After telling you how to propose and how to have the right relationship, I think it’s equally important to tell you how to end relationships, too.
Before you meet the one, you’re going to meet a lot of other ones. Possibly one or two who make you think that the one doesn’t exist, or that you had the one, and the one was actually some sort of Anakin Skywalker Darth Vader situation meant to “bring balance” to your life (i.e.: ruin it).
The reality is: Humans in general ignore signs throughout relationships that are cancerous. Humans are also scared of change, and many are scared of being alone, keeping them in relationships that are, at best, “good.” I’ve repeatedly said never to settle for just good—but in most cases, people are sticking around mediocre or horrible relationships, so here are some red flags to keep you from settling.
Compromise is not transactional. It is not a deal. It is a case where one of you says, ‘This is hurting me, and I need it to stop to be happy in this relationship.’ The other says yes or no, you talk about it perhaps and things are dealt with.
She said she never wanted a relationship.
Ever seen 500 Days of Summer? If you haven’t, it’s not a bad movie! But it also has one valuable lesson: If a girl you’ve been dating, even if it’s for a year, even if it’s for two years, without the title of boyfriend and girlfriend, has said “she doesn’t want a relationship,” you should have left when she said that unless you, too, did not want a relationship. You won’t change her mind.
You want to leave.
There’re some perfectly reasonable times that you’ll feel this, such as:
- During big steps in the relationship, like moving in together
- When using the L word. Love, not Lativia
- Just before you’re about to get married
These instincts may be worth noting, if you’re genuinely unhappy, if things are bothering you, but in some cases you’ll find you’re just scared of the future.
Here’re some example thoughts leading to leaves, and how you should approach them:
“Is she really the one?” If you’re feeling this because you’re about to marry the person or really move forward with them, but everything is genuinely great, then that’s just nerves. However, if you’re feeling a pit in your stomach whenever you talk to her, or just find her boring, or she’s making you feel like crap, she’s probably not.
“Hmm, but what about [person from past]?” Still after an ex? We’ll get there, but hoo boy, no. That’s not a good one. You either have some growing up to do, or this person is going to be on your mind forever and is something to exorcise.
“I don’t know if I’m ready for this!” Now, the question here is whether you mean, “I want to go stick my dick in a lot of other women, or go out with the fellas every night and get vomit-drunk, and this takes away that option,” or whether you mean, “This is a decision that will change my life permanently.” The first choice means you are not really into this person, have some growing up to do and, for her sake, should leave. The second means you’re a human being and having a sensible thought, so evaluate if, indeed, this decision is one you’re happy to stick with.
You live argument to argument.
You walk in the door, and she’s pissed. At something. Or you’re pissed at something. She drops a plate and you say, “Ah, for fuck’s sake!” She flips out and says not to talk that way. You say she’s being unreasonable. An argument begins about something or rather, nothing specific, but what’s very clear is that she is mad, you are mad and you are going to be mad.
This can be exacerbated by different things, such as a death in the family, a financial strain, some sort of emergency, but the truth is that these will only exacerbate existing arguments. You will now have worse arguments.
If you can’t go at least two days without an argument, you have a huge problem, and you need to get out. For both of your sakes. Marriage or relationship counseling may help if it’s something fixable, sure, but in my experience it’s a very, very bad sign.
If she’s constantly putting you down, making you feel worthless, if she is manipulative, making a thing she did wrong your fault (e.g.: she said something horrible about you, but you know, you annoyed her), if she doesn’t care if you’re in pain—that’s all abuse.
One or both of you are always way too upset about something.
I get mad a lot. My poor girlfriend has to deal with me. When I say “mad” I don’t mean I’m throwing shit and cursing. It’s a sort of simmering annoyance at X thing that happened because of Y thing to do with Z client at work. She also—though less frequently—gets mad at things. As in a lot of relationships, in both cases we recognize there’s someone mad, talk about it, calm down and try to forget about it.
It goes back to always on edge, but unhappiness isn’t always fostered in the realms of depression or outward sadness. It festers like a disease, corrodes normal human life and makes everything just a bit worse. If it’s just one of you like this, you or she may be depressed, and have some shit to deal with in your life. But if both of you are just generally unhappy, constantly finding things to be unhappy about, you are in serious trouble.
