Here's what I don't get about relationships: No matter how high your self-confidence gets, you still end up compromising for people who just aren't that good for you. I don't know whether it is a trick of biology or pheromones, or whether sex impairs your judgment. Maybe it's because the frustration of a long dry spell can make you question whether you are setting your standards too high. That's why it's so important to pay attention to the warning signs in a new relationship.
Some of these relationship warning signs might appear early, but they aren't going to go away. In fact, as time goes on, they're only going to increase in volume until their alarm becomes impossible to ignore. That's why, whether it's your first date or your 15th, you need to listen to your gut. Remember that you are always better off alone than in a relationship that isn't good for you. Because no matter how much someone might claim to like you, there's just no one in the world who can love you better than you love yourself.
If one of these warning signs rings true for you, you might want to cut your losses and move on before you allow anyone to cause additional harm:
1. You can't concentrate on your work
OK, I get that falling for someone can be a little bit time-consuming, but if you find that your thoughts are totally preoccupied with the person you are seeing, that means you might need some time to cool off. I don't mean that you're thinking about them when you are falling asleep at night. I mean that you are distracted at work, you aren't following through on the projects you started before you meet them, and your new relationship is basically taking over all of your airwaves and your free time.
Are you treating this relationship as an escape from the real issues you are facing? Is it easier to think about your new boyfriend, girlfriend, or partner than it is your work? That means that your relationship is becoming a bandage for an underlying unhappiness. You can't put that much pressure on a relationship to be your only source of pleasure, or it's going to fall apart.
Your preoccupation with your partner might also be because they make you feel insecure or because you are worried about what they think of you. A new relationship should boost your confidence. You shouldn't be constantly questioning how somebody feels about you. If you are, then it's likely that you have a dismissive or untrustworthy partner, or you yourself have some issues with insecurity. It might be time to seek some outside help before you continue on with a relationship. Otherwise, your fears are going to bubble to the surface and take complete control.
2. You get anxious when they don't respond
If you find your fingers in a vice grip around the phone throughout the day, checking and re-checking for messages from your new partner — why? Are they going hot and cold on you? Are they unresponsive to your messages? Or are they just not a great texter, and that makes you nervous?
Whenever I was hanging on the words of one of my boyfriends, it was a sign that I lacked confidence in the relationship. There was usually a good reason that had nothing to do with how often we talked, but how they were behaving in our relationship. We were unhappy, and my anxiety was how it manifested.
Bottom line: No relationship is worth sacrificing your mental health or sleepless nights spent staring at your phone screen. Get out.
3. You wouldn't hang out with them if you weren't having sex
This is a big one. Sex hormones are a real thing and can impair your judgment just as much as a weekend bender. Have you ever gone on a date with someone you weren't really that interested in, only to wake up the next morning completely infatuated? You think you are a rational human being until your body reminds you that you are actually just a sack of meat and firing neurons.
Pay attention to the conversations you are having with your new partner. Are you actually as interested in their mind as what they have to offer you physically? Infatuation can last for up to two years, but you don't want to make a mistake of building a relationship entirely around touch and sex. Every relationship has phases when sex is less important. If you aren't as good friends as you are lovers, your relationship is going to dissolve.
4. You are embarrassed to introduce them to your friends
You might fool yourself into thinking you like the person you are seeing and that they make you really happy, but if you feel something about them stops you from introducing them to your friends, then it means you are hiding some element of truth from yourself. Maybe it is because they do things that actually embarrass you. For example, maybe they make off-color jokes. You know it isn't right, but you just don't want to deal with it, so you can keep hiding, right?
Wrong. If you are actually embarrassed about something — like your new partner has a unibrow or is shorter than you or works in fast food — then get over it. Decide whether your embarrassment is actually a problem. Are they are doing something that goes against your belief system, or are you embarrassed because the person you like isn't the person you thought you would end up with.
If they aren't willing to hear you out about your feelings, or if you realize that you just can't make the compromises you are making, then you need to know neither one of you are going to change. And you shouldn't stay in a relationship where change is the expectation.
5. You have impulses to flee
Maybe you're going to laugh at me, but a few weeks ago, I almost ended up in a relationship that would have been totally wrong for me, for multiple reasons. Here was the kicker: In the morning, he had to wake up early and sign for a package at his studio.
“You don't have to get up,” he said as he was getting dressed. “Stay and we'll have coffee.”
“I'll call you,” I said, while still in bed. It wasn't a joke, but he took it that way and laughed as he left the apartment.
Now, I admit that my impulse to get all of my things and go was very strong, but one of the reasons I convinced myself that I could date this person was that he had money and, more importantly, a cloud bed and a room with air conditioning. My impulse to continue to sleep in that bed was stronger than the one that told me to run.
Obviously, I would end up running, like, two days later, because he began to exhibit some seriously weird behavior. But if he hadn't, I imagine I would still be sleeping in that cloud bed. Because it was really comfortable. And it's August in New York, and I don't have air conditioning.
My point is: If you are talking yourself into staying in a relationship, and if the reasons you are staying in it are not actually about the person you are seeing, then it's only a matter of time before the perks of your relationship no longer outweigh the person you actually have to spend all that time with. You likely don't want the person. You want the cloud bed.
In the early days of your relationship, it is easy to talk yourself out of what you are feeling and convince yourself that you are the one who is being irrational, overly-judgmental, or clingy. Even if you are, who cares? That's just you, and eventually, you will be able to find someone whose quirks complement yours. Until then, suck it up, go home to your saggy twin bed, put a box fan in your window, and wait out the rest of the summer.