No relationship is perfect; some bumps in the road are to be expected.
But what if the road has been so rocky lately that you can’t remember what smooth terrain feels like?
We often become so emotionally invested in our relationships that we struggle to decipher if we’re going through a rough patch or it’s “not meant to be.”
And while every relationship is unique, I’ve come to realize there are several signs that it is the latter.
So, if you’re wondering if your relationship is nearing its expiry date and won’t be “happy forever after,” look out for these 10 red flags.
1) You want different things (from the relationship)
One of the most obvious red flags that a relationship won’t last long is if you and your partner want different things.
A common example is when one partner is ready to settle down and start a family, while the other wants to travel or start a business first.
Or, sometimes, one partner simply isn’t looking for anything serious, while the other wants to become exclusive.
I’ve been in this situation before, and I know it can be tempting to try to “change” the other person’s views.
We tell ourselves that if we just give it time, they might decide to stay here and settle down with us rather than go traveling.
Unfortunately, though, when this is the case, there is no way for the relationship to continue long-term.
2) Your goals do not align
What about if you both want a serious relationship, but you have different life goals?
Now, you don’t have to share the same career aspirations or even have matching interests, but when it comes to your life vision, this has to align.
Here are some common examples:
- You want to live in different places
- One of you wants children while the other one doesn’t
- Your partner wants you to be a stay-at-home mum while you want a career
Differences this big often cannot be worked around or compromised on.
Sometimes, you have to accept that you have different life visions and cut ties now amicably before you go down the path of pain and resentment.
3) You have contrasting values
Another thing that has to align is your values.
By values, I mean what we place the most importance on.
For some people, family is their highest value, while for someone else, they may value success and money more.
Or let’s say you value teamwork and communication. If so, it might prove difficult to make it work with someone who values freedom and independence.
Our values determine our attitudes, and research shows having similar attitudes as your partner leads to increased relationship satisfaction.
It can take a while to figure out someone’s values just through observation. So, if you’re in the early stages of a relationship, start a conversation about this now.
Present it as a fun activity to get to know each other. Take a value determination test like this one by human behavior expert Dr. John Demartini, then compare your results.
4) They prioritize everyone else above you
When you first start dating someone, you cannot expect them to drop everyone and everything to spend time with you.
You understand that they had a life before you, so it is normal if they want to go to the gym or hang with friends one evening instead of seeing you.
However, as the relationship progresses, your partner should naturally want to spend more and more time with you.
And as you become an integral part of their life, you should move up on their priority list.
If this doesn’t happen and you constantly compete for their time and attention, take this as a huge red flag.
Under-prioritizing can also show up in this way:
Your partner might agree to spend time with you, but only if you do the things he wants to do.
When this happens, you essentially tag along with the other person’s existing life rather than create a new one together. This creates a very unbalanced partnership.
5) They (or you) want to call it quits after every minor row
Relationships take work, and disagreements are normal. But working through your issues is the key to a successful, long-term relationship.
If you or your partner wants to throw in the towel (or threaten to leave) after every minor row, I hate to break it to you, but your relationship likely doesn’t have what it takes to make it.
This behavior could be due to emotional immaturity, lack of respect, or simply the feelings are not strong enough.
Here’s another red flag on the subject of arguments…
6) You keep arguing about the same things
Arguments can be healthy IF they deepen the relationship and lead to more understanding, trust, and connection.
This only happens if you fully resolve the issue.
If you don’t come to a resolution, you end up having the same conversations over and over again, which quickly becomes exhausting.
According to relationship researcher John Gottman, this is a common problem. In his book, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, he shares that 69% of the things couples fight over never get fully resolved.
What you argue about is often something small but reflects a much larger issue in your relationship.
This could be:
- Poor communication
- Lack of respect
- Power struggles/ a need to be right
- Grudges/holding onto the past
- Contrasting values
As these things are hard to uncover and move past, relationships with repeated arguments usually have an expiry date.
7) Sex is the only good thing
A healthy, happy sex life is essential for a successful relationship.
Just because the sex is good does not mean you are destined for each other.
In fact, it is very common for toxic, short-term relationships to have a lot of sparks and fire.
Remember that intimacy is not just physical. A relationship needs emotional intimacy to last.
What does this mean?
According to Psychologist Dr. Messina, you should be able to have deep discussions with your partner. You should feel comfortable enough with them to share your innermost thoughts and true feelings.
If your interactions are always shallow and your time together consists only of small talk and sex, this is a big red flag that your relationship has an expiry date.
And you’ll likely also experience this…
8) You feel lonely (even when you are together)
People feel lonely in their relationships when their partner is emotionally unavailable. This signifies that your partner is not meeting your emotional needs.
In a healthy and fulfilling relationship, you should feel like you and your partner are bonded, intertwined, and on the same team.
So, if you feel disconnected and separate from your partner like you are leading different lives, this could be a sign that your relationship’s expiry date is coming up.
9) They become increasingly annoying
This is an interesting one.
I don’t mean they purposely annoy you more, but all the little things they do suddenly get under your skin.
Usually, when we enter a relationship, we are infatuated. Our minds often trick us into thinking we like someone more than we do.
After a month or two, the infatuation wears off. If, at this point, you suddenly find MANY annoying habits of your partner, this could be a red flag.
Now, I want to emphasize that in this case, it would be the really petty things that annoy you, such as:
- How they eat
- The sounds they make while eating
- The way they walk
- Their laugh
- When they do things differently from how you do them
If these things massively annoy you about your partner, your relationship is well past its expiration date!
10) There’s no trust
If one partner cannot trust the other, no matter how much you try to make the relationship work, it won’t.
Research supports this, as studies have found that lack of trust exacerbates conflict and increases the likelihood of breaking up.
Lack of trust could be due to several things…
You may have trust issues from a previous relationship that you cannot get over.
Unfortunately, only once you’ve done the healing required will you be in a place to enter a relationship again.
Or maybe your partner has lied or betrayed you, and you cannot trust them again.
The thing about trust is it takes a long time to build but seconds to break.
Continuing a relationship without trust will only lead to more hurt and resentment. So save yourself the heartache and end it now.
Do you notice any of these red flags in your relationship?
If so, take some time to reflect and be honest with yourself. In some cases, improving communication with your partner, spending more quality time together, or going to couples counseling could help you overcome these issues.
But there is often nothing you can do – it is simply a case of incompatibility.
Not all relationships are meant to last, and that is ok.
While accepting there is no way forward can be challenging, nothing is worse than being stuck in a relationship full of conflict and toxicity.