relationships, the couple turns towards each other to communicates effectively about their needs. These solid couples are great at repairing the damage caused by arguments or disconnection. But when you don’t have these communication skills, or the motivation and commitment to work with your partner, this is when you're at risk of turning outwards to find another person to meet your needs."
It can be difficult to let go of a long-term relationship, but if you're unhappy and yearning for something more — even in the form of a new partner — that's totally OK. All you can do is be honest with yourself and your partner about your feelings, and then decide whether you want to work through things or move on. Here are five signs that you might be interested in ending your current relationship and dating other people.
1. You Always Choose Your Friends Over Your Partner
In a healthy relationship, both partners have social lives independent of one another, and are comfortable spending time apart. But how much time apart is too much? "Sure, everyone needs a... night out once in a while, but in a serious committed relationship, spending time with your partner should be the priority," Burns says. "A 'me factor' over a 'we factor' is a warning sign your relationship is on the rocks. For example, when making weekend plans, do you tell your partner what you are doing, or do you ask, 'What are we doing?'"
2. You Crave Attention From Others
If you're not feeling valued in your relationship, you might be tempted to seek attention elsewhere as a way to cope — but that's just a temporary band-aid for a much bigger issue. "Of course it's flattering to receive compliments from a stranger, but it's important to know why you're seeking this attention outside of your relationship," Burns says. "If your focus isn't on quality time with your friends, it may be a sign your emotional and physical needs aren't being met by your partner."
3. You Live Vicariously Through Your Friends' Dating Lives
It's not a crime to miss the single life, and ask for the juicy details of your friends' dating lives. But how can you tell when friendly interest crosses a line into unhealthy territory? "When you ask to swipe on your friend's Tinder account, is it really because you want to help her find love, or are you secretly wondering what else is out there?" Burns says. "If you're feeling jealous of your friends' relationships, and constantly comparing your partner to their[s], or wishing [your partner] would change, this is a warning sign your partner may not be the best match for you."
4. You Re-Activate Your Old Dating Profiles
This should be a pretty obvious red flag, but if you're re-activating old dating profiles "just for fun" or to kill time, that doesn't bode well for your current relationship. "You might think there's no harm in just looking, but this is a breach of trust and security in your relationship, even if you don't message or go out with anyone," Burns says. "This is a clear sign you're feeling dissatisfied in your relationship, so the appropriate action is to talk about your feelings with your partner, not step outside the boundaries of your relationship."
5. You Often Catch Yourself Flirting
In most cases, harmless flirting while you're in a relationship isn't something to get super worried about. If you occasionally make prolonged eye contact with a cute barista, that doesn't mean you're betraying your partner — after all, flirting is just human nature. But if you know you're not happy with your partner, and often catch yourself flirting with strangers while you're going about your day-to-day business, that might be a sign that you're truly interested in what else is out there, and not just innocently flirting.
The worst thing about breakups? Even if you're the one calling things off, it's still painful. There's never a right time to end a relationship, but if you think you might want to move on, it's better to communicate those feelings as soon as they come up. You'll both be happier if you're open and honest — whether you decide to work on your issues together or break up and move on is something only you can decide.