Picture it: You’re dating someone new. You’re waiting to feel the toxic stagnant codependency. Where is it? Months go by. Still nothing. At some point a corner of your brain dares register the thought: Could this be one of those? Could I actually be happy?
*looks around awkwardly* Is this lady watching my life unfold on a hidden camera? Maybe not, but it sure feels like it. I tend to steer clear of internet dating articles because they’re usually at odds with my sensibilities and experiences. But when I read “31 Ways To Know You’re In The Right Relationship,” I had to pause and reflect on my own situation. For once, I felt like the article spoke to my situation in a realistic, “not telling you what your lonely, bitter and/or hopeful/cautiously-optimistic self wants to hear” kind of way.
It was refreshing to see the tangible and intangible aspects of a relationship described and examined for what they can do to improve or weaken a budding or ongoing relationship. Frankly, it articulated things I couldn’t, and I appreciated it for allowing me to step back and ask myself “am I in the right relationship?” (Not that I question it … I’ve been through enough to have some idea of whether I’m on the right path).
Too often, it’s easy to stay in a relationship without reflecting on the healthiness of it. After you put in so much time, it just makes sense to stick to it and make the best of it. You start to ignore the little things about them that you hate. You start sacrificing little bits of who you are or what you need to keep the status quo. All for the sake of the relationship going. But to where? No one wants to put several years into a relationship and admit that it’s just no good. It’s hard to walk away after investing so much time and effort in a person and building toward a future. No one wants to admit failure (myself included).
But the reality is that some relationships just are no good, and that’s OK if you are willing to do what you need to do to correct it! What looks right on paper has the potential to be incredibly dysfunctional in real life, so people can be great individually but disastrous together. That’s not me being morbid, but rather, realistic. It’s OK to have a relationship that just doesn’t pan out, as long as you’ve given it some effort and are true to yourself and your needs. But it’s important to know when enough is enough. When REM announced it was disbanding, Michael Stipe* said something that really stuck with me: “The skill in attending a party is knowing when it’s time to leave.” Relationships are absolutely the same. When it’s over, let it go and move on before you get any more unhappy than you likely are already.
But what about when you get it right? It’s so easy to give a good relationship a side-eye, especially when everything seems so … right. You don’t fight like cats & dogs, you don’t resent them for every little thing, you trust them, you actually like them. You can spend every waking moment with them and not tire of their company, but you’re entirely fine existing without them by your side. It’s understandable how someone could be waiting for the other shoe to drop because they don’t want to go all in and then be devastated by something. That’s such a terrible way to love, though. I think it’s important to be 100% present in a relationship. That means being willing to give of yourself and receive of your partner. It means being open to what the future may hold and being willing to invest your time, energy, and heart in it. Your paranoia really doesn’t have any place in your relationship, especially if you want it to become fruitful.
All of that is easier said that done. But I really believe in the “you just KNOW” idea, insofar as I know when it’s not right, so it should work in the opposite. And in matters of the heart, there’s no sure-fire formula to follow to know “it’s real.” But if you need a little help, there are 31 ways to figure it out …
* Stipe was quoting someone else, but my cursory attempt to find out who that person was came up empty-handed.