“Why is he with her?”
The question digs its way deep into the roots of your mind but, try though you might, you cannot summon an answer.
You see your friend, a man you’ve known for years, someone you respect, admire, and love subjecting himself to a torturous relationship.
A relationship with a woman who, other than her physical appearance, adds nothing to his life.
Her attitude is toxic…
Her financial habits wreak havoc in his bank account…
Her self-absorbed and inconsiderate tendencies repel everyone around her…
Everyone, that is, except him.
Maybe you’ve talked to him about it.
Hinted at your opinions.
Lightly broached the topic.
Slapped him upside the head with a profanity strewn rant explaining all of the reasons he needs to hit the “eject” button and send his emotional leech of a partner hurtling into the ionosphere.
But he won’t listen.
He’s too enamored with her beauty to see the forest through the trees.
…You think about your relationship.
About your partner. The woman who is supposed to be your biggest supporter, your confidant, your queen.
And when you do an amalgam of conflicting emotions gush to the surface like blood from an open wound.
She’s not like that…is she?
Although your relationship seems ‘fine’, good even, you can’t shake the feeling that something isn’t right. That maybe, you’re just like your friend.
That you’re unwittingly settling into a relationship that doesn’t serve your highest purpose and force you to grow as a man.
The truth of the matter is that we’ve all been there.
Starstruck. “In love.” Infatuated. Intoxicated by the beauty and allure of a woman who, well-intentioned and ‘sweet’ though she may be, does not fit into the jigsaw puzzle that is our life.
For most men, pain is the only teacher capable of delivering the lessons that must be learned to avoid and escape these relationships.
But for others, men like you with the self-awareness and Grounded frame required to objectively look at their lives and make hard decisions, a friendly nudge from someone who has “been there, done that” is sufficient to precipitate change.
I’m not here to be your therapist. And I won’t pretend to know the nuances of your interpersonal relationships or the details of your life.
What I offer to you today comes from the only thing I have—experience.
I’ve been privileged to experience both the highs of deep and “true” love and the devastating lows of infidelity and toxic relationships.
And along the way, I’ve paid attention to the patterns and identified the warning signs that you should dissolve your existing partnership in favor of new and more rewarding romantic endeavors.
Here are seven of those signs.
1. As Soon As…
You look at yourself in the mirror.
Ears ringing from the fallout of your most recent battle—a needless quibble over the heinous crime of leaving the toilet seat in an upright position.
Head aching from the thorough lambasting given to you by the very person tasked with supporting and uplifting your spirit.
And heart, wrenching from the seeming inescapability of your predicament.
You love her, after all.
She wasn’t always like this.
Surely, she won’t stay like this?
“Things will change,” you assure yourself, unable to meet the gaze of your own reflection, “Just as soon as…”
“As soon as…”
A phrase so axiomatically uttered by individuals in the throe of a dying relationship, it’s become something of a cliché.
“As soon as she learns how to manage money better, then things will change.”
“As soon as she gets through this bout of depression, things will get better.”
“As soon as she isn’t so stressed about her job… As soon as we move to our new house… As soon as we get married… As soon as she finished working with her therapist…
… THEN our relationship won’t be such a fucking nightmare.”
Brother, you know as well as I do that “as soon as” never comes.
It’s a fool’s game. A commitment to decades of fruitless anticipation. To blue balls of the heart
If something was going to change, the wheels would already be in motion. The problem would be clearly identified and agreed upon by both parties. The solution would be clear and action towards its attainment would already be taken.
Yes. All relationships—at least, the ones that stand the tests of time—require change. They require growth and improvement and patience as you respect the often-roundabout trajectories of your partner’s development.
And no relationship can last if one party is unwilling to work with their partner to resolve conflicts and incompatibilities.
But therein lies the line in the sand.
When you honestly and objectively assess your partner, do you find that you are patiently waiting for a change to occur that she has not even acknowledged?
Are you hoping for something to happen even though she’s shown no signs or willingness to make it happen?
Have you authentically expressed your desires only to have them ignored, shrugged off, or acknowledged but not acted upon?
The simple truth is this.
