It's definitely true that there are modern rules to the act of dating; however, the objective of dating will always be the same: spending time with someone to determine if you have a long-term future. Eventually, that assessment translates into a break-up or further progression of the relationship -- ideally into something long-term or an "I do," if it's meant to be.
That all said, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, which we should ultimately be thankful for, since it frees us up to find "The One" ... But do you have the guts to call it off when it isn't working?
Before I walk you through this topic, I have to explain the twisted logic that brought me to this point: the Diane Kruger-Joshua Jackson break-up. Yes, another random celeb break-up. And it wasn't just because I've been in love with Joshua Jackson since he was Charlie Conway in the Mighty Ducks movies. Nor was it because I swore they were headed down a "long-term-together" kind of thing like Susan Sarandon & Tim Robbins, at this point (10 years is a while, Hollywood or not!) No, it's because they spent ten years together, owned homes together, lived together... A life together. And yet, after a decade, decided that forever wasn't in the cards for them. And, if you follow the news stories, then it looks like it hadn't been working for quite some time... Even rumors of infidelity.
Now, that all said, it led me to thinking about my own break-up with Sav (and ultimately, when I chose myself). Even with any doubts I may have had along the way, I let the situation go. But, could I have accepted the feeling inside me and braced myself to do the hard thing earlier? Maybe. However, the hopeful side of me hoped it would pass and hope that love alone would make the nagging feelings go away.
While every relationship is different, I'm convinced there are a couple of tell-tale signs that make it clear that maybe it's been too long. It's not an end-all, be all. However, if I had caught on to these feelings early on, maybe it would have prepared me to do what I should have done long ago.
I'll say here that this does NOT account for couples that decide and agree not to get married. That's a personal choice for couples to decide. No, instead, what I'm getting at is understanding the point when you can call things off sooner and spare yourself the pain of dragging it out.
Some of the signs that shouldn't be ignored:
- You entertain other options... Or the idea of other options: Whether you pine away for the imaginary partner or direct affections to someone new, the idea of there being another at all is a clear indication that your heart isn't in the game. Huge flag here if it leads to any repeated actions.
- You're just not willing to give: Relationships are about give and take and it's an equal exchange. One of the things I noticed about my time with Sav was how hard it felt to compromise on both sides. That difficulty contributed greatly to a lot of friction. Why was it so hard, I would ask myself. In hindsight, and in thinking about past relationships, I realized it wasn't... As long as we both wanted to.
- Time together isn't fun: You know it's bad when it hurts to spend time together. And whether you're posing for others or just trying to ignore the feeling inside, it shouldn't be a lousy time to spend time together. Once you dread it, then it's time to think it through really, really hard.
- You're tired of the effort: This one's pretty painful. Things will wane in a relationship, especially as you get settled. But if there's no interest in putting IN the effort, then we're talking about much bigger problems. That's the effort you need to keep it going since relationships are WORK. Double negative if you get to this point before marriage. After all, if you can't make it work BEFORE marriage, then there's not too much hope you can make it through a lifetime.
- You start seeing life through a solo lens: When you start mapping out a life or plans that don't include your current partner, it may be high time to reassess how much you WANT to be together. Is it worth it? Is life alone more appealing? That's pretty telling.
That all said, it's a personal choice when to call it quits. However, too long of a time with these types of symptoms and that can easily lead to resentment, which can lead to nothing good. So, sometimes, your gut is all you've got. Point is, when it isn't right - whenever that is - don't ignore it. Have the strength to bow out.