It’s hardly groundbreaking to say that making a relationship work in the long run requires more than the bare minimum level of effort. If you’ve ever been in a romantic relationship that lasted longer than a few months, you’ll know this from firsthand experience. Whereas the first month or two of a new romance is typically fraught with starry eyes and butterflies, there comes a point when the rose-colored glasses come off and you’re confronted with the reality of this relationship, whether it be generally positive or negative.
Maybe this realization is triggered by the first fight you have with your boyfriend, or maybe you slowly started noticing that he was getting on your nerves in ways he never used to, or maybe a few disagreements have made you begin to wonder if you’re the magnificent match you thought you were. However it happened, you’ve come to understand that your relationship isn’t just going to magically work out well – if you want to make things work, you have to work.
Any worthwhile relationship will call for your full commitment, for you to invest your whole heart into it, for you to make it a top priority. But is there a point when your investment in a relationship becomes unhealthy and unrealistic? How can you tell when you’re forcing a relationship that just isn’t meant to be? What are the signs you should look for that you’re trying too hard to make your relationship work?
Your Levels of Commitment Don’t Match
Romantic relationships are quite similar to a dance. One person makes a move, and the other follows suit, even adding a new flourish. The give and take continues back and forth, and the relationship grows from a budding romance into a lasting one.
But this is only true when both people in the relationship share the same level of commitment. If Person A’s emotional investment and desire for the relationship to work significantly outweighs Person B’s, conflict will arise as Person A feels used and unloved and Person B feels suffocated by a relationship they don’t actually want. Without equal commitment and investment in the relationship, it will always feel like it’s being forced.
You Don’t Totally Trust Him
Trust is perhaps the most important ingredient in any healthy, mature, successful relationship. When you trust your boyfriend, it means that you feel taken care of by him, safe with him, valued by him, and loved by him. You don’t approach the relationship from a place of anxiety or uncertainty or jealousy, but from a place of security.
Without having total trust and confidence in your boyfriend – knowing that you can count on him, that he’d never cheat on you, and that he’ll follow through on his commitments – there’s no healthy way for the relationship to progress. Forcing a relationship where trust is absent is voluntarily placing yourself in a ticking time bomb of a relationship.
You’re Happier When You’re Not with Him
While a classic telltale sign of an unstable relationship is one where the couple is completely inseparable, it’s also true that a couple should genuinely enjoy each other’s presence. They should be able to survive a day without seeing each other, but they should also want to see each other at the end of a long day and look forward to the moment when they get to reunite. Being with him should make you breathe easier.
Your relationship shouldn’t feel like a raincloud that you’d rather try to avoid.
But if you find yourself secretly happier when you’re not with him (or you simply don’t find yourself missing him), this is a symptom of an underlying issue, one that tells you that the relationship isn’t answering what you need it to. It isn’t offering you intimacy, peace, and support, but instead anxiety, guilt, or frustration. Your relationship shouldn’t feel like a raincloud that you’d rather try to avoid.
You Aren’t Friends with Each Other
Picture your favorite couples, real or fictional. Think about the way they show love for each other, the way one of them laughs at the other’s jokes, the support they offer one another, the relationship they share that seems to both encapsulate and go well beyond romantic love. The thing these couples have in common is that they’re friends.
Your boyfriend is your lover, but he ought to also be your friend. You should feel a kindred spirit friend connection with him on top of your romantic connection and your chemistry. A relationship functioning on romantic chemistry alone is essentially running on fumes; as soon as the honeymoon phase peters out, you’ll be left with a relationship that crumbles because it never had any solid foundation.
You Don’t Feel Respected by Him
The couples that last typically share a few things in common: They’re devoted, supportive, totally in love, and they respect each other. They care about the other’s opinion, hold each other in high esteem, see the best in each other, and are mindful of the way they speak and communicate with the other. Their relationship is a safe place, where both people feel valued by the other.
Without this kind of dynamic, a relationship can’t withstand much. While you can do your best to white-knuckle it and hold onto him, if he doesn’t have basic respect for you (and instead disregards your boundaries, discounts your thoughts, and treats you with contempt), you’re forcing the relationship to continue against your best interest.
You Don’t Want the Same Things
We’ve all met a couple that seems like they’re always on the same page, who share a vision for their lives together. They agree on what a life well-lived looks like – where they want to live, how they want to raise their children, which values, traditions, and beliefs they hold dearly. By all accounts, they’re playing on the same team.
Choosing a life partner is one of the biggest, most significant, life-changing choices you can make.
On the other side of the spectrum is a couple that shares romantic chemistry…and that’s it. If you and your boyfriend don’t want the same things out of life (he wants to live in the city while you’ve always dreamed of being out in the country, he doesn’t want kids and you can’t remember ever not wanting children, or he doesn’t care for religion while your faith is a big part of your life), the relationship already has an expiration date. Choosing a life partner is one of the biggest, most significant, life-changing choices you can make, so choose a guy whose life has the same trajectory as yours.
A Part of You Misses Being Single
Whether or not you enjoy being single, once you’re in the right relationship, having options won’t be something you care about anymore – you’ve already found your person. You’ll be glad to leave behind your single years to move on to a new phase of life. You won’t want to wait to begin the rest of your life with him.
While it’s not uncommon to miss aspects of your life when you were single (like having more time to hang out with your girlfriends), it’s a bad sign if what you’re missing is having options, flirting with other guys, and feeling free from commitment. If you’re looking back on your single days with longing and nostalgia, something’s not right in the relationship.
You Feel Annoyance More Often Than Love
Any couple will tell you that they’ve felt more than just love for their significant other – and we don’t necessarily mean that in the positive sense. Spending any amount of time with another person will naturally lead to quarreling, annoyances, and the uncovering of their various quirks (some of them cuter than others).
Getting frustrated with your boyfriend from time to time is to be expected, but it’s also important to pay attention to the frequency of these negative feelings. If you’ve started to feel annoyance, frustration, or anger more often than you feel love toward him, this might mean that the relationship has run its course.
Backing out of a relationship because it required any work, effort, or compromise at all isn’t wise, but it’s crucial to know how to assess when a relationship has become too much work and it's time to cut things off.
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