“He’s a really nice guy,” Vanessa said, “but I just don’t know if Ben and I are meant to be together. I’m thinking about breaking up with him, but I’m not sure. How do I decide?”
It’s a question that plagues many singles: should I break up with my partner or stick it out a while longer? The issue is usually not cut-and-dried, and you have to wrestle with it for a long time before the answer becomes clear. However, the following are sure signals that the long-range forecast for a relationship is worrisome:
Your partner’s emotional health is suspect. No quality is more essential to the success of a relationship than emotional health. If the person you’re dating is self-absorbed, paranoid, overly defensive, easily angered, or anything else that indicates an emotional health deficit, it’s best to move on.
You disagree on religious and spiritual matters. If you are deeply spiritual and your partner has little interest in spiritual matters, the two of you are sure to encounter a barrier that separates you. When this happens, you will experience intense frustration and disappointment.
You question your partner’s character. Does your partner consistently demonstrate honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, and responsibility? If so, that’s a sign of strong character. If not, look out. The tendency toward deceitfulness and dishonesty has a way of spilling over into many areas of life.
Your values differ. Values are the principles that guide the way we live and make decisions. The list of values is nearly endless: honesty, generosity, volunteerism, animal rights, compassion toward the poor, and so on. If you and your partner differ radically on any one major value — or several less significant ones — conflict is inevitable.
Inability to communicate at a deep level. Intimacy for two people requires the sharing of their deepest feelings, thoughts, dreams, and fears. If you and your partner have a significantly different level of desire for heartfelt communication, the relationship will surely suffer.
You can’t resolve conflicts. In solid relationships, two people learn to manage their conflicts thoroughly and efficiently so that harmony prevails most of the time. Relationships fall apart when conflicts occur and seldom, if ever, get resolved.
Your interests don’t interest each other. If you have five or six major interests, it’s a good idea to find someone who shares two or three of them. The more hobbies and activities you both enjoy, the stronger your relationship will be.
One or both of you don’t feel free to be yourselves. No relationship is going to reach it’s potential unless both partners are authentic — unless they can genuinely be who they are. You will feel stifled and suffocated if you cannot consistently express your true self.
Hopefully, you’ve discovered no red flags as you read through this list. But if you did spot areas of concern, take them seriously. The decision to end a mismatched relationship is very difficult but also incredibly wise.