“It is necessary, and even vital, to set standards for your life and the people you allow in it.”
~ Mandy Hale
Typically, when clients walk into my office questioning “is this relationship worth it?”, there are a few themes that arise. While they can identify that fighting often and the lack of trust in their partner makes them question the future of the relationship, those themes usually aren’t enough to make-it or break-it.
This is when I encourage clients to…
1. Consider your goals and dreams for the future.
How does your partner fit into them – if at all? How do you fit into theirs? Are you able to compromise and create shared dreams together? Or do your varying ideals tear you apart?
It’s likely you won’t have the same exact dreams and you may disagree on the route to get there. But there is a big difference between not being able to agree on how to fold the towels and whether or not to have kids. If you have to sacrifice any part of you or your life that is a non-negotiable, that’s a good sign that this is not the relationship for you.
2. Ask yourself – what do you want in a partner?
Remember that list you made in the 9th grade? Tall. Nice teeth. Quarterback. Straight A’s. It’s time to create a new list. What is it that is really important to you in a partner?
If you’re struggling to answer this question, you’ll often find that friends and people you love spending time with will display the same characteristics. You’re also encouraged to jot down the opposite of negative characteristics of partners in the past. If you couldn’t stand your ex who had a new job every other month, “stable” might be a good trait to look for.
3. Reflect on how your partner treats you in comparison to how you deserve to be treated. How do you want to be treated?
While this may bring up similarities to the last question, it’s worth having a category of its own. Get very specific with this one. If you believe you deserve to be treated with kindness, identify what that looks like. You are the only one that is going to advocate for the treatment you deserve, so make sure your partner meets those standards. If not, it might be time to give them the boot.
4. Once you’ve identified these areas, set aside a time to chat with your partner about them.
If you don’t believe the two of you can communicate without getting stuck or rehashing old wounds, consider finding a couple’s therapist to help you navigate through these conversations. You are both worth having a relationship that you want to be in!
Samantha Ricard, MS, MFTC – www.ricardcounseling.com
Consider your values
Our values can oftentimes be used as a compass to help guide us through life. They help us check if we’re making the best decision for ourselves in regard to a job opportunity, a friendship, a move across the country, and of course a romantic relationship.
Take time to reflect on your top 5 values that you live by (health, faith, joy, peace, etc).
Now, ask yourself if the man you’re with supports these values or hinders them. If his lifestyle doesn’t support or add to one of your most important values, make note of this and consider if it’s worth the sacrifice.
I really like using Brené Brown’s list of values when working with clients on this topic.
Can you picture him in your future?
This is a commonly asked question, but truly think about this. And I’m not talking about imagining him as you walk down the aisle or at your first child’s birth.
- Can you see him there for you during the hard times?
- Can you picture him supporting you in your education or career?
- What about during difficult health situations?
- Does he seem like he can be present as you struggle with family issues?
- Can you see him being there to support your during your own process of personal growth?
Be aware of your energy
Take into consideration the type and amount of energy you put into being with this man. If you find yourself exhausted because you’re putting more time and energy into him and his interests, you run the risk of sacrificing your needs. However, if there’s a balance in energy (you put in as much as he puts in, and vice versa), you could potentially find yourself feeling energized by him in your life.
What phase of life are you in?
Not everyone is mentally, emotionally, and physically ready to be in a long-term relationship, possibly leading to marriage and/or kids. Sometimes you just need to date causally without having too many expectations. This is totally fine! I’m a fan of casual dating because it allows you figure out what you want or don’t want in a partner.
If you find yourself in this casual phase of life where you’d rather focus on your social life, health, or career, then spending time with this man may be worth it.
But if you’re in a place where you want more out of a relationship than you’ve previously wanted, he may not be worth it.
Sarah Vendegna, MS, LPC – www.vendegnacounseling.com
It can be so difficult to know the difference between reasonable compromises and selling yourself short.
We all know that nobody will be perfect (including us!) and that nobody gets everything they want out of a relationship. So how do you know if you are giving up too much in order to make a relationship work? It’s a very good question!
I think it’s important to take a good self-inventory of what is really important to you. At the top of the list should be your values.
Are you a religious person? Would you want your kids to be raised in a faith-based community?
These days political differences have become much more important to people, making relationships difficult for people with different party affiliations.
Is family important to you? Do you want kids? Are you close to your parents and siblings and needs to know that he will help you to maintain those relationships?
Then there are life-style choices.
- How important is money and security to you?
- Do you want a home? Do you want to travel?
A lot of people feel that they shouldn’t want things, but most of us do. You probably work hard and want a partner who will also work hard to create a certain quality of life. You need to know if he is that guy.
