As much as many of us hold on to the concept of finding the right partner and building our lives together, it sometimes doesn’t work out like that.
Sometimes, people are only supposed to be in our lives for a short while.
Like old shoes (although it seems a little dehumanizing to compare someone you considered to be the love of your life to a pair of worn trainers), we grow out of some of our relationships.
Life requires constant growth and evolution.
Ideally, the right life partner will hold our hand and grow with us.
But there will come a time in many relationships where you find that you and your partner want different things, or wish to go in different directions.
You can then try aimlessly to cling on to them.
Unfortunately, this most often leads relationships to slowly crumble until you despise each other (and yourselves).
Or, you can look for these 8 signs and choose to recognize when you’ve outgrown your partner and when it’s time to take a deep breath and let go:
1) You have different goals
Early on in honeymoon phases of a relationship, you can spend time holding hands and dreaming of a shared future you’ll work towards together.
“We’ll live on a desert island…and have four white cats…and seven children…and a Lamborghini!”
This dream is often far-fetched and slightly unrealistic, but it’s a shared story that you both add to, and which brings you together.
However, the more time you spend with someone in a serious long term relationship, the more you might realize that you actually want different things.
One person wants to live by the sea, the other inland.
One wants a huge family, the other doesn’t want kids.
One prioritizes their career, the other wants to focus on family life.
In these situations, it’s worth considering what your deal breakers are when your life goals don’t align with your partner, as there are many on which you shouldn’t compromise just to keep someone.
2) You can’t imagine a future with them
Secondary to not sharing the same goals is closing your eyes and imagining your future…
And not being able to place your current partner in that future.
You might get the feeling that your partner also cannot place you in theirs.
Many of us will be affected by niggling doubts about whether we’ve met the right person, so it’s not always that easy to dream up a bountiful life together.
However, if your imagination and intuition are putting their feet down and saying this isn’t the one for you – listen.
3) There’s a zombie apocalypse…
And it’s just you and your partner.
Against the zombies.
Obviously you miss your family, but how happy or sad are you to be left alone with only your partner?
If you’re thinking you’d rather live out the apocalypse with one of the regular’s you see at your gym or job, chances are you’re not as invested in your partner as you might think.
4) You don’t recognize yourself anymore
Not in a good way where you’ve flourished and grown, thanks to your partner.
No – if you look back at an old version of you and feel tinged with regret at having lost them, and blame your partner for having forced this loss – you likely have some issues going on at home.
People can change us (or we change for them) for better and for worse.
But if you feel like you’ve sacrificed all the good bits of yourself for someone and you no longer remember the real you, you might want to consider whether you want to continue this relationship.
After all, you don’t want to someday recognize so little of yourself that you can’t even go back to who you were.
5) Your body says no
Listen to your body.
It knows things you don’t.
If you feel constantly on edge, anxious and overwhelmed, you’re not eating, you’re not sleeping, and none of that can be linked to other factors, your body might be speaking up and telling you that this person isn’t for you.
Constant fatigue and headaches can also be a sign of a myriad of health problems, so don’t just break up and avoid getting your health checked out by a doctor.
However, if you can pinpoint a host of weird symptoms (or a lack of libido) that seem only to have started in your partner’s presence, consider what your nervous system is telling you.
6) You have a giant child
If you feel less and less like a partner and more like a parent, mentor, or guardian to whoever you’re in a relationship with, you might well have outgrown them.
Slipping into the caregiving role is easily done but very detrimental to partnership – which very literally means working together.
Not one supporting the other.
In any healthy relationship, there will be periods when one person gets sick or loses a job or goes through mental health issues and needs to be protected and cared for.
However, if this goes on for months, years even, and it’s not a definitive health issue but rather just a case of having different ideals or goals, consider whether you want to support a big child for your whole life.
Ask yourself, would they even support you for an eternity whilst you lay around at home and gamed/read books/slept in?
7) You don’t want to show your partner off
Not in a braggy way, but the idea of bringing your partner to meet new friends or colleagues makes you shudder.
Something about the way they interact with others, how they interrupt or ignore people or just talk about themselves, it absolutely grinds your gears.
It embarrasses you, and you’d rather leave them at home.
If you’re worried about your partner’s presence and demeanor impacting how people see you, consider whether holding on to a shared future is healthy or beneficial to either of you.
8) Your partner whines about who you used to be
“To love someone long-term is to attend a thousand funerals of the people they used to be”, (Heidi Priebe).
If you’re not weeping and celebrating the death and birth of each new façade of each other, but instead clinging to the past and either trying to dig your heels in or bring old versions of each other back to life, it’s not good news.
“You used to be more fun”, “you used to be happier”, “you used to go out more”.
Accusatory statements about how you’ve changed or how your partner misses an older version of you show the reality of your situation.
Being unable to let go of the past and instead making someone feel guilty for changing and growing isn’t conducive to a healthy love.
If you’re not willing to attend the funerals of your old selves with your partner and celebrate the birth of new versions of each other, allow yourselves to part and go elsewhere.
Reaching the point in a relationship where you actually let go can be heart-breaking.
Breakups are soul-crushing for many reasons (but that’s not to say you should avoid them altogether).
You think back to all the promises of eternal love, and you feel bitter and deceived.
You might even consider yourself a failure for not having been able to make this one work.
You blame yourself, or start thinking there’s something wrong with you.
But what you must understand is that people change and grow.
Sometimes, in different directions.
And although it’s incredibly difficult to maintain your composure and see the bigger picture, try to instil in yourself the ability to step back and realize that you cannot cling on to people forever.
Sinking your nails into someone and not letting them pull away or change prevents growth and if anything, only causes deep wounds that turn into festering sites of resentment.
So try instead to know when a relationship is no longer serving you, nor you that person, and learn how and when to make the decision to end one appropriately.
Work on being able to love for the duration that feels right, but also being able to love someone and let them go.