Neither of you compromise (or you don’t know what it means).
Compromise is a dangerous situation. It can be used against someone to make them bow to their will. Compromise is ideally when something is given up, something possibly important but not as important as the relationship, that will not ruin the person’s life, to make the relationship better.
In short: Compromise is not transactional. It is not a deal. It is a case where one of you says, “This is hurting me, and I need it to stop to be happy in this relationship.” The other says yes or no, you talk about it perhaps and things are dealt with.
There’re two stages where compromise is a problem in a relationship:
1) It always enters the deal stage. “Okay, well, he makes you uncomfortable? Now I admit X girl makes me uncomfortable.” That’s reasonable, and honestly constructive. But if it’s always a case where one of you needs something in return, this isn’t great.
2) You consider the compromise way more important than the relationship. Ever see Bob’s Burgers? There’s an episode where Bob says, “It’s the principle,” repeatedly. If you won’t stop talking to a friend that, say, is super racist, or stares at your girl’s boobs a lot making her feel uncomfortable because he’s your damn friend and it’s the principle, nope, you care way less about your girlfriend than you think, or you’re an asshole.
-Conversely, if she has a particular male friend that really, really bothers you, or a particular thing she does regularly that disgusts/hurts you—perhaps she drinks way too much, and you want her to slow down, it’s pretty bad if she doesn’t care enough to change that. Or can’t.
You’re joined at the hip.
I get it. You two are madly in love. If she won’t let you go out without her, if every activity has to include her, you are in a lot of trouble. If she has to know where you are at all times, if you are late and you will get eight texts saying “where r u” or, worse, she will simply come and find you, that’s a very bad situation you should get out of. And man, is it common.
One or both of you abuse.
This paragraph sucks to write, because I am not here to tell Men’s Rights Activists that a woman is being abusive when she complains you came home at 2am smelling of Eau Du Strip Club.
The horrible thing to face is that women can be abusive. This doesn’t mean all women are abusive, nor does it mean that every act is intentionally hurtful, and I hate writing constant disclaimers. The overall point is it’s real, but it’s not some “misandrist” thing where women are on a campaign to destroy men’s supposed rights, despite literally all of history and current events proving this isn’t the case.
What it is: When she intentionally makes you feel like shit. This is, again, a slippery slope—If she makes you feel like shit because you had sex with another girl, well, that’s warranted.
What I’m getting at is that she should not just make you feel bad for being you. If she’s attacking you on tiny little things, like how you speak, or what music you listen to, if she is inherently going after what makes you you, then that’s bad. If you’re putting on the pounds and she straight up calls you fat, out of nowhere, that’s abuse. If she’s constantly putting you down, making you feel worthless, if she is manipulative, making a thing she did wrong your fault (e.g.: she said something horrible about you, but you know, you annoyed her), if she doesn’t care if you’re in pain—that’s all abuse.
Every single relationship that needs to be left that I’ve heard of involves someone failing to follow their gut.
She isolates you, or you both isolate yourselves.
In a positive light, isolation can happen in any relationship, especially in really happy ones. This person’s your best friend, the love of your life and of course you want to spend most of your time with them. This isn’t what I’m talking about. This is one of the most common and brutal abusive forces in relationships, one of the most critically painful things a person can do to you—removing friends and family.
Your support system is critical. Don’t confuse this to mean “me and the buddies can’t get hammered constantly.” This doesn’t mean you see your friends or family less. It means you are effectively cut off, by actions or by distance, from those who care and love you, except for her (or him).
In the end, follow your gut.
Every single relationship that needs to be left that I’ve heard of involves someone failing to follow their gut. In reality, you’ll know for a fact if things aren’t going well.
The feeling isn’t the “I’m worried about this thing.” It’s a deeper, nastier unhappiness, a malaise that slows you down and makes things in general harder. It’s something that plagues you, gnaws at you. There’s something not right there. Maybe a conversation can fix it, but if it’s that malignant, it probably can’t. I’m sorry.