Are you familiar with the concept of the sunk cost fallacy? It comes from economic theory and it’s the idea that a person is more likely to stick with something if they have invested in a lot of resources, time, or effort into it — even when it’s obviously failing. Can you guess where I am going with this? If you’ve ever wondered if you should you stay in your long-term relationship and decided to stick it out, not because you are happy and fulfilled, but because you’ve already put in so much time and energy to make it work, you are falling prey to this same fallacy. Don’t feel bad, I’ve totally been there too. I’ve definitely overstayed relationships that weren’t working because I didn’t want to have to start all over again with someone new. But if this is sounding awfully familiar, it’s time to stop and seriously think about whether or not you are just settling, or if you could do better with someone new.
Being honest about the state of your relationship can potentially be a scary proposition, but there are some signs that will help you determine if your relationship is just in a lull or if you’re settling for something that will never work. To help recognize the difference, I reached out to the experts. Here is how they say you’ll know if it’s time to throw in the towel on your current LTR, because you can do better.
1You feel lonely in the relationship.
If you feel lonely in the relationship, Grace Lee, co-founder of A Good First Date Online, tells Elite Daily it’s a sure sign that there is something fundamental missing from your relationship. “Maybe the time you spend together is simply two people in the same room, or maybe you’re missing physical affection. Have an honest conversation identifying the simple and concrete ways your SO can make you feel more loved,” she tells Elite Daily.
2You want different things in the relationship.
Being on the same page about the future of the relationship is a essential factor in whether it’s one that you should stay in and fight for, and one where you are settling for less than you need and deserve. Lee says this is especially true before you get married, but continues long after. “Communication around relationship goals is critical, not just at the beginning but as an ongoing dialogue,” she explains.
However, NYC relationship expert and love coach Susan Winter tells Elite Daily that it’s time to move on if you’ve tried to no avail. “You’ve learned the hard way that asking questions about your relationship will result in your mate creating even more distance,” as Winters describes it.
3You’ve stopped having fun.
While all relationships have their share of ups and downs, at its core you should still want to spend time with your partner. If not, Andrea Amour, founder and dating coach at UpDate Coaching, tells Elite Daily that you are settling. “This is, hands-down, the most important aspect of any modern, passionate relationship,” says Amour. “If you’re not having fun, it’s time to consciously consider what fun means to you — what kind of activities, what kind of lifestyle you life, who you most enjoy spending time with. When you know what ‘fun’ means to you, it’ll be easier to spot when you’re setting on something ‘meh’ and bail sooner.”
4You feel like you’re not your partner’s priority anymore.
Typically, when you first start dating, it’s easy to make one another a priority. If that feeling that you matter to your partner fades over time, then Winter warns that you can do better. “If you’ve gotten used to never getting face time as you used to, not getting flowers on your birthday or a text response within a reasonable amount of time,” Winter says it may be time to call it quits.
5You’ve got a wandering eye.
This last question may be a hard one to face, but it’s important to ask yourself just how into your partner you are. Do you find that more and more you are attracted to other people? Do you secretly wonder what it would be like to be with someone new? “[This is] a big sign you’re settling in your relationship,” Amour warns. Before you act on your desires, she suggest the you spend some time doing some self reflection. “Consider why your attraction to your current is waning. What’s missing? Why don’t you find them sexy anymore? Then, go after those characteristics in your next partner. Don’t settle again!,” says Amour.
What to do if you realize you’re settling in your relationship.
If this is hitting close to home, it’s time to start looking at your next steps. Lee says that there is hope for the relationship if you are able to communicate how you’re feeling with your partner. “[Your rising frustration] can be addressed through open dialogue — not interrupting or interpreting a negative message. Thinking together of concrete steps you could both take to turn things around and actually doing the things you’ve committed to doing!”
In some cases, your heart may tell you it’s time to move on, says Winter. “[You’re awakened] to the fact that you’re in a suboptimal relationship,” she explains. Winter also adds that you deserve more and it’s out there. “More does indeed exist,” she assures. “Not in your current relationship, but in a future partnership. All it takes is a willingness to leave what doesn’t work and walk toward what does work.”
While ending a long-term relationship, even one that fundamentally isn’t working, can be hard in the moment, the key is the keep your eyes set on the future. The first step is just being honest with yourself and deciding to stop throwing good emotional energy after bad. Or, as Lee says, “Awareness of your own dissatisfaction is a critical first step in making positive change!” She’s right. I didn’t find a good relationship until I decided to stop settling for ones that didn’t truly make me happy — and if I can do it, so can you.
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