You don't share the same values
It's one of the five life lessons we learn too late
—valuing the same things makes for a harmonious life. So make a "must have list," suggests Gary Brown
, PhD. It can include what it takes to achieve success, earn trust, or make a happy family. "You then have to decide if these are your hard limits. In other words, what is not-negotiable," he says. "Other things are negotiable. I call these 'soft wants,' like how you each might want to decorate your home, where to take vacations and what type of cars to drive."
You're competing against their technology
Does your partner spend time looking at a phone during dinner, movie night, a walk in the park—in other words, so often that it feels like you're alone? If so, says Dr. Brown, they may not really know how to connect with you or anyone else, for that matter. In fact, they may be exhibiting one of the 12 signs that they're a narcissist
. "People who are preoccupied with themselves tend to be narcissists in the extreme. It's all about them. Any compassion they display is likely more designed to make them look good, rather than making you actually feel good," he says.
They don't comfort you, even after you've asked
When you're upset, how do they react? Everyone process emotions differently, but ask yourself, is this someone you view as empathetic? Dr. Brown points out that it might be hard to comfort you, if they are too self-absorbed. Maybe point them to this guide to offering comfort
"Men and women process emotions differently. As men, we still tend to minimize our emotions. When we experience intense emotions in others, we tend to get into the 'fix it' mode, when all our partner might really want is simply to be heard," he says. "Women are more easily socialized to express their feelings, but sometimes have a problem with a man being emotional."
But beyond gender, it's important to look at the personality traits of the individual. Bottom line: If it's always about your partner even when it is obvious that you are in pain, you may be with a true narcissist. It may be time to move on.
Your partner does not prioritize you
In a world where we're reachable by email, smartphone, social media, and other forms of technology 24/7, it's important to discuss boundaries and spending time unplugged as a couple. The same goes for how you divide your time between family, friends, self-care, fitness, work and other priorities. No one should be expected to throw all other responsibilities to the wind. But you feel like you're always last on the list, something's wrong.
"We all can prioritize lots of things while also managing our partner's feelings. Constantly being pushed to second place feels bad," says Lynn Zakeri, LCSW. "However, on the other side of this, make sure you are reading the situation correctly. Did you get blown off or are you expecting too much mind reading of your partner? Did you think you would spend your entire birthday weekend together without vocalizing that prior to the weekend?"
You also have to assess the person and his or her devotion to career—it may never change, and that's when it's time to compromise or accept that the relationship won't work for you.
Content continues below ad
You're often not on the same page
Compromise is integral to all relationships. But if you feel like you're fighting almost every day or walking on eggshells, there's a communication breakdown happening. If someone takes something the wrong way or doesn't understand you, and you don't feel like together you reach a resolution or learn from mistakes, at the very least it's time to seek couples counseling.
"Situations that are chronically toxic, that have multiple and frequent arguments that go unresolved, and certainly a situation where there is domestic violence, are often signs that she or he is not the right one,' Dr. Brown says. "Name-calling, frequent use of sarcasm, and comments that "hit below the belt" on a frequent basis, are other important cues. In fact, that kind of behavior is one of the nine signs of a toxic relationship. Give this a lot of thought in making your decision."
Additionally, he says, if you find that they are putting you down a lot, under the guise of "it's just a joke," maybe rethink as to whether or not you want to be the brunt of their "jokes" for the next 50 years.
They play the blame game
Ditty about summer/shutterstock
If your partner blames you and does not take responsibility for his or her own part in arguments, you're looking at an unhealthy marriage or long-term relationship. According to Zakeri, here's how that sounds: "I would not have broken the plate if you ever cleaned up your dishes!" "I would have more money if you didn't control all my spending habits!" If your partner has anger issues and berates you without reflection of where it comes from, it's a red flag.
It's important for couples to discuss issues in a healthy way, and sometimes that means taking time to cool down or find the right words. What's key is that each person examine what kind of changes they can make to be a better person rather than being preoccupied with being right.
They take work stress out on you
Sure, a bad day at work can lead to conflict at home, but no one should take out their stress on their partner. Make sure you and your partner have some of these 37 stress-relieving tricks
memorized. And then analyze how your partner manages work issues. The best response to someone's bad day is to listen without trying to fix the situation, offer advice if it's requested, and give the other person some space to decompress. But if your partner just makes you feel bad the whole night, that's unacceptable, says Zakeri.
"You want someone who can voice their feelings. 'I had a tough day today and am feeling pretty drained. Do you mind if I take a walk, watch TV, chill for a little while?'" We all have bad days: You want someone who can learn what you need on those days and who can let you know what they need, too.
Your partner's insecurity leads to controlling behaviors
We all have insecurities. The question is, what's reasonable and what isn't? If you are forbidden from dressing up or looking nice because he or she worries it will attract flirtation, it's time to be concerned. "Whatever the suggestion or the demand, understanding the intention and the rationale behind it is crucial," Zakeri says. "Nobody likes to be told what to do, at any age."
There's a big difference between saying, "I worry about you on the subway late at night," and, "I don't want you going out at night without me," explains Zakeri.
Content continues below ad
Your partner has mental health issues they refuse to get help for
This can leave you trying to play doctor, therapist, and parent in addition to being a partner—and that's extremely emotionally draining. "If your partner isn't open to getting help, this does not bode well for your future—or theirs. Nowadays, there is lots of help available for people who suffer from depression and anxiety," says Dr. Brown. While acknowledging the need is a difficult one, it's absolutely necessary, he says.
For some, there is still the stigma, even when they are obviously suffering. If you've tried many times or even pleaded for them to get help to no avail, says Dr. Brown, it's decision time.
"Here's a tip that I offer to my clients who are in this situation. Ask yourself, just how bad is it? If your relationship has been crumbling for longer than you can stand, and your partner still refuses to get help, then it may be time to leave, or perhaps a trial separation. If you feel guilty, you cannot let your feelings of guilt hinder your ability to be happy. This is your life as well as theirs. If in doubt, seek out the help of friends, family, and a professional counselor to help you get some perspective."
You've caught them in a lie more than once
Being secretive means there is a disrespect for the relationship and possibly a lack of trust. Go through the 11 signs that you can totally trust your partner
, and then consider whether they are doing things that go against "the relationship agreement." Catching your partner in lies can crack the foundation and needs to be addressed, oftentimes in therapy.
Dr. Brown's ultimate test
Even if you don't want children, ask yourself if they would be a good parent to your future child. Are they a good and decent person? Would they truly love that child and stay loyal to your family and put you first? Are they compassionate? If the answer to these questions are no, says Dr. Brown, you're closer to understanding that they are probably not The One.
Helaina Hovitz is an editor, writer, and author of the memoir After 9/11. She has written for The New York Times, Salon, Newsweek, Teen Vogue, Glamour, Forbes, Women's Health, VICE, and many others. She is currently editor of branded content at Upworthy/GOOD.