Then there are issues of character.
- Is he honest, generous?
- Does he manage his emotions well?
- Is he willing to listen to you and respect your feelings and needs?
- Does he share his feelings and needs with you?
- Can he manage conflict and engage in effective problem solving and conflict resolution?
- Does he smoke, drink, have drug issues, or a history of abuse?
Whether or not to wait for him is a question of whether he is worth waiting for.
Of course, he could be perfect but if he isn’t expressing enough interest in you or in having a relationship it doesn’t really matter.
I think knowing yourself, accepting who you are and validating your right a man with whom you can be happy cuts way down on the possibility of making a big mistake. And please remember that what you see is what you get- he’s not going to change.
Of course, if he leaves the toilet seat up, forget him!
Sally LeBoy, MFT – www.sallyleboymft.com
If you are in a relationship and you want your partner to put in more effort, you must determine if you want to stay and wait it out or end the relationship. It’s never an easy question. Decide for yourself what your needs are and be clear with him about them.
Tell him that you want him to put more effort and then define what more effort means to you.
Is it time spent together? Quality time together? More talk about the future? Is it about sex and intimacy? Whatever it is, it is okay to ask him for it.
If he can’t engage in this conversation about your needs, then it is likely not a good option to stay with him.
A true healthy partnership includes two people who care about each other’s needs and respond to them.
He may not respond to your needs perfectly, but you want him to listen when you share your needs. You want him to acknowledge that those things you ask for are valid. If they know that what you’ve asked of him is hard for them to do, you hope they are honest about how they feel.
For example, if you want him to put in more effort by spending more time with your friends but he shares that he has a lot of anxiety in groups and likes one on time best, hopefully you two can work together to help him feel comfortable with friends occasionally but you can understand that he may not make big changes with this.
It also may help you see that what you initially perceived as a shortcoming is not about lack of effort, it may just be about who he is.
On the flip side, if you say you want him to spend more time with his friends and he tells you he doesn’t like spending time with your friends, you’ve learned a lot about how little effort he is willing to put in to your relationship.
The difficult middle ground is if you do ask your partner to put in more effort and he sounds receptive and says he’ll work on it.
Then, you may find yourself stuck in this place of wondering how long do you want to wait to see if he makes changes, or how often do you remind him of your needs. This is the hard part. The trick is to keep your waiting active. Don’t let waiting feel passive.
Remind yourself of what you need and what you’re looking for.
Try giving yourself a timeline and allow him space to make shifts in his behavior. This timeline may help you feel empowered by a boundary of time, knowing you are the one making a choice and not just waiting on him.
No one is worth waiting for if they aren’t making progress and communicating with you about your needs.
Time to end this relationship if he isn’t open to and ready for change.
Rachel Armstrong, Psy.D. – www.rachelarmstrongpsyd.com
With relationships it is easy to get caught up in the honeymoon stage-becoming wrapped up in the feel-good emotions that are often present at the start.
After time passes things become more comfortable and familiar. It is also a common time where deeper layers of each person’s personality shines through.
This can be a time of revelation and honesty which can bring about sometimes difficult moments- first fights, seeing traits that one person may not like in another, noticing some incompatibilities, etc.
What is important to one woman may be very different for another so therefore dating is very subjective and unless the behaviors or traits are very unhealthy/toxic/harmful or dangerous, what one woman may see as a deal breaker, another woman may not.
Being open and truthful with herself and in talking about what her deal breakers are is needed.
What does a woman do when she notices her partner is showing more and more characteristics that she does not like, or perhaps there is only one trait or behavior she doesn’t like but it feels like a big deal?
If the issue is the effort in general that a woman is seeing lacking from her man it is important for her to ask herself what she wants her relationship to look like.
Some people want much more time spent with their partner than others. Some people expect to hear from their partner much more often than others.
Each woman has to decide what is right for her.
She should really take the time to ask herself what she prefers from her partner.
Once she knows how much she wants to see from her partner (effort, time, initiation, etc) then it must be discussed to see how her man responds.
Observing from there:
- What are her man’s behaviors?
- Is he is mindful of her wants and needs and puts in more effort?
From here, his ability to listen and tweak things is important.
Whether a man is empathic or not, able to respect desires and to match her pace will be telling through what he decides to do with the information she has given him. If he decides to make some healthy behavior changes to show more effort this shows he cares and wants a successful relationship.
A lot will be said through actions and not words.
A woman who can reflect on what she wants, speak her mind by putting it out there to her man, then observes her man’s behaviors to see if he can work on the things she dislikes the more likely she is ensuring a compatible relationship.
Heather Petitpas, MEd, LMHC – www.tissuesfortheissues.com
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