A relationship can be wrong for a whole spectrum of reasons, but sometimes, you’re so emotionally involved that you miss the critical indicators of incompatibility. Or you’re hesitant to leave the comfort of companionship (as Jennifer Lopez admitted to doing in the past), even when deep down you know things aren’t right.
So we asked members of the Thrive Global community to share signs they missed that they were in the wrong relationship for them. As these stories poignantly illustrate, sometimes the red flags come from our partner, and sometimes, we spot them within ourselves.
Your partner doesn’t support your goals
“How did I know I was in the wrong relationship? There were a whole host of reasons, but not enough to realise it until three months into a marriage. I wanted so badly to make the leap into the health and wellness industry and move away from my corporate event manager lifestyle. However, when I expressed this to my then-husband, it was met with resistance about how my healthier lifestyle would make me boring (forget that I was on the verge of a mental and physical breakdown). Every conversation between us was defensive and angry. The final straw, although petty, was asking him to help me with some household tasks like unloading the washing machine and hanging it up while I did something else. He said, ‘I didn’t ask you to do the washing.’ We just weren’t — and didn’t know how to be — a team.”
—Kim Barnard, life coach, Brighton, UK
Your expectations are fear-based
“The signs I used to miss were the expectations I had of my partners, and not realizing that my expectations were fear-based, because love has no expectations. For a relationship to be healthy, each partner must be responsible for their own garbage. I heal my half, you heal yours. I recommend the book The Mastery Of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz. It helped me develop new perspectives.”
—Lyne Prud’homme, sales consultant, Montreal, Quebec
Your core beliefs are too different
“It wasn’t as much that I missed the signs as I ignored them, believing that the differences in beliefs and opinions could be easily mitigated. Regrettably, I realized that factors like conservative political views and estrangement from one’s own children were huge barriers for me, and having someone on the same page was vital.”
—Michael Ivers, CEO, Everett, WA
You’re seeking attachment but don’t yet love yourself.
“I was in a few relationships with the same type of men: they were kind, intelligent, independent, free-spirited, and… non-committing and emotionally unavailable after past trauma. They showered me with love in the infatuation stage, then moved onto being their non-committing, half-available selves. The signs were loud and clear: They didn’t want kids, talked about how bad marriage is, wouldn’t share how they felt, and were fair-weather friends. My biggest takeaway was not about them. My own red flags were: I was looking for attachment, lacked self-respect and love. When I fixed that, I found my soulmate — we’ve been happily married for six years now.”
—Anya Perry, health and wellness coach, Grovetown, GA
You got blinded by promises that never became reality
“A man seduced me years ago. But as my love lights were on and the fireworks were exploding, I failed to see that my former partner had all the tell-tale signs of a malignant narcissist. His adoration, promises, lavish lifestyle, and big dreams intoxicated me. I failed to do my due diligence. The blaring sirens, flashing lights, and dramatic billboard message all screamed ‘no, don’t do it!’; But it was too late — I was blinded by romance. It was not until I found myself living in a House of Cards years later that I had the courage to do anything about it. Smart people do stupid things, but every situation offers a silver lining. From that relationship, I learned more about myself, my needs, and my desires. Today, I’m happily committed to an amazing man who is a worthy mensch. Lessons learned.”
—Lisa Cypers Kamen, optimal lifestyle expert, Los Angeles, CA
You’re trying to fill a hole in your heart
“I followed a South African girl to London in 2003, already madly in love with her. My mom had recently passed away, and I guess I sought solace in this heady romance that filled my life for three months. But at the same time, I was dismally failing to find work and becoming increasingly introspective. I guess there was a ‘sign’ in the soiree we attended out in the country, when I didn’t seem to click with any of her friends. She abruptly ended things about two weeks later, allowing me only the tearful, courtesy ‘please can we try to fix this’ pub meeting in the days that followed. After that, I never saw nor heard from her again. Here’s the message: you can’t simply fill a hole in your heart with someone else’s.”
—Gareth Pike, creative director, Cape Town, South Africa
You walk on eggshells and can’t be yourself
“I realised that I was the wrong relationship when I finally accepted that I was compromising who I was too much. I couldn’t truly be myself. I downplayed my successes, couldn’t be honest about things that weren’t going well, and I felt like I couldn’t speak to my partner. I had to tread on eggshells and I felt lonelier when I was with them. There were other issues, but this was the biggest one. Being myself has always been important to me, so when I finally accepted that I wasn’t able to, it was a deal breaker for me.”
—Ceza Ouzounian, fitness and energy coach, Glasgow, UK
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