When you think about what a healthy relationship might look like, you may consider a few infamous couples as examples, whether it’s the childhood romance of Cory and Topanga or the royal bonanza that is Kate and William. But while anyone would hope to one day be in a relationship like these, that doesn’t mean that you and a potential partner will live happily ever after. Why? Because being in a healthy and mature relationship doesn’t automatically mean that you’ve found “The One.”
Yes, you both may share the same core values, support one another’s dreams, and may even like the same movies, but maybe something just doesn’t feel right. Maybe the relationship is no longer serving you. According to Dr. Carla Marie Manly, clinical psychologist and author of Joy from Fear, while a healthy relationship should involve each person to grow while supporting their partner’s own evolution, if the partnership “begins to prevent or no longer support this essential growth, then the relationship is no longer being of service to one or both partners.”
Long story short: this sucks.
When you begin to notice something is off with your relationship, even when it feels and looks like it could fit into a Nicholas Sparks movie, it can truly mess with your heart and mind — but that doesn’t make what you’re experiencing any less true. “Healthy relationships can hit a breaking point because the couple cannot reach what should be the next level of emotional intimacy and closeness,” Shannon Thomas, trauma therapist and author of Healing from Hidden Abuse, said. “Sometimes it’s as simple as personality differences that cause a relationship to no longer serve us. Whatever gets in the way of our growing deeper in the relationship can become a permanent barrier.”
But even when your gut feeling is telling you that something is wrong, how exactly do you know when a healthy relationship is no longer for you? Read below to see what these experts have to say.
1. You’re feeling irritable for no reason
While it’s completely normal to feel irritable with your partner every now and then, it shouldn’t be an emotion that you’re constantly feeling. Do you want to wring their neck because they’re breathing right next to you or do you feel annoyed when they want to hug you? “This irritation often covers an underlying sense of feeling stuck or restricted,” Dr. Manly explained. So if this emotion feels all-too-familiar, then it might be time to investigate why you’re feeling like this in the first place.
2. You’re longing for freedom and imagining your life without them
If you’re dreaming about flying to Paris without your S.O., it might be time to reevaluate the relationship. When a partnership is no longer serving you, you may not see a need for this person to be a part of your life anymore. For instance, Thomas explained that when we’re ready to move on from a healthy relationship, we may begin making plans without our partners. “When we begin envisioning aspects of our life and our current significant other isn’t in the picture, it’s a solid indicator we may be ready to end the relationship,” she said.
3. You’re staying at the office longer than you normally would
Clocking in extra hours at the office is never a good idea when you’re only doing it to try to avoid your S.O. at home. According to Dr. Manly, choosing to stay at the office longer by offering to do extra projects could mean that you’re over the relationship. However, keep in mind of your behavior at home, too. Dr. Manly continued by saying that if you also find yourself putting all your attention into working as home as well, this is also a clear sign that your partnership is no longer serving you.
4. You’re focusing more of your time and energy on your friendships
The one great thing about being in a healthy relationship is that you never have to worry about offending your partner if you want to hang out with your friends; however, there could be an underlying issue with your relationship if you’re constantly going out and leaving your partner at home. “A dissatisfied partner might become more invested in friendships if a healthy relationship is no longer of service,” Dr. Manly said. “There is often an increased interest in being more involved in social activities — those that act as a distraction and improvement to life with one’s partner.”
5. You’re bored
“Feelings of boredom or indifference are often signs that an otherwise healthy relationship is no longer serving us,” Thomas said. This could mean that you’re no longer excited to see your partner, and when you do hang out with them, you may place all your attention on doing other activities, such as looking on social media, texting your friends, or maybe choosing to only listen to half of their conversation because your mind is going elsewhere.
6. You’re not keeping in touch with them while you’re apart
Let’s be honest: Do you think about your partner when you’re away? Are they the first person you want to tell good news to? “When trying to figure out if a relationship serves us or not, it’s helpful to observe whether we look forward to spending time with our partner or keeping in touch with them while apart during the day,” Thomas explained. If you realize that your healthy relationship is no longer doing it for you, try not to feel guilty. “This simple observation of how we desire to spend our time can tell us a lot. We must give ourselves the freedom to be honest in our answers and not feel guilty for whatever we are currently feeling about the relationship,” Thomas continued. “We owe it to ourselves, to be honest, and not remain in a relationship that no longer serves us; even if that relationship is overall healthy.”
If you feel like you’re experiencing some of the above, don’t fret. Dr. Manly has provided a slew of questions you can ask yourself in addition to examples of answers you should look out for to help you determine how this relationship is making you feel. Just remember there’s no right or wrong answer and to be utterly honest with yourself.
What do I want from this relationship and am I getting it? Can it change?
“I know what I want from my relationship. Here’s the list: mutual love, companionship, mutual support, adventure, intellectual stimulation, constant growth as a couple and as individuals, laughter, emotional connection, sexual intimacy, a sense of family and future, etc. Here’s what I am NOT getting from this list: A sense of growing together and separately, emotional connection.”
What do I want to be giving in this relationship and am I giving it? Can it change?
“Here’s the list: Commitment, love, growth, kindness, respect, honesty, fun, sexual intimacy, a sense of stability. Here’s what I’m not giving to the best of my ability: Commitment, sexual intimacy, fun.” Can it change? “I’m not sure. I haven’t really thought of this before, so I want to give it a better try.”
What do I want from my partner in this relationship and am I getting it? Can it change?
“I want these things from my partner: Affection, honesty, respect, emotional support, emotional connection, intelligent discussion, kindness, lots of tenderness, fun/playfulness, good sex but in moderation, a sense of wanting to constantly evolve. Here’s what they’re not giving me: Enough daily affection, greater emotional connection, a sense of evolving (both him and our relationship — I feel stuck!)” Can it change? “I need to have an open, direct discussion to see what might open up. Who knows, maybe both of us feel stuck.”
Am I seeking something (or many things) from my partner or the relationship that I should be seeking from myself?
“This question makes me think that maybe I’m looking to my partner to get me unstuck from many areas in life. Maybe I need to look at myself to see if it’s my job, friends, and the daily grind that has me feeling stuck. I’m going to investigate this before making a rash decision that it’s my relationship or partner — and not me — that has me feeling stuck. But, if I find that the relationship is no longer serves me, I will make a commitment to move forward.”
At the end of the day, it might be hard to come to terms with the fact that while the relationship you’re in is healthy, it’s no longer serving you. Just remember to be kind to yourself and be honest with your partner about the way you feel. While you want to respect the relationship you’re currently in, you also want to respect the relationship you have with yourself.