You cannot waste years of your life in unhappiness, in conflict, in misery, in futile hope that she will one day wake up to reality and willingly work with you to resolve the problems plaguing your partnership.
If you have expressed your need for a change and she has accepted it and began putting in the work to make it happen, your “as soon as” may very well be warranted.
If, however, despite your most loving expressions of your needs and desires, she shows an unwillingness to change, even a contempt for your requests, your partnership may have very well run its course.
2. She > Me
To love is to sacrifice. To compromise. To cast off the chains of your old self-indulgent existence and embrace a new reality, in which another person directly affects every thought you have, action you take, and decision you make.
It is inescapable.
But just as the narcissist, in his self-absorbed and egocentric paradigm cannot maintain a healthy relationship due to the inordinate amount of focus placed on himself.
Neither can a relationship endure the onslaught of existence when a man’s sun, moon, and stars revolve around his partner.
She is important. Perhaps one of the most important things in your life (as she should be).
But she is not your life.
She is not your ‘everything’, your purpose for existing, your North Star in a dark and confusing world.
For a man to be whole, to be complete, to be powerful, Grounded, and capable of exerting his will on the world and bending reality to his wishes, his partner can never be placed above himself.
When you denigrate your own value and worth by compromising everything for the sake of appeasing another person, you become senile…impotent…spiritually castrated and emotionally neutered.
What’s more, no woman of substance would want to hold such a place in your life.
For her to do so would mean the cessation of everything that attracted her to you in the first place.
Your ambition. Your curiosity. Your lust for life and desire to be, do, and have more than the common man.
To enjoy the rich and fulfilling relationship which you know you deserve, you must prioritize yourself and your well-being above everything else…even especially her.
This is not to say that you should play the part of the petty narcissist or refuse to prioritize her in your life.
Rather that you must prioritize yourself first, your health, your emotional well-being, your purpose, and your desires.
For it is only when you (and her) are emotionally, physically, and spiritually whole that you can come together in unison and create a more powerful and vibrant life together.
Relationships are often referred to as “partnerships” for a reason.
You are indeed selecting a partner with whom you will embark on the greatness venture of all time—your life.
She is not the destination or objective in and of herself. Merely a companion who should accelerate your journey to the destination.
If, upon an honest inspection of both your relationship and your own willingness (or lack thereof) to communicate your needs and desires you realize that, not only is she the most important thing in your life, but that she insists on being the most important thing in your life, you must commit to make a change.
Perhaps this change is the cessation of your entire relationship. Perhaps it is merely a silent and subtle movement on your part, a resolve to create more in your life than partnership with another human.
But change you must.
For if you don’t. What awaits you is a silent spiritual death and a life mired with regrets and plagued by the question of “what if?”
3. Unparalleled Growth
There is an old saying among marriage counselors.
“For a marriage to last, you must fall in love with seven different people.”
The idea being: change is inevitable.
Divergent paths of growth and progress are an inescapable part of doing life with another person.
In the same way that you and your friends have charted your own unique paths of personal and professional growth, so too will your partner, for better or worse, follow unique trajectory in their growth.
In and of itself, this is neither good nor bad.
It simply is.
You may grow faster than she does in one area, she may grow faster than you in another. And throughout your partnership, you must continually work through and reconcile this disparate growth.
The trap, however, into which many men fall is to waste years of their highest and most powerful growth waiting for a partner who has grown stagnant.
Again, it is unlikely that your partner will grow in the same ways and at the same speed as you.
However, she should grow.
For it is growth, not love, that keeps the spark of your love alive.
It is growth that creates the sensation that, “We’ve been together for 20-years, but it feels like two months.”
And if your relationship has grown stale—if you feel like you are sprinting ahead while your partner is miles behind, choking on the dust you left in your wake years ago—the very foundations of your relationship must be brought into question.
Though different religions and schools of philosophy have argued about the purpose and meaning of life since time immemorial, the astute observer will notice one central theme emerging from the fallout.
Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed. Despite their wildly incompatible teachings, all pointed to growth and the expansion of one’s character and consciousness as the ultimate purpose of human life.
For it is growth and expansion that lead us to our own “promised lands.”
