Don’t be fooled by Kate Hudson movies or the yoga teacher-turned lifestyle-blogger you went to high school with,
no one has a perfect relationship. Healthy conflicts, disagreements, and being unbelievably annoyed at your partner for leaving the coffee grounds in the pot *again*, all come with being a party of two. But while everyone has bad days, if you’re feeling hesitation about your relationship all the time, it may be time for a check-in. In fact, experts share 12 doubts about relationships shouldn’t be ignored, as they could indicate trouble for the future.
"Your instincts are very important to listen to,”
Laurel Steinberg, Ph.D. and couples therapist tells Bustle. “They often clue you into what you really feel about a situation, instead of what you think is socially appropriate to say or do. If not attended to, this can result in anxiety and/or depression and possibly committing to be with the wrong person."
As Dr. Steinberg shares, while some
relationship conflicts can be worked out naturally over time, other issues, like having doubts about a relationship require some serious contemplation. Though it can seem intimidating to talk about your relationship doubts, being open and transparent with your partner can help you in the present and as you build a future.
If you’re confused about the next steps, experts share these 12
relationships doubts should be addressed sooner than later. 1 Are They Being Honest?
As relationship therapist
Dana Koonce, MA, LMFT, says, transparency is an integral part of any relationship. "Along with communication, honesty is a cornerstone to any relationship," Koonce tells Bustle. " Having doubts about your partner's ability to be open and honest is a relationship flag that should not be ignored."
If you’re starting to doubt your partner’s honesty, it’s likely time to check-in. "Talk about the problem externally, addressing the behavior rather than the person,”
Kelly Bos, psychotherapist and relationship expert, tells Bustle. “Talk about how it affects you and the relationship.”
Rather than hitting your partner with a, “So, what’s up with you always lying?” Bos suggests asking about their behavior rather than them. Something like, “When your words and actions don’t align, I get really confused,” addresses the dishonesty without putting your partner on blast.
2 Are They Still Attracted To Me?
Koonce says that after the honeymoon phase wears off, it’s natural to see each other in a different light, however, if you’re
having relationship doubts about if your partner is attracted to you, it’s time to talk.
"Doubts about your physical compatibility may not necessarily be written off as just 'minor blips,” Koonce says.
Bos suggests thinking about specific things to ask for. "Often we get stressed that the attraction won’t come back and we start living as if this is our future,” Bos says. “Try to stay in the moment and enjoy the moment at hand and have ideas at hand on how you can work on it as a couple.”
Whether you want to institute a running date night, incorporate more handholding, or want more verbal affirmations, being clear on your needs can help you and your partner connect.
3 Do We Have Compatible Future Goals?
You don’t need to date your clone. You and your partner can — and should — like different things and be different people. But if you want to live in a city forever and never have kids and your partner wants to move to the country and start a huge family, you may be doubting if your future goals are compatible.
"When talking about future plans and goals, do you and your partner find that your visions do not align with one another at all?" Koonce asks. "
Having doubts about whether your future fits in with someone else's vision of their future should not be ignored or explained away."
As Koonce shares, everyone is capable of change. Wanting different things than your partner doesn't mean it’s game over, it just means it’s time to chat. It is important to discuss with your partner the meaning of the issue and whether you are
actually on a different page or if it is just perceived that way.
"Communication can always help,” Koonce says. “It’s also reasonable to end things when goals are incompatible. Too often we compromise and in the end, still realize that the relationship was not heading in the same direction."
4 Do We Have Aligned Values?
Again, you and your partner don’t need to be carbon copies of each other. Still, it can feel good to be on the same page about major lifestyle values. If you’re a workaholic that values long days at the office, trying your best, and having high career aspirations it may be challenging to build a life with someone that doesn't care about working or expects their things to be paid for.
"Partners with core values that are entirely opposing one another would benefit from evaluating whether this is a doubt that can be managed or if it is something that could potentially be a roadblock to growth in the future,” Koonce says.
To evaluate whether or not your core values will pose a long-term problem, Bos suggests looking at the level of importance, how it affects your other relationships, and how it impacts your feelings of satisfaction in this relationship. Maybe you don’t need to eat Thai food every week, but you do need to travel every summer.
5 Do They Encourage & Uplift Me?
If your partner is always diminishing you or making you feel beneath them, it’s time to talk.
"When we are in a toxic relationship, often subtle digs and devaluing comments can leave us feeling small or unimportant,"
Kate Balestrieri, Psy.D., CSAT-S, and psychologist, tells Bustle. "We may be quick to explain away these remarks and give a partner the benefit of the doubt, while all the while feeling insignificant."
Dr. Balestrieri explains little digs or negs can come on the tails of big declarations of love or commitment, also known as
love bombing. Additionally, if your partner is insecure about their own intelligence or personality, they may lash out at you preemptively. Whatever the case, if you are having relationship doubts about the way your partner makes you feel about yourself, it may be a precursor to emotional abuse. While you may feel inclined to talk about this with your partner on your own, you may want to consider seeking help from loved ones or a therapist to exit the relationship as well. 6 Are They Loyal?
In the early days of texting a crush, you may wonder if they’re talking to other people. But after you and your partner have established your relationship boundaries, you should never be doubting if they’re following suit.
