Plus, how to talk to your partner about it.
Is love ever enough to sustain a happy, healthy, and long-term relationship? In an ideal world, it would be. But the reality is, you can love someone deeply and still feel like they’re just not enough for you. If your partner does not make an effort to make you feel like your relationship is worth fighting for, at what point is it time to call it quits?.
According to psychotherapist and relationship coach, Toni Coleman, LCSW, CMC, there are three elements that make up chemistry in your relationship: physical attraction, friendship, and intellectual stimulation. For instance, if you are physically attracted to a person, but find the conversation lacking or awkward, you're always going to feel like there's a piece missing. Maybe they're just too serious all the time, while you like a little more laughter. Or maybe you miss the close friendship aspect to a relationship. While you may get along just fine, you may not be totally in sync.
"It’s not necessary to have the same amount of all of these elements," Coleman says. "But if one part is missing, it will feel like 'something' is missing, and you will find yourself wishing you could relate to [your partner] like you did with [an ex], or couple you know."
According to relationship experts, these are signs that your partner might not be enough for you, even if you love them.
3. You're The Only One Putting In Any Effort Into Your Relationship
It’s no surprise that relationships require work from both parties. And as Erin K. Tierno, LCSW-R, psychotherapist who specializes in relationships, tells Bustle, "If you are the only one doing the heavy lifting, then it might be time to consider seeking out a partner who is willing to show up for figuring out the hard stuff as a team."
Relationships involve caring for you, your partner, and the relationship itself. You shouldn't be the only one initiating check-in texts or calls, planning date nights, or bringing up issues that need to be discussed. A partner who's serious about being in a relationship with you will have no problem doing their part.
If you feel like your partner isn't contributing their share to the relationship, have an honest discussion with them about how you feel. They might not even realize they haven't been pulling their weight, and may be open to doing more.
4. You & Your Partner Have Different Major Life Goals
If you feel like you and your partner are moving in different directions — you want to live in different places, have different goals financially, disagree on whether to get married or have kids, for instance — then these are pretty big red flags that your relationship may not be fulfilling for you, Stef Safran, matchmaker and dating expert, tells Bustle.
"You have to be realistic that people tell you things to give you information, not to have their minds changed down the line," she says. If your partner is open to discussing and compromising on some of these major decisions, then there is still potential for things to work out. But if you can't find a solution that works for the both of you, this may be a dealbreaker.
5. The Timing Is Just Off
If you’re with someone you love and they aren’t ready to move to the next stage in your relationship, they may not be enough for you. As Elizabeth Cobb, LCSW the founder and lead therapist of Cobb Psychotherapy, tells Bustle, "If you're dating someone in medical school, with all the years of training and study ahead, they won’t likely be ready to settle down for a while. You may be in love but if your timeline is different it may be time to part ways for the meantime," she says.
This doesn't mean things can't work out in the future, but if timing is causing issues for you and your partner, it may be time to evaluate if what they can offer you in the present works for you.
6. There's Doubt About Your Partner That Never Seems To Go Away
As Gabrielle Applebury, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle, it’s not easy to find a partner who can fulfill all of you, but the right partner is one you can be honest with, trust, and work through problems with together.
If you have any sort of nagging doubt about them, matchmaker Susan Trombetti tells Bustle, that's a sign they might not be enough for you. "Perhaps they aren’t as outgoing as you and you seek out others while they seek solace. Sometimes they don’t want children and you won’t feel complete until you have children. It can really vary," Trombetti says. Listen to your gut and see what it's telling you.
7. Your Partner Doesn’t Challenge You
Matchmaker Emily Holmes Hahn tells Bustle that the biggest sign your partner isn’t enough for you is if they don’t challenge you. “Intellectually, you need someone who mentally stimulates you and who you don't get bored talking to,” she says. “Physically too, you need to be challenged by a partner who you're excited to be with intimately, and who you don't just fall into a routine with."
When you're with someone who challenges you in different ways, there's opportunity for constant growth and having a relationship that evolves.
8. Your Partner Is Unwilling To Meet Your Needs, Even If You’ve Asked Repeatedly
If you’ve asked your partner to spend more time with your friends and family, and they’ve responded by giving you numerous excuses, this is worth paying attention to. According to Prescott, this may be a sign that your partner is unwilling to put forth the effort you need from them.
