#2) You Have No Life Outside of the Relationship
Dipping back into the aforementioned disaster that was my college relationship, I quickly learned that my life outside of my relationship with my ex had been summarily curtailed. Hanging out with my friends was tolerated only grudgingly, and even then only for limited amounts of time. My hobbies? Similarly cut back. I wasn’t going to the comic store without her. Any movies I saw were ones she would see with me and no others. Gaming? That was “stupid” and “juvenile”, and she couldn’t possibly see why I would like it – she and her friends would make fun of me , to my face, for playing D&D. The few times I was allowed to rejoin my gaming group were the subject of intense negotiation… and even then, I would frequently find myself being dragged away with little warning or explanation.
Time away over the winter and summer breaks were not much better. Woe betide he who did not spend all due time on the phone with his girlfriend when she demanded it. To make sure that I could be reached at all times, she bought me a pager (( This should tell you how long ago this was.)) . If I happened to be slow getting back to her, then I’d better have a damned good excuse… like an honest to god invasion.
I was beyond whipped. I had no life outside of our relationship… Hell, I wasn’t allowed a life outside of our relationship. And yet, I stuck with it because – rather than seeing these as huge warning signs that I needed to run and never look back – I thought this was just how relationships worked.
Not every example needs to be quite as dramatic as mine was, but when your entire life revolves around your partner, it’s a bad sign.
When It’s Not:
There’s a difference between being codependent – or an abusive relationship, for that matter – and not having a life of your own. Your life may be in transition. You may just not have many friends. You and your girlfriend or boyfriend may just have so many interests in common that you tend to do everything together. The difference is whether you could a life of your own if you were to make the effort, or if you’re forever sublimating your own desires and independence to someone else’s.
#1: The Sex Isn’t Working
When you first got together, the two of you would set the sheets on fire. For a while, there wasn’t a flat surface in your apartment that you hadn’t banged out on. You couldn’t keep your hands off each other.
But then… it all changed. Maybe it was slow and subtle. Maybe it came suddenly and without warning. But where you used to have sex every day and twice on Sundays, now you haven’t in… you’re not entirely sure how long. One day you were a passionate couple and the next… she’s told you that she’s no longer interested in sex. And by extension, neither are you.
Or maybe it’s not a matter of incompatible libidos. Maybe it’s a matter of differing interests. He’s really into BDSM, and while you were willing to indulge him a little – you’d let him handcuff you to the bed, maybe some blindfolds and spanking – he’s always wanted more than you felt comfortable doing… and you’re not comfortable letting him off the leash to get his needs met elsewhere. Maybe you’re into anal play but it squicks her out. Maybe she has rape fantasies that give you the wiggins.
Maybe it’s not even something so extreme. Maybe it’s just that the sex isn’t good anymore. It’s become routine; five minutes of foreplay, followed by missionary position, with some female superior if you’re lucky. Always at night, always in bed… no variety at all. Or maybe it’s just that you’re tired of sex with your partner, period. You may actually find yourself trying to avoid sex – something that you would never believe you would do.
American culture is, still, sex negative in a lot of surprising ways. One of them is the importance of sex in a relationship. We – men, especially – are told that getting strung out over sex in our relationship is a sign that we’re being selfish and that if we truly loved our partner, sex – or the lack thereof – wouldn’t be such a big deal. And yet, ultimately, this just leads to unhappy relationships and infidelity, which will bring about the end of the relationship anyway.
The fact of the matter is, sexual satisfaction is an incredibly important component of any successful relationship. When the sex just isn’t working any more – and no amount of work is going to bring it back – the relationship ultimately isn’t working any more. Whether it’s incompatible sex drives or an inability or unwillingness to fulfill certain desires or kinks, an unsatisfying sex life is a sign that it’s time to bite the bullet and end the relationship.
When It’s Not:
The half-life of sexual passion in a new relationship is six months to a year. The fact of the matter is, it’s difficult – nigh impossible -to maintain the same level of passion that you feel at the start of a relationship. While the passion fades, a stronger, more intimate bond forms. Sex becoming less frequent isn’t per-se a sign of things are wrong with your relationship. The fact of the matter is, in any long-term relationship, passion and sexual attraction will come and go in waves. There will be times when you don’t have sex for months or even years, and then without warning you’ll be like a couple of teenagers again, tearing off your underwear with your teeth.
Nor should you be abandoning ship at the first sign of trouble, sexually. Communication and effort are the key. It’s when you’ve tried to fix things and you’re still stuck in that rut that it’s time to consider leaving.