Oftentimes, when we meet a super hot girl or an amazing guy, we feel the instant chemistry, the animal attraction that inexplicably draws us to them, and in that moment, nothing else matters. Our biology is doing the talking, and we are all too keen to listen. How many times have you started a short or long-term relationship with someone because you felt an intense attraction to them, only to find out later, after being with them for a while, that they just can’t meet your needs in one or more crucial areas? How many times have you decided to stay in these relationships, even after realizing that you are not happy, because you don’t want to be alone or because you’re afraid of putting yourself out there again and starting from square one? Have you ever left a marriage or multi-year relationship, and were so eager to be in a relationship again, that you jumped right in with the first person who showed you interest? Its unfortunate, but with many people we meet, we can’t (or in many cases, simply won’t) realize early on that this person is just not right for us. Sometimes the red flags in relationships are very subtle and difficult to see at first, and they only creep up many months or even years into a relationship. Whatever the case, if you feel that you are noticing the following 5 signs, it might be time for you to give some serious thought as to how, or if, you want to move forward with your partner. Let’s take a look:
Sign #1- You Are Prone to Getting Into a Relationship With the First Person Who Comes Along
I find this to be especially true of people who recently got out of a marriage or long multi-year relationship, although it is not exclusive to them. These people are so eager to get back in the game and find someone new, that they become quick to settle in to a new romance with the first person who shows them interest. Whether this person comes along as a result of a dating app, a Meetup group, school or work, the fact that this person is available, interested, and reasonably good-looking is enough to warrant making a move towards boyfriend/girlfriend status. While this person may check many of the more surface level boxes that you have, you need to be cautious and wary of jumping right in. Be sure to take some time to actually get to know this person, what their likes and dislikes are, how their values match up to yours, and how you can realistically see yourself fitting into this person’s life months or years down the road. Take some time before declaring that you two are an item.
One reason why this is so common is that for many people, we tend to focus all our energies on this first person who seems right for us that we ignore other potential candidates who might be even more of a good match for us. To avoid being needy and attaching too much outcome to one particular person, it is a sound dating strategy to instead date multiple people at once, at least for a while, until you can determine with confidence who best fits your vision of an ideal relationship. By doing this, you won’t be putting so much stock into one person too early on, and if you find that things don’t work out with the one you originally thought was best, you still have other options who could end up being just as good or better for you than who you originally had in mind. So make full use of those dating apps, your social circle, and even talking to random people you meet out and about. Use all avenues that you have available. Be comfortable with keeping your options open, and it won’t feel like such a let down when once candidate you like doesn’t actually work out.
Sign #2- You Accept Too Many Deal Breakers
Back in one of my first posts on the blog, I wrote about how you can go about finding your ideal partner. One way to do that was to make a list with several columns, with one of those columns being “must haves” and another being “must not haves.” For each of those columns, you should put no more than 5 items there, so that your top-choice mates do not become overly difficult to find. It is imperative that when searching for a partner who will excite, stimulate, and ultimately satisfy us, that we do not compromise on any of the items that we put down in those two columns. For example, if you’re searching for a quality girlfriend, and you put down, “she must be a non-smoker,” then you need to absolutely plant your flag and not compromise on that. Too often, however, I see guys who will end up saying to themselves, “OK, well, she’s got 4 out of 5 must haves, but she smokes. Even though that sucks, she’s still got the other 4, so I guess that’s good enough for me.” Not surprisingly, several months later, I find out that the guy in question broke up with his girlfriend, because the last must have that wasn’t there became too much of an issue, and he reached the point where he could no longer accept it. The point to remember here is that even though we might think that skimping on one of our deal breakers won’t be such a big deal (and at first it might not be, which makes it all the more insidious), in time it will come back to play a negative role in the relationship. So if you’ve made the commitment to draw a line in the sand about your deal breakers, don’t decide to go back on them if they’re that important to you. Even if you are getting the feeling that not enough people have all 5 of them, you need to ask: Would you rather be alone for a while longer, to would you rather get into another relationship where you know that eventually you will be unhappy and miserable?
Sign #3- You’re Not Actually Attracted to Them Physically
Despite the messages we often receive from the media that tell us that looks and other surface level features shouldn’t be important, and that it’s “what’s on the inside that counts,” make no mistake: Physical attraction matters. After all, this is a romantic relationship you’re entering into, not another platonic friendship. To be in a romantic relationship implies, *ahem*, getting “physical” with your partner every now and then (more often than that, preferably). If your primal sexual desires are not being ignited within the presence of your partner, then you are going to need to face the genuine reality that this WILL be a serious issue in your relationship going forward.
