The number one mistake we tend to make in relationships is holding on to hope of who our partner could be, or holding on to memories of who they used to be. So many people believe that if they just do something differently or work on the relationship a bit more, their partner will go back to being the charming, considerate person they once were. Or, in the beginning of the relationship, they fall in love with a person’s potential, even when their partner never actually lives up to those that ideal.
Idealizing what someone could be, without actually looking at who they are is a recipe for disaster. Not only will it set up false expectations, but it may also set you up for heartbreak – and possibly even abuse. If you are no longer truly happy in your relationship, and especially if you are starting to notice red flags, it is time to take an honest assessment of your relationship – as it is right now.
Every time you catch yourself thinking, “yes, but it used to be so good” or “but it could be so great” – STOP. Healthy relationships are not built on memories or hope, they are built on daily action, and the willingness of both parties to work on their bond, and treat one another with respect and love.
If your partner puts you down, calls you names, or makes you feel bad about yourself, what makes you think they will stop? Even if they are promising to change, remember that actions speak much louder than words. Have they promised to change before and still resorted back to the same behaviors? Do they only treat you better when you threaten to leave, but then go right back to disrespecting you as soon as they believe you’re not going anywhere? Anyone can change temporarily, and of course anyone can promise to change, but it is important to look at actual behaviors.
The same is true if you are holding on to how your partner used to act. Even if your partner used to be caring, compassionate, respectful, and attentive, remember that they chose to change this behavior. And they are choosing how they treat you now. Only one person can make their behavior stop – and it is not you. If you have let them know how it makes you feel, and they still refuse to stop doing it, the chances are that they will not change.
After all, if you’re still there, what reason do they have to change?
So, honestly, looking at your relationship as it is today, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I feel physically and emotionally safe with my partner?
- Do I feel free to express myself without worrying about how they will react?
- Can I be my full self, without limiting who I talk to, the activities I’m involved in, or the dreams I pursue?
- Do I feel like my partner respects and appreciates me?
- Could I be happy in this relationship if it stayed exactly the same as it is right now?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, it may be time to make a change, and possibly move on. This may be very difficult, but so is being with someone who takes you or granted or hurts you in any way. You deserve better. You deserve love, respect, and appreciation. And you don’t only deserve a memory of someone who treats you well, or the hope that they may treat you well at some point in the future – you deserve to be treated well right now, and always. If your partner is hurting you, and you would like to talk with someone, advocates are available 24 hours a day at 800-799-SAFE (7233).