It’s common to experience ups and downs with your partner. And as long as you love and support each other through it all, you’ll likely be able to work on your differences, developing healthy boundaries, and learning how to compromise. It’s only when toxic problems keep happening in your relationship — despite the fact you tried to fix them — that you may have a problem on your hands.
“Sometimes people make mistakes. It could be out of ignorance or a weak moment. At that point, if you love the person and it’s not a dealbreaker, it’s acceptable to forgive and move on,” Jonathan Bennett, relationship and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, tells us. “However, if your partner makes the same ‘mistakes’ constantly […] it then becomes a red flag that you’re dating a toxic person and you might need to seek outside help or even breakup.”
The choice is up to you when it comes to what feels like a dealbreaker and what doesn’t. But if certain relationship problems keep happening — such as a pattern of toxicity, lack of trust, or boundary issues — it can and will affect your relationship in the long-run. If any of the issues below happen more than once, experts say it may be a sign of a bigger problem in your relationship. Or simply a sign it’s not meant to work out.
1. Relying On An Ex For Emotional Support
There’s nothing wrong with being friends with your exes, so long as you and your partner are on the same page about it. If everything’s agreed upon, you can all be friends, text, hang out — no problem.
It’s only if you notice your partner reaching out to exes for emotional support — instead of turning to you — that it may be a sign of a problem.
“When we begin looking [for support] outside of our relationship, that is a sign that our needs are not being met with our current partner,” psychotherapist Jennifer L. Silvershein, LCSW, tells us. It could also mean your partner is hung up on their ex, or that something is going on behind your back.
According to Silvershein, this realization should prompt a conversation about the current health of your relationship. By talking about it, you and your partner can set up boundaries and figure out ways to provide better support for each other — in a way that doesn’t involve leaning too heavily on an ex.
2. Keeping A Big Secret
It’s fine if it takes time to get to the point where you feel safe opening up to each other about your deepest, darkest secrets. But if you two develop a habit of keeping your thoughts/worries/anxieties to yourself, it will create problems down the road.
“While you don’t have to tell your partner every detail of your life, it’s important to be open about the big issues,” Bennett says. “You might be able to get away with keeping a secret once. But, if you’ve agreed to be open and transparent as a couple, keeping another major secret is a sign of underlying toxicity.” It may also point to a lack of trust in your relationship — which is something you’ll want to begin working on ASAP if you’d like to keep the relationship going.
3. Forgetting An Important Date
It’s totally forgivable if your partner forgets the date of your first anniversary, or accidentally misses a date you had planned. Not everyone has an ironclad memory, and sometimes a busy schedule gets in the way.
But if things like this keep happening, it may be a sign they’re not invested in the relationship. “Everyone can be forgetful and you’re bound to have a memory lapse on occasion,” Bennett says. “If [they] forget twice, it just proves [your] happiness is not [their] priority.”
4. Needing To Take A Break
In order to see your relationship with fresh eyes, it’s sometimes necessary to take a break or spend time apart. And that’s completely fine. “But, if you take breaks or break up more than once, it’s a sign the relationship is unhealthy,” Bennett says. “If you have to keep separating, it’s probably best just to break up and move on.”
5. Not Acknowledging Your Relationship In Public
If your relationship is still in its early stages, you may be able to forgive the act of downplaying your status. For example, “on a night out, [if] you run into a group of their friends, your partner may introduce you as a ‘friend,'” Amica Graber, a relationship expert for the background checking site TruthFinder, tells us.
While it may not feel great, it’s understandable the first time. But once you talk about making a commitment, this shouldn’t ever happen again. “It’s acceptable for someone to muddle their words when you first start a relationship, but only once,” Graber says. “If someone wants to keep your relationship a secret, something is wrong.”
6. Teasing To An Unhealthy Degree
In many cases, there’s nothing wrong with occasionally poking fun at each other, or cracking jokes at your partner’s expense. As long as you’re both OK with it, it’s definitely not a problem.
Take note, though, if you’re constantly the butt of your partner’s jokes. “If a partner makes a hurtful comment when teasing, it’s important to explain that you don’t like that comment, and not to do it again,” Graber says. “We can all accidentally hit a raw nerve with friendly banter, but when someone says not to do it again — listen. If a partner continues to tease you in an area you’ve defined as off-limits, they need to go.”
7. Crossing A Boundary
Similarly, it can take time to learn each other’s boundaries, as well as what pushes each other’s buttons. So don’t despair if you cross the line a few times, or if you accidentally upset each other.
As Graber says, “A new partner will test your boundaries at some point, and that is your opportunity to lay down some ground rules.” These moments are the perfect time to chat about what’s OK to talk about, and what isn’t — as well as what the “rules” will be for your relationship going forward.
“This is totally natural,” Graber says. “But watch out if someone habitually tries to test your boundaries. It’s a telltale sign of a toxic person.”
All couples have problems that crop up from time to time. As long as you’re working on improving them, they don’t have to be a dealbreaker. It’s only when the same annoying problems keep happening, and it’s starting to feel toxic, that you may want to reevaluate your relationship — to make sure it’s the right one for you.
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