You are in a new relationship. You think you may be falling in love. But there is a little niggling sense in the back of your mind that just maybe this isn’t the relationship for you.
It may be that your instincts are right.
If you see any of these “early warning signs” take a big step back. They need to be fixed, not ignored, if you are to be in a healthy, positive relationship that will last.
- A rescuer/rescued relationship Either side of this may feel good – at first. It feels good to believe you are saving someone. It feels great to be rescued. But over time being locked into either place will get very, very old. The rescuer will begin to see the rescued as helpless, needy and demanding. The rescued will begin to feel inferior in the relationship. Yes, sometimes people in healthy relationships save each other from making a mistake or provide comfort when things are going wrong. There’s nothing wrong with that if the roles keep switching. But if you find yourself stuck on one side, either always needing saving or always being the hero, the relationship isn’t likely to last.
- Avoidance of difficult issues Hard issues in a relationship are just that — hard. No one can be blamed for wanting to avoid them. But actual avoidance will doom your relationship. The issues don’t go away. They just go underground, sure to erupt when tensions run high or someone gets angry. People in healthy relationships dig in and work on areas where they disagree. Getting through the tough stuff helps a relationship grow and strengthen.
- Gradually cutting off your other relationships One of the most destructive ideas in pop culture is romanticizing “you are all I need.” Although it can be intoxicating to feel that you are that special in someone’s life, it can turn dangerous if your partner starts to cut off your relationship with friends and family. No one is anyone’s “everything” – and shouldn’t be. We all need supports outside our primary relationship, especially if we hit a rough patch. We all need multiple connections with multiple people to have all of our needs and wants met.
- Trust issues and unjust suspicions Some people come into a new relationship still hurting from betrayals in an old one. This can lead to unreasonable distrust and suspicions. If your partner is unable to trust you, you don’t have a relationship. You have a situation where you feel constantly on trial. If you can’t bring yourself to trust someone who cares for you even though they have given you no reason to be distrustful, you have your own work to do. A relationship can’t grow if either one of you feels like they are on probation.
- Unresolved prior relationship If your partner is regularly calling or responding to calls from an ex to provide counseling, comfort or practical help around tasks they should really be able to handle, your partner may not be ready to be in relationship with you fully. Yes, a healthy co-parenting relationship with an ex is important for the sake of children. But it’s important to keep discussions to parenting, not to continue to look to an ex for emotional support about other problems (particularly regarding the current partner).
- No interest in your kids If you have children (whether or not they live with you all the time), your love, concern, and attention to their needs is not going to go away. Anyone who asks you to choose between them and your children is not for you. No, you shouldn’t introduce your children to your new love until you are very sure that the relationship is going to last. But as you move into the relationship, you do need confidence that your partner is going to embrace your children and looks forward to loving and raising them with you.
- Over-involvement with family of origin A healthy connection with each of your parents will only support your relationship. But it’s unhealthy when a person’s most important partnership is not with their adult partner but with their mom and dad. If you feel like your partner doesn’t stand up for you when his or her parents criticize you; if your partner wants to include his or her parents in every weekend and vacation activity; if your partner confers with his or her parents about big decisions and doesn’t discuss them with you or dismisses your opinions when they differ from what the parents said; if your partner gives his or her parents money and time that you think belong with your own family – you will never be a real partner in the relationship.
- Financial inequity Earning, spending, and saving habits can make or break a relationship. Equality doesn’t mean sameness. Some jobs pay more than others. Some people come into a relationship with more or less money than their partner. But how you will mutually support yourselves and your relationship needs to be frankly talked about as soon as you start discussing becoming exclusive. Don’t let this issue slide. Neither person should end up feeling exploited or used. Neither partner should feel that he or she has no say in how the couples’ money is spent. Don’t avoid the issue. (See #2)