If you don’t mind doing what your partner asks of you, but they constantly refuse your requests, this isn’t likely to change on their part. “This might not be the right relationship for you because you may be putting in more than you are receiving,” Prescott says. “Healthy relationships are a two-way street that require mutual understanding and compromise. When someone is not willing to do things after you have explicitly asked, the message is ‘your needs don't matter to me.’”
9. Your Partner Doesn’t Take Accountability For Their Actions
In a mature relationship, both partners take accountability for their behaviors. They won’t minimize the other person’s feelings or say disrespectful things to each other. If your partner ever makes you feel like you’re the problem in the relationship, you may want to rethink whether this relationship is right for you.
Chances are, if your partner doesn’t take accountability, they’re not going to change, no matter how often you argue or try work through it. “People who don't take accountability often blame their partners,” Prescott says. “It makes it very hard to have a healthy relationship with this type of person. It often results in one person making sacrifices and denying their own needs, which can ultimately lead to resentment.”
10. You Prepare For Arguments With Your Partner Before They Even Start
Conflict in a relationship is inevitable and fighting can be healthy, if done the correct way. But “when you start to constantly lock horns with your partner to the point that any conversation devolves into conflict, it could mean that both of you are placing emotional protection above emotional connection,” psychotherapist Skylar Ibarra, LCSW tells Bustle. And the more you feel emotionally neglected, the more you will shut down.
11. You’ve Grown While Your Partner Has Stayed The Same
If you feel like you’ve grown as a person, but your partner is still at the same place they were in you first started dating, this could be a potential issue. “I see this all the time in couples who got together in their early 20s,” Ibarra says. “When we meet someone at the beginning of adulthood, we assume they’re going to continue to develop and grow because it’s what we expect for ourselves. Logically we expect it for others, so it can be frustrating and lonely when the person we love is consistently falling short of what we want in our ‘leveled up’ adult life.”
If you’re starting to feel embarrassed about bringing your partner around your family, you're constantly making excuses for them, or you find yourself pressuring them to clean up their mistakes, you may not be in sync anymore.
12. Your Partner Doesn’t Make You A Better Person
The right partner for you will add value to your life. Despite any challenges that you may face, they’ll make fighting for the relationship feel worth it.
“Some people are takers and don’t offer anything of substance to make you a better version of yourself,” Tarquez Bishop, dating and relationship coach, tells Bustle. “A better ‘you’ makes for a better relationship.” If your partner isn’t pushing you to be better, or they’re constantly bringing out the worst in you, this may not be the right relationship for you.
What Should You Do If You Realize That Your Partner Might Not Be Enough?
It’s important to take a step back and really think about whether or not you can live with whatever you feel is "missing" with your partner. Haifa Barbari, love coach and author, suggests asking yourself whether it’s an area of your own life that’s lacking, or a genuine dissatisfaction with your partner and your relationship. If it really has something to do with the latter, consider whether it’s something that can be worked out.
“If the answer is no, or you’ve tried and are still feeling lack and dissatisfaction in your relationship, then it's time to let them go kindly using the three-C closure conversation framework to guide a mature breakup conversation,” Barbari says.
First, open the conversation up with a compliment. Mention things you really appreciate your partner to set a kind, positive, and loving tone, Barbari says. Next, communicate how you really feel while being mindful of their feelings. Finally, close with clarity. If you’re looking to break up for good, be honest and direct about it. If you’re unsure whether breaking up is really what you want to do, try asking your partner for space with the intention of talking things out once you have clarity yourself.
Either way, be honest with yourself. “Self-honesty will always guide you to the place that is right for you,” Barbari says.
Toni Coleman, LCSW, CMC, psychotherapist and relationship coach
Rhonda Milrad, LCSW, relationship therapist, founder of Relationup
Meredith Prescott, LCSW, psychotherapist
Stef Safran, matchmaker and dating coach
Erin K. Tierno, LCSW-R, psychotherapist
Elizabeth Cobb, LCSW, lead therapist of Cobb Psychotherapy
Gabrielle Applebury, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle.
Susan Trombetti, matchmaker, CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking
Emily Holmes Hahn, matchmaker and founder of LastFirst
Skylar Ibarra, LCSW, psychotherapist
Haifa Barbari, love coach and author
Tarquez Bishop, dating and relationship coach
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