A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

If Your Partner Is Asking You to Do These 10 Things, It’s Time to Leave

Updated: Feb. 02, 2023

You want me to do what? Fifty Shades of Gray is a fictional book, not a how-to manual for healthy relationships.

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Demand you make a major life change

Making comments about the haircut they prefer on you or wishing you’d spend less on comic book memorabilia is one thing, but if your partner is asking you to change major things—your career, your religion, your studies, or other things you consider core parts of your personality—that’s a serious red flag, says Fran Walfish, PhD, Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist, author of The Self-Aware Parent, and co-star of Sex Box on WE tv. “An important part of being in a successful relationship is to give up trying to control other people, especially your spouse or partner,” she says. Instead of trying to change you, a good partner will support you in your goals. And if they do disagree with something serious? A healthy couple will talk it out, either privately or in therapy until they reach an understanding—one of the 15 signs of a solid relationship.

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Give them your phone passcode

Secrets between partners can be a deal breaker in relationships but that doesn’t mean you aren’t entitled to your privacy. This is especially true when it comes to things like your phone and your social media accounts. “Asking to go through your phone or demanding your passwords is a major boundary violation,” says Michele Kerulis, PhD, a professor of counseling at Northwestern University. If your partner feels the need to check your phone or email constantly, then the real problem is that they don’t trust you—and that’s the issue that needs to be addressed, not the pattern of your screen swipe, she explains. “Trust is the foundation of a healthy and respectful relationship. If you don’t have trust then you’re probably with the wrong partner,” she adds. Have a hard time setting boundaries? Try these 12 steps to setting healthy boundaries in your relationship.

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Make sure everything is exactly equal

“There simply are no fifty-fifty splits of responsibility in a great marriage. Great couples learn to sacrifice and serve one another, even if it isn’t totally ‘fair’,” Dr. Walfish says. In fact, in the best relationships it can be hard to tell who gives more because the partners don’t keep score, she explains. Nothing kills the love like trying to tally up who has more points from cleaning the bathroom or doing dishes—not to mention all that emotional math is exhausting. The truth is there will be times, like during a job loss or illness, when you will have to do all the heavy lifting because your partner isn’t able to give anything. But these times generally balance out, with your partner picking up the slack when you need help. But the key, she says, is that neither complains when it’s their turn to give all.

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Keep a bad secret or lie for them

You should never feel like you have to keep an illegal or immoral secret for your partner or lie on their behalf, says Shirani Pathak, PhD, licensed psychotherapist and founder of the Center for Soulful Relationships. Secrecy and lies of all stripes are inherently damaging to your relationship and it’s unfair for your partner to put you in a position where you feel like you have to choose between their love and doing what’s right. “If your partner has something to hide and lie about, the best most loving thing you can do is let them deal with the consequences of their own actions,” she says. Find out the real problem with telling lies.

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Overlook cheating

A spouse cheating, even “just once,” can and often does torpedo a relationship, Dr. Walfish says. A serious indiscretion can be overcome with therapy if both partners are willing to work together to heal, but if the cheater asks for a “pass” or expects you to just “get over it” because they said they’re sorry, that’s a death knell for your marriage. It is even more damaging if your partner has a history of cheating, she adds. You cannot be expected to simply “forgive and forget” something as serious as infidelity. If your partner is willing to accept responsibility and change, start with these 15 steps for surviving an affair.

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Give up your job

Some men define their masculinity by their ability to be the breadwinner in the relationship, and while that works for some couples, it can hurt others—particularly if he demands that you lessen your talents, abilities, or career prospects in deference to his ego, Dr. Walfish says. Once couples realize there is no prescription for a perfect relationship, then they can open themselves up to happiness they might not have otherwise had. “I have observed couples establish, nurture, and create very happy, successful relationships in which the female partner becomes the primary breadwinner and the male partner brings in a significantly smaller figure income but shores up the difference by picking up extra load in homemaking, taking care of the children, cooking, and other household duties,” she says.

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Try bondage in the bedroom

Sex is a such an intimate act, and your partner should always be respectful of your wants and needs in the bedroom—and that includes not coercing or shaming you into doing something you’re not interested in, Dr. Pathak says. “If you have already said no to a sexual act, whatever it is, your partner should refrain from asking you over and over,” she says. This type of badgering shows that your partner doesn’t respect you and puts their sexual needs over your personal comfort and safety. (And forcing you to do something sexual is rape, regardless of whether or not you are married.)

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Forbid you from talking about something

Whether it’s their mother, their ex, or their Princess Leia fantasies, everyone has difficult topics they’d rather avoid talking about. But avoiding talking about things that affect both people in the relationship can be incredibly damaging, especially if your partner denies your right to your feelings, Dr. Kerulis says. “Your partner should never ask you to not talk about your feelings. Holding things in is simply toxic, while talking things through allows you to get to the root of a problem,” she says. Often people see difficult conversations as nagging or button-pushing but that doesn’t mean the conversations shouldn’t happen, rather that you may need to get counseling to help learn better communication skills. Oh, and your partner should never ask you to “stop crying” or say things like “you can’t get mad.” Your feelings are your feelings. And here are 9 ways you can escape awkward conversations.

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Put up with abuse from their family

Dealing with in-laws can be tricky, and there are often landmines already built into your relationship. But while you do need to respect your partner’s relationship with his or her family, that doesn’t mean you have to accept being insulted, demeaned, ignored, or otherwise hurt, says Julienne Derichs, a licensed counselor and relationship expert at Couples Counseling Today. “Your partner should not ask you to ignore the rude or disrespectful things their friends or family say to you. Your partner is the guide for how your loved ones treat you, so if they let them get away with treating you badly you don’t have a chance; and if they ask you to ‘just let it go,’ it won’t get any better,” she says. “Your partner needs to stand up for you and should not ask you to ignore bad behavior.” Find out 26 things your mother-in-law won’t tell you.

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Break up with your best friend

Your partner may not love, or even like, your sister, your maid of honor, or your childhood friend, but they should still respect your relationship with them. Your partner should never ask you to choose between them and someone else you love or demand that you cut ties with friends or family simply because he or she does not like certain people, says Jennifer C. Walton, PhD, a licensed psychotherapist and relationship expert. It’s appropriate for them to tell you their feelings and to point out how they perceive those people to be negatively affecting you, but ultimately the decision of who stays in your life is up to you. And if you have let things get bad with your siblings, here are 11 ways to reconnect with your family.

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