Relationships are hard. I’ve had several of them fail to know that serious relationships require serious work and commitment. The relationships that haven’t worked out also taught me a few lessons.
Each relationship is unique. There isn’t a single magic formula that applies. That being said, there are seven clues to watch out for before committing to someone.
So, before you leap in, make sure that you avoid betting your life on someone who…
Does not have a clue where they’re going
Life is unpredictable. As such, things don’t always go according to the plan. However, just because things don’t always work out the way we want them to, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have plans or goals. And no, a goal of winning the lottery to become a millionaire overnight is not the type of goal I have in mind.
I am referring to the type of goal that requires effort and some perseverance. It can be the goal of running a marathon, read the Greek Anthology, open a bakery, get a masters degree, or become a master chess player.
Whatever the goal, even if it changes or evolves over time, someone who has a destination in mind, knows better who they are and where they’re going. They won’t be drifting aimlessly, and dragging you along anywhere the wind carries them.
The danger of anchoring yourself onto a drifter is that you’ll be drifting along with them into a territory that you might not enjoy. Potentially, missing out on achieving your own goals.
Trivializes or dismisses your dreams
When you share with them that you dream of being a songwriter or, to one day open your own law practice, do they laugh and maybe say something like, “you’re crazy, why waste your time”?
If the person you’re with minimizes your aspirations, they are attempting to diminish you. It can also be an indication of someone with a low self-esteem. The danger of being with someone with a low self-esteem is that they prefer to be around those who feel worthless too so they can feel less inferior.
They fear that if you succeed in accomplishing your dreams, you might not need them anymore or realize that they are not so special after all.
Confident individuals who know their worth, cheer their partners towards success. They understand the value of being with someone who wants to grow, because it means they will grow too. Only those who doubt themselves of having what it takes to get to the finish line, fear competition the most.
Resembles a marble statue
On the surface these individuals appear perfect. Admired by many, like an exquisite marble Greek statue displayed in a royal palace. They come across as poised and unaffected by anything or anyone. They are charming and engaging, using witty remarks to mask or dismiss their true sentiments.
Great as neighbors, diplomates, workmates, or distant family members, however, for those who are looking to emotionally bond with them, it can feel like climbing a very cold and lonely Mount Everest.
Whatever the reason for being emotionally numb, those who have trouble connecting with their feelings, will have trouble connecting emotionally with you.
To clarify, I’m not referring to people who are very private about their feelings. Just because someone is not demonstrative or doesn’t broadcast their feelings out in the open, it doesn’t mean that they don’t feel. I’m referring to those individuals who are tuned out emotionally.
For many of these folks, remaining emotionally numb feels safer. Rejection can’t hurt them and neither will a break up. They walk into a relationship wearing an armor of steel treating feelings as if they were trying to pierce them and shatter them to pieces.
Understandably, for some sensitive beings, emotions can be tough to face because they can wield incredible pain. Plus, it doesn’t help that from an early age many of us are taught that feelings reveal weakness, and to deal with them it is best to dismiss them altogether.
Still, relationships require connection on an emotional level and if someone is unwilling to open up emotionally and let you in, then maybe you are better off staying out.
Is only available when it’s convenient for them
When they want something from you, they are relentless. They shower you with messages, show up unexpectedly wherever you go, and seem to always be around.
But the moment there are challenges or, you need their help, they are impossible to find. They are your best buddy during the good times, but act flustered or disappear the moment an obstacle appears.
It’s easy to be with someone when things are going smoothly, but life is full of hills and valleys, and if they’re missing during the valleys, and are not part of the full journey, your journey with them might feel very lonely.
Doesn’t have a life of their own
At first it might feel wonderful to spend 24 hours together and have all of their undivided attention, but after a few months of being glued to one another, it might become overwhelming.
As with most things in life, balance in a relationship is very important. And when someone expects you to be their 24-hour entertainment, it might be a difficult expectation to sustain.
Spending time with only one person might eventually feel stifling. Especially if you start feeling cut-off from other people and interests in your life. Having a life outside of the relationship is healthy. It keeps things fresh. By being around other people, you learn new things that you can then share with your partner.
If the person you’re serious about demands your entire world to only be about them, then ask yourself whether you’ll be happy living in such a limited world.
Isn’t flexible and doesn’t understand how to compromise
Variety is the spice of life. Every living thing is unique in one way or another. Just like each leaf has a unique pattern, each individual is etched with a distinct character.
When two unique individuals with unique ways of looking at the world come together, being able to compromise is essential to keep the relationship balanced in the long run. If only one individual continually gets their way at the expense of their partner’s sacrifices, resentment will fester and can eventually create a wedge between the two.
If you’re entering into a relationship with someone who only accepts their way of doing things, or make you feel as if your way of doing things is wrong, then you might want to pause for a moment and reconsider taking on such a demanding task.
By not having the room to be an individual and to have an opinion, you’ll be living under an enormous pressure. The pressure to act and think based on someone else’s definition of what is right and wrong.
When you feel pressure to act according to someone else’s version of the ideal, it can feel very restrictive, especially when your ideal looks different from theirs.
The resentment caused by the pressure can eventually affect your relationship because when your freedom is limited, your freedom to be happy is limited too.
Who is unwilling to risk anything
There are no guarantees in life and there is no guarantee that your love will always burn with the same intensity as it did when you first met. Most relationships don’t work out, but it doesn’t mean it’s not worth building one.
One of my favorite quotes by Mother Teresa is, “What you spend years creating, others can destroy overnight. Create anyway” because it reminds me to not allow fear of tomorrow, destroy building something worthwhile today.
Same applies to relationships. Instead of blocking yourself by the fear that the relationship won’t last, focus on how much happiness the relationship is giving you today.
Falling in love is risky because it exposes each one of us to a potential heartbreak and pain, but it’s worth it because to give and receive love is the most profound human experience.
Love can seem illogical, inefficient, confusing, erratic, and unpredictable, but without it, life can feel cruel.
If someone is unwilling to take an emotional risk on you, then don’t risk losing the opportunity to find real love with someone who is willing to take that risk.
About the Illustration: Navigating the Waves
When I painted this picture, I was inspired by water and its qualities. On one hand, water can be peaceful and calming, but on the other hand, too much water and violent waves can flood towns, destroy crops, and cause havoc.
In this picture I wanted to show the boy in his little boat trying to stay afloat as the giant waves sway him from side to side in an attempt to topple his boat. The waves are like the powerful emotions rocking him from side to side. His dark side and his lighter side are two forces fighting within him. On the horizon, the sunrise and calmer waters represent his gentle and bright side, while the overwhelming waves trying to push him to lose his balance, represent his darker side.
He remains calm on the surface as he tries to keep his boat steady, but inside he feels overwhelmed. Often Relationships can feel overwhelming as we try to navigate the complex world of emotions that we are often not equipped, nor prepared to, deal with. When our little boat is all we have to navigate an enormous and powerful sea, the journey can be challenging. But, with each wave we conquer, we get closer to the calm shore ahead.