"If you and your partner have declared exclusivity, or defined the parameters for an open relationship, notice if you start doubting your partner’s adherence to these boundaries," Dr. Balestrieri says. "Often our gut knows when something is off, and if we
doubt our partner’s fidelity, that is a huge alarm to investigate."
Whether they’re being cagey with their phone, coming home at weird hours, or just seem closed off, if you’re getting the feeling something sketchy is happening, Dr. Balestrieri suggests talking through your feelings with a trusted friend or loved one.
"Then it is best to be direct and non-accusing when asking your partner about your concerns,” Dr. Balestrieri says. “If they get angry or try to turn it around on you (i.e., gaslight you), it is usually an indication that you have caught them and they are trying to throw you off the scent.”
7 Am I Being Loyal?
Having a sexy dream about the new cast of
Love Island or harmlessly joking with your barista are pretty low stakes. But if you can’t stop thinking about being with someone else or are doubting your ability to be loyal, it’s time to check-in.
"If you find yourself really wanting to date or [have] sex with other people, don't commit to being in a monogamous relationship with the person you're with," Dr. Steinberg says. Take time to evaluate your feelings and be upfront with your partner regarding them.
8 Will They Humiliate Me In Public?
Cue the dinner party episode of
The Office where Michael and Jan mock each other all night.
"If your find your partner humiliates you in public by being socially inappropriate on a regular basis — don't ignore this," Dr. Steinberg says.
As Dr. Steinberg shares, your partner may have a weird sense of humor or may struggle to read the room. However if certain jokes or bits make you uncomfortable, you’re completely entitled (and encouraged!) to say so.
"By alerting the offender to specific subjects or ways of engaging that are off-putting, the person can change their approach,” Dr. Steinberg says. “If the offenses are so big that others end their relationships with you or refuse to see you with your partner, this can become a dealbreaker."
9 Do They Use My Past Against Me?
Every relationship has its share of baggage. While it’s important to address the past, if you’re fearful that your partner will use the past against you, it’s time to chat. For
Dr. Noelle Nelson, psychologist and author, things like bringing up the past or private and vulnerable information against you can be a warning sign of emotional abuse.
"The more warning signs present in the relationship, the more aware you should be of the possibility that you are at risk," Dr. Nelson tells Bustle.
If you and your partner have a joking relationship, it may feel good to bring up the night you took five shots then danced on the bar or your fifth-grade science fair project. But if you feel they are using the past or painful memories you have shared with them in solace as a way to manipulate or shame you, it may help to process with a trusted loved one or mental health professional.
10 Can They Regulate Their Anger?
Everyone gets annoyed sometimes. But if you’re
having doubts about your partner’s ability to control and manage their anger, it might be time to talk to someone.
"A big red flag is a partner’s speed at which they get angry,"
Dr. Rose Hanna, a marriage and family therapist and professor, tells Bustle. “People who get angry easily are people who are ill-equipped at emotional regulation and behavioral management."
You deserve to feel safe and rested in your relationship. If you’re starting to feel like you have to walk on eggshells or you doubt your partner’s ability to manage their anger, Dr. Hanna suggests being cautious of their triggers and potentially looking at ways to leave the relationship.
11 Are They Too Good To Be True?
Your partner may love the same movies as you and be amazing at oral sex. But if you get the vibe they’re too good to be true — in a shady way — experts say it’s something worth investigating.
“Genuine people, even those who are extremely attractive, still have flaws and problems. And, they are usually pretty open about their shortcomings,”
Jonathan Bennett, dating and relationship coach, tells Bustle. “If it feels like your partner has a knack for saying just the right things to make you feel good, then ask yourself if they are being authentic or manipulating."
Obviously, it’s important to date someone who’s nice to you and makes you feel good about yourself. Yet, Bennett shares there’s a line between someone genuinely being kind and someone trying to gain the upper hand. If you get the sense your partner is trying to appease you or starts doing nice things with expectations, it might be time to talk to a loved one.
"Manipulators are great at reading people to find their insecurities," Bennett says. "Watch especially for inauthentic and excessive complimenting. If [they're] telling you how perfect you are 24/7, as good as it might feel, it’s a red flag."
12 Do They Care When I’m Talking?
If your partner never asks you about your day or won’t engage with you in conversations, you may start to
doubt if they care about you.
“A partner who avoids having back-and-forth banter is depriving you of an important source of emotional connection,”
Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist, speaker, and author of Date Smart , tells Bustle.
According to Dr. Manly, in a healthy partnership, both partners will ask each other questions and engage in conversations they care about. If your partner has never asked about your hobby, forgers your big meeting, and only talks about themselves, Dr. Manly shares it may be time to check-in.
“Partners who don’t make space for ‘couple time’ rob their relationships of vital emotional connection.”
Experts: Laurel Steinberg, Ph.D. and couples therapist Dana Koonce, MA, LMFT, relationship therapist Kelly Bos, psychotherapist and relationship expert Kate Balestrieri, Psy.D., CSAT-S, and psychologist Dr. Noelle Nelson , psychologist, and author Dr. Rose Hanna , a marriage and family therapist, and professor Jonathan Bennett, dating and relationship coach Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist, speaker, and author of ‘ Date Smart’