I am sitting across the table over wine with friends as we discuss how to know when a relationship is over. We share stories of staying too long in relationships when we didn’t know how to know the difference between normal relationship problems, and problems that indicate it’s over. I find myself joking, “Someone should write a book called, “Where the hell is the line?” We all laugh.
Later, as my legs turn over on the treadmill, I think back on the relationships that I stayed in too long. As I consider commonalities in my stayed- too-long-at-the-party relationships, I note 5 things they all had in common.
1. Everything is hard.
By everything, I mean everything. In one of my more toxic relationships, we had deteriorated to the point where we literally could not talk about anything beyond the weather or TV without getting into an argument. I learned from that experience that while every relationship has stuff that comes up, the healthy ones allow us to work together to repair the stuff. Relationships that are really hard all the time just aren’t meant to be.
2. Someone’s deal breaker has been broken.
In my experience, 100% of the time, when someone’s deal breaker was broken, like when there is some betrayal, the relationship was damaged beyond repair. For me, I have been on both sides of the deal breaker and in the relationship soured and became even more hurtful following the deal breaker. It would have been healthier to cut our losses sooner.
3. You don’t like who you’ve become.
Relationships should never cause us to lose things; friends, health, sleep, a sense of who we are. In my worst relationships, I found myself in a place where I didn’t like who I became, I almost didn’t recognize myself. In my most toxic relationship ever, I found myself getting more angry than I ever had felt in my life. I told myself the problem was me, and partly it was true. But there are also some relationships, some dynamics that just bring out the worst in us.
4. There are too many ghosts of girlfriends past.
As lesbians, exes are part of most of our lives, it just is. Yet, there are times when boundaries are not respected that indicate the ghosts are still inappropriately close. For example, she has pictures of her ex all over her house. Or she is too busy for you but drops everything for her ex. Or your girlfriend puts it on you to make nice, with little acknowledgment of her ex-girlfriend’s part.
5. Things are only good when everything is going well in life.
Dating is a lot like customer service. When you check into a hotel, for example, and there is an issue with your room, what really determines good customer service is not what happens when things go as planned, but how things are handled when something goes wrong. Anyone can be kind and consistent when life is easy. But what you really want to know is how she’ll be when she’s had a bad day. Or you’ve had a bad day. When one of you has a major life change of some kind. These are the moments that reveal our character, not just the moments when everything is great.
Whether it’s a big break in the relationship or a minor one, it’s never easy to know for certain when it’s time to breakup. One thing I know for sure, is when I have gotten lost in the relationship, it’s time to reconsider if it’s the right one for me. To read more about red flags in dating, check out my new book: Girls’ Guide to Healthy Dating: Between the Breakup and the Next U-Haul