I think a lot of people’s hang ups on physical attraction (at least in the United States) stem from the more puritanical roots of many cultural characteristics of our society. Many of the more traditional minded among us still view openly talking about the concept of sex, the sex act itself, and biological attraction as being crass, vulgar, inappropriate, and something that should only be discussed privately among partners. Some of us will even judge people who do talk about such topics in an open forum as being “not far above animals” (Yes, I actually heard this once). Partly because of these stigmas, and also due to how some people were raised, they learned very quickly to downplay their sexual preferences and desires as secondary or even tertiary traits that they look for in a partner, to the point that some now won’t even consider these as important, partly out of a fear of being labeled “shallow.” Many of these people have since gone on to form relationships with people whom they have a lot in common with, but whom they do not find sexually attractive. Despite having plenty in common emotionally and personality-wise with their partners, deep inside they are still quite frustrated that they cannot feel the desire to get intimate with their partners, and some have even gone years without sex, yet they stay because they do not want to be labeled as “superficial” if they decide to end their relationship and seek someone who they do want to share intimacy with. If you are finding this to be the case in your relationship, then I strongly suggest taking a closer look and determining whether staying in your current situation is worth it. There is nothing wrong with wanting and expecting to be turned on physically by your girlfriend or boyfriend. If you are not feeling that desire, you might need to do both yourself and your partner a favor and look elsewhere.
Sign #4- You Change Yourself to Fit Their Interests and Whims
Story time: I once had a male client, I’ll call him Charlie, who told me that when he started seeing his current girlfriend, he was as happy as could be. His girlfriend, who I’ll refer to here as Annette, was enthusiastic, full of energy, funny, attentive, had frequent sex, and always made time for him and their relationship. However, after a while, once they moved in together, things changed. Annette started criticizing Charlie over his hobbies and interests. She would come in the room while he was watching basketball, grab the remote and turn off the TV, often without saying a word. She would complain when he wanted to go out and do something fun on the weekends, while she wanted to stay in. Charlie would silently get upset and frustrated when he would listen to her belittle and verbally cut down waiters and taxi drivers for making minor errors. He was increasingly becoming more and more unhappy in the relationship, yet he decided to stay, because, in his own words, “I thought I loved her. I still thought she was hot. I thought…. I hoped, that it was all a phase she was going through and that she’d eventually snap out of it. It only continued to get worse.”
A big part of the reason why things got worse is that Charlie became so desperate to hold on to Annette and continue to gain her approval, that he actually changed aspects of his core makeup as a person so that he could fit the kind of archetype he imagined Annette wanted. He stopped watching basketball, one of his favorite pastimes, and started joining Annette to watch reality TV shows.
“I watched all her shows with her. Deep down, I couldn’t stand all of them, but I did it because I thought it would help bring me closer to Annette. I spent my weekends going to art museums and taking walks in the park, because that’s what she liked. I wanted to tell her that for just one weekend, let’s go for a hike, or to a Nets game. Let’s leave the city and go somewhere new, but I didn’t do it, because I knew she’d never go for it. I just didn’t get it….We started off so great, we had such good chemistry in our first couple of months, I was trying to do everything to rekindle that. “
The problem here is that we have a case of someone who fell so hard for someone else, that in the effort to keep that memory of the initial good times alive, Charlie decided he had to make changes to his own lifestyle and interests to better suit what he thought Annette wanted. Keep in mind, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to make changes, overhaul your lifestyle, and become a better person. In fact I encourage this in most of my clients. However, a key distinction needs to be drawn here- If you want to change yourself and your lifestyle, you need to be fully 100% on board with it, and the ultimate decision to do so needs to come from within you, not because you are feeling pressure form someone else to change. Furthermore, the benefits you want to get from it need to benefit you first and foremost. If you are making the changes because you want to make them for yourself, go for it. If you are doing so because someone else is unduly pressuring you into doing it, you don’t actually want to do it, and you feel like you need to do it to appease them, then perhaps that’s not the best way to go about it. Example: becoming a vegan because you want to experience the health benefits vs. becoming a vegan because your partner is telling/bullying/forcing you to do so.
Sign #5- You Are Always Longing for Others While You Are In a Relationship
It’s inevitable- even when we’re on fire and perfectly happy with our current relationship, every now and then, someone else is going to come along and make us simply go, “Damn!” While it’s perfectly acceptable to find other people hot while you’re in a serious relationship, the problems start to surface when you are constantly comparing these people more favorably to your own partner in your mind, and even worse, when you start seriously contemplating making legit moves towards getting with these people. If you find that this is happening even once, let alone multiple times throughout the course of your relationship, you need to seriously consider exiting, both for your sake and your partner’s. While its fine to check out and drink in other people’s beauty and charm from a distance, at the end of the day, your should ideally strive to see your partner as the most attractive and desirable option you have. If this is not the case, then you may need to keep searching until you find someone who does fit that description.
Dating is hard. Dating in the hopes of finding a quality partner to enter a serious long-term relationship with is even harder. With so many things that we’re looking for in a partner, how do we know which things to look for and which things to compromise on? How do we know when we’re truly settling, and when we’re just being unfair? Only you can answer that, and you will really need to look closely at what your key deal breakers are and are not. If you can keep yourself to 5 deal breakers, and be able to compromise on the rest, you will find that the issue of settling will largely take care of itself. Part of the issue happens when we do not prioritize and simply make a list of all 20-25 things that we want and label them all as “deal breakers.” Learn to understand what your core values are, and base your selection criteria around those key things. You should find that the process makes a lot more sense.