Everyone is a relationship expert when it comes to someone else. We have that calm sense of confidence meeting a friend’s new partner. The raised eyebrow, the hushed ‘it’s never going to last’ or even better – ‘I think they could be the one’. But when it’s your relationship, things aren’t so easy. You spend all your time with one person and your judgment becomes clouded. How many times have you ignored advice that turned out to be true? I know I have.
Instead of listening to other people, it’s easier to look out for signs yourself. I’m not saying run away if you see them – lord knows every new relationship has its miscommunications, but by being clear on what you don’t want helps you find out what you do. Here are four types of relationships to watch out for and some things that might need flagging.
1. The obsessive relationship
Remember being a teenager and first finding love? The all-encompassing, set a picture of you sleeping as their phone background, write a Facebook status everyday kind of thing. While it might have been cute during your teenage years, it’s definitely not a trait to look for in the adult world.
Early stages of most relationships tend to be intense – you spend the whole day messaging – saying nothing, but it’s still nice. As things progress, however, this may not be a sustainable way of being. You need to look out for little things that might prove problematic later. A text saying, ‘where are you?’ is normal, but if it’s asked multiple times a day then it’s something to flag. Another tell-tale sign is the resentment of your friends. A throw-away comment like ‘you’re seeing them again?’ or trying to convince you to cancel plans. Most healthy relationships aren’t completely insular and it’s important your partner respects your social life. A moment of silence for those friends we’ve lost to a controlling partner.
Another big flag is turning up unannounced. Sure, if they were in the area, it’s not weird, but driving to the other side of town is a pre-meditated disrespect of boundaries. Even if you leave with them, they will have a shitty attitude like it was you who did something wrong.
2. The ‘I don’t want to be alone’ relationship
Also known as the ‘I’ve settled’ type. Every relationship is a compromise in places – your ideal person on paper doesn’t exist in the real world, but you should still be attracted to your partner. A winter warmer boyfriend is great as an Instagram caption and terrible life advice. The biggest culprit of these relationships are long-term refugees; people who have built a life with someone else, only to have it snatched away. They don’t know how to function on their own, nor are they willing to try.
This can be a hard one to spot because everyone is co-dependent to a degree, but if the spark isn’t there, you will know. Tell-tale signs such as they are happy to text all the time but are less inclined to spend time together. You become a weird amalgamation of counselor, cheerleader, babysitter and sexual partner. They need everything from you but seem incapable of giving back. The sad truth is they’re not fully over their ex and not that into you.
Does it matter? Possibly not. Feelings grow and if you’re willing to devote your time and energy to them – great, however, the one-sidedness can be draining. You will never know what someone else is thinking, but it might be worth asking. Is this a real relationship? Or just something to fill the hole. They need to give back or you need to find someone who can.
3. The sexual relationship
Sex is great and being sexually attracted to your partner is one of the most necessary elements of a relationship, but do you ever feel like you’re being used for your body? It’s situational – there’s no label on it – you might think you’re exclusive but you haven’t had that conversation yet. It’s just a happy cocktail of hedonism and lust, and is there anything wrong with that? Yes and no.
Realistically it’s a short-term agreement. One of you will get feelings or your mood will change and it will be over. Sometimes it will progress into a relationship, but usually, at least one side is emotionally unavailable and not willing to change. Don’t be fooled by little comments like, ‘I can see us together someday’ because you are together right now, when is this someday? Most likely your partner will be attached to you as much as they can be, but is that enough for you?
While it can be extremely fun and a way to have a partner without committing, it’s important that everyone is on the same page. Be brave and bring up the ‘what is this’ convo if you can – if not do a little fishing for clues. There’s no point planning a sixth-month anniversary if your partner wouldn’t RSVP.
4. The expired relationship
We didn’t have sex because we were tired, we don’t text each other because we’re past that, we don’t need to hold hands anymore because it’s been ages we are together. Sound familiar? There is always an answer why, but at the end of the day, the romance is fading away.
That can be okay – companionship is emotionally fulfilling and you can evolve past the little things, but there needs to be something that differentiates you two. If you jump on them and kiss them, what is the response? Frustration? Annoyance? If yes and you’re not ready to quit then don’t give up. A relationship like this isn’t dead – it just needs work.
A dreaded conversation needs to be had. Maybe someone’s feelings will be hurt, but it’s better to express yourself than to feel ignored. Sometimes there is a wall between you and your partner and the only way to knock it down is communication. It’s the worst – I feel physically sick before talking about my feelings – but the only way to get good at it is practice. You may want to peel your skin off at first, but if your partner is worth it then what is a few moments of awkwardness?
5. The toxic relationship
How do you know your relationship is toxic? Maybe your friends say it and you tell them ‘but you only hear the bad bits’ or maybe you find yourself having the same argument repeatedly. You can acclimatize to a shitty relationship without even realizing it.
Does it feel good? If the answer isn’t ‘eh’ like the baby covered in peanut butter then it’s probably turned toxic. A relationship isn’t all sunshine and lollipops, but you are with that person because they make your life better and it’s important to remember that. Little things like arguing all the time – not big blowouts – but disagreements. Not fully enjoying their company, lying awake at night thinking about a rude comment they made. If it’s normal behavior you can’t see how much it is affecting you.
It doesn’t mean the relationship is over, but you need some space. Don’t talk for a day, spend the night at a friends house, try and get back to the core you. Don’t be afraid of what your partner says because they will panic and try to reel you in.
Every once in a while a relationship comes along that renews your faith in the existence of a soulmate. Everything seems to be comfortable and easy. The question ‘do you ever fight for the relationship?’ is met with a shrug. Not really? Because why would you? Everything just flows – conversations, decisions, laughter. It’s like you found an extra part of you that wasn’t there before.
I’m only including this because I’ve met people in this dream bubble who don’t know how lucky they are. It’s like everything is so easy, they’ve forgotten what it was like when life was hard. That’s okay – good on them. If this is ringing bells for you then take a moment to give your partner a kiss and say thank you. But you’ve done that already, right?