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How to know if a relationship is not working

How to know if a relationship isn't working

Whether it’s about your job or just how you want to live, the things you are tired of putting up with and just so over, it’s almost always a surprise when the people you are closest with… well surprise you about what you’re not on the same page about. 

They might ask you, “How long have you been hiding this from us? Why didn’t you tell us how you really felt in the first place?”

But most likely, nobody intentionally made this thing not work. Most likely it just happened. Slowly and over time. 

Because you change. 

They change.

And the relationship changes. 

So the question is: what do you do now?

3 Ways to Know If a Relationship is Not Working


1. You just can't seem to get on the same page. 

This can happen in a couple of different ways. 

Maybe you spend all this time talking about a plan and then at the end they still don't get what's going on. 

Or maybe you assume that they would include for something, and they don't. 

Or maybe you expect them to do something (like, for example, your romantic partner asks you before they ask their friends about weekend plans) but what they do is different than what you expected and it makes you feel frustrated but they don't get why. 

Most of the time, this is often a matter of values, expectations, and goals. And because when you meet someone you start by focusing on simple things, it ends up that you might be friends with someone who has really different values about boundaries than you. What this means is when you don't actively take the time to understand your own values, expectations and goals, and you haven't communicated them to the person, then it's likely they haven't done so to you either and you are in this gray area of never being on the same page. 

2. You overanalyze every action you take. 

This is a result of not having a clear set of values, expectations, and goals to work from. You don't know what your actions means because you don't know what they will think they mean. Do you text? Do you call? Do you drop by later in person? Should you have said that or just waited? 

Anytime you are overanalyzing it means there is a conversation needed to provide clarity in the relationship. 

However, not everyone is ready to have that conversation nor does everyone want to know the result of that conversation. 

Take the example of a potential romantic partner. Your relationship is moving along but you aren't totally clear on if it's official, exclusive, do they want what you want etc. 

You can sit down and have a conversation about what they want from the relationship. 

And sometimes that will be really fruitful and you realize you both want the same thing (a romantic relationship). 

But sometimes they might respond with "I like how things are" (meaning I don't know what I want but I want to keep my options open). This might be ok for you. This might not be ok for you. 

When someone isn't willing to get clear with you about what's happening, you have to decide what is your own limit to the gray area so you can know what is cool or not cool within the frames of your relationship. 

And yes, sometimes conversation like this lead to rejection. Rejection hurts. A lot. It is never fun. 

But, the benefit of rejection is clarity. You are no longer overanalyzing what you are doing because you know you are doing this as a friend. 

What ever the case, overanalyzing is a sign that values, expectations, and goals are not clear. You are welcome to keep things foggy as long as you want. You just need to know the other person might not ever clarify things for you unless you do it yourself. 

3. You are doing a lot of work to learn about what's working and not working and they aren't doing anything. 

This is really important. 

Let's pretend for a minute we are back in math class [did I hear you groan just now?].  

We’re going to talk about something called proportions. 

Proportions are kind of like percents. Meaning if there are two people in a relationship, you might expect each person to contribute 50% of the work to the relationship. Over time, if one person takes on more work (whether that’s logistically planning things or working through emotions, or whatever) the relationship goes from 50-50 to maybe 75-25. This shift in a relationship can be a sign that things aren’t working. 


Because you change. 

They change. 

And as a result it takes work to keep a relationship in balance. But if two people in a relationship are not stepping up to the work to keep the balance at 50-50 that is a problem. 

Again, this can require a conversation to reset the balance. “Hey, can we talk about our chore schedule again? I know our schedules have moved around since we got things set up. I just want to check in and make sure we are each contributing like we expected to.”

But sometimes this is something you have to look for. 

In other words, it’s one thing to ask someone to do something. It’s another thing for them to recognize they need to make a change and actually make a change themselves (there is a whole school for motivational interviewing you can go and study if you want to become a master at getting other people to make changes for themselves). The bottom line is they have to make a change. You can’t do it for them. And that’s where you can watch to see if anything is changing, and if not, that’s a sign things might not be working anymore. 

Words are your superpower.

Words are the way you communicate expresses your assumptions, perceptions, interpretations, and beliefs about the world. When you are dealing with people who have made assumptions about who you are and haven't taken much time to keep up with you on what's going on in your life, your words are your superpower to be precise and specific with. 

You can thank people for asking about something and say there have been some new developments that you would be happy to share with them if they were interested. 

Or you can show them in what ways their understanding is different