To the joy, the prosperity, the vitality, the generosity, and the love we so desperately crave.
And if your partner is not willing to grow with you to, at the very least, make an effort to improve themselves mind, body, and spirit…
…then they are, by very definition, an anchor holding you back from the life and purpose you desire.
They are a rock, tied around your feet keeping your head trapped underwater.
Where there is no growth, there can be no progress.
And where there is no progress, be it intellectual, spiritual, emotional, or financial…love cannot endure.
4. The Oak and the Reed
It was a simple request.
A small, trifling matter you had hoped to be cut and dry.
Spending a little less. “Allowing” a single night of solitude each week. Supporting your new entrepreneurial endeavor with nothing other than words.
You asked for so little, yet your request was ignored…laughed at…scolded.
You’ve given so much to make her happy. Sacrificed parts of your very soul to appease her wishes. Fought tool and nail and claw to give her what she wants.
And yet, when a small act of reciprocation is requested, hell breaks loose.
There is an old fable about the oak and the reed that can grant us great insight into the problem posed by such a relational paradigm.
A Giant Oak stood near a brook in which grew some slender Reeds. When the wind blew, the great Oak stood proudly upright with its hundred arms uplifted to the sky. But the Reeds bowed low in the wind and sang a sad and mournful song.
“You have reason to complain,” said the Oak. “The slightest breeze that ruffles the surface of the water makes you bow your heads, while I, the mighty Oak, stand upright and firm before the howling tempest.”
“Do not worry about us,” replied the Reeds. “The winds do not harm us. We bow before them and so we do not break. You, in all your pride and strength, have so far resisted their blows. But the end is coming.”
As the Reeds spoke a great hurricane rushed out of the north. The Oak stood proudly and fought against the storm, while the yielding Reeds bowed low. The wind redoubled in fury, and all at once the great tree fell, torn up by the roots, and lay among the pitying Reeds.
Better to yield when it is folly to resist, than to resist stubbornly and be destroyed.
In your relationships, you must be the like the reeds.
Bending, bowing, and malleable. Willing to move with the flurries and gusts of life and love but remain unbroken by their beatings.
So too must your partner be willing to bend. To compromise. To adapt. To evolve.
Make no mistake, you will change. Your circumstances will evolve.
Your life will one day be unrecognizable from what it is today.
And so too will your expectations, your needs, and your desires.
Should your partner be unwilling or unable to bend, to compromise, to adapt to the tumultuous and ever-changing nature of your shared lives, separation and divorce are inevitable.
For a relationship to work, compromises must be made—carefully.
In arenas integral to your identity as a man—your mission, your goals, your vision, your values—compromise is unacceptable.
To remain attractive to a high quality woman, you must stand strong in what Wayne Levine calls your “Nuts” or non-negotiable, unalterable terms.
So too must your partner remain grounded in their values and mission to remain attractive to you.
However…In the details, you must bend and bow like the reeds.
You must learn to compromise effectively and work together to resolve your innate differences.
And if she won’t compromise?
If her stubbornness and immovability constricts your ability to effectively progress as a man and execute on your values and vision, the relationship must be ended.
If she is unwilling to honor your needs and desires—those that fall well within the realm of reason-ability—she is, again, an anchor tied to your feet. Drowning you. Suffocating your potential. And holding you back from who you are meant to become.
5. The “Jekyll and Hyde” Syndrome
If successful relationships are predicated on anything it is truth.
To say that you “love” someone, means you are in “truth” with them.
For love to be real, to be powerful, to withstand the onslaughts of life, it must come from a place of truth.
Of baring yourself completely and fully and exclaiming to both the world and your lover, “This is who I am, take me as I am or not at all.”
Yet all too often in relationships, men suffer from what I refer to as the “Jekyll and Hyde” syndrome.
With their partner they are one man—tame, reserved, and timid. Unwilling to express himself, his feelings, and his desires openly and without shame.
Yet, when they are alone or surrounded by their close friends, they are another person entirely—brave, ambitious, assertive. Willing to speak their minds and risk giving offense to speak their truth.
And when this happens, when they are so insecure in their worth and identity as a man that they are willing to fundamentally change themselves to appease a woman, there are only two outcomes.
Either she will lose respect for him leaving for a man who is willing to stand his ground and assert himself, or he will lose respect for himself as months and years of emotional repression bring upon him an unshakable spiritual malaise.
You see it all the time…
Men standing by with a nagging spouse. An ungrateful and unaffectionate partner who treats them more like a pet than a partner.
Yet these men do nothing.
They sit solemnly on the sidelines of their own life, a dead glazed look glossing over their eyes, and simply submit to the punishment.
They have castrated themselves at the pedestal of the feminine failing to realize that their submission is the very thing causing the chaos.
To fulfill your mission and purpose in this life, there is no more important decision that you can make than the person with whom you will share the journey.
And if you cannot authentically express and be yourself in the presence of your partner you must move on immediately.
For as the old saying goes, “It is better to be hated for who you are than loved for who you are not.”
6. The Unshakable “Feeling”
You look at your partner asleep next to you.
Her rhythmic breathing setting a peaceful ambience in your dark room.
You love her. ‘Like’ her even.
You share a long history filled with highs, lows, and unforgettable experiences.
And besides, things are good.
There aren’t flagrant abuses or manipulation. The sex is frequent if unexciting. Besides…she’s your friend as well as your lover.
Yet despite all of this, you can’t shake the feeling.
The feeling that things have run their course. That your time together should end. That you are settling with someone who, amiable and loving as they may be, are simply not the person with whom you want to share the rest of your life.
“But nothing is wrong!” you think to yourself.
And yet… “Something isn’t right either.”
Try though you might, the feeling remains.
Reliving old memories…reminiscing about the best of times… making love… sharing new adventures.
It’s all good.
But something is off.
And it has been for a long time.
There’s no quiz you can take or therapist you can talk with who can explain why you feel the way you do.
But nevertheless, there is an unignorable tugging at your heart strings that is telling you it’s time to move on.
You can fight it. Try to ignore it. Shrug it off.
But it’s always there.
And one day you will be faced with a choice.
To either live with it or accept what it is trying to tell you, no matter how difficult it may be.
7. The Avoidance of Pain
And now, we arrive to perhaps the most common and difficult sign of all.
The one with which men often struggle with most profoundly.
That is: The avoidance of pain.
You are not reading this article by accident.
You are reading it because you have a problem…and you want to know whether it is terminal or solvable.
But many of you reading this aren’t looking for answers.
You’re seeking reassurance.
You know what you need to do. You’ve known for weeks, maybe even months. In fact, you’ve probably already made your decision.
Now…You simply want to make sure it’s the right one.
You came here because you’re scared. Scared to end it… to move on… to start again… to risk the “best you’ve ever had” without knowing if you’ll find something better.
But most of all… You’re scared of hurting her. You’re scared of the pain you will both endure when you utter those dreaded words, “It’s over.”
If this is you, if you know what must be done but simply cannot muster the courage to actually do it because of what it might do to her.
Then allow me to reassure you…
Every second you stay with her, knowing that the end is near is a second that you are compounding the pain of the inevitable.
You are making it harder for her and harder for yourself. Your lack of resolve, your weakness is hurting a person you claim to love and stunting your growth and success.
So, if you are waiting for the ‘right time’ that time is now. Today. Before anyone gets hurt anymore than they’ll already be.
Have the courage to do what is right. To make the hard choice and own your decision.
You’ll both be better for it.
This guide should be seen neither as absolute nor final.
The items and circumstances I have shared with you, grim though the prognosis may be, are not always fatal.
People change. They grow. They push themselves to hold onto love and do what it takes to resolve their differences.
So do not take my word as gospel. Merely as guidance.
Combined with your own intuition, the intimate details of your relationship, and the successes and failures of others, it is up to you to decide if your relationship is worth continuing or fighting for.
Any union can be salvaged when both parties are willing to work hard enough.
But the question that must first be answered by you is: “Is this relationship worth the effort it will take to fix?”
And unfortunately, I can’t give that answer to you.
It is a discovery that must be made by you and you alone.
But I hope that this guide has provided a valuable resource as your chart your path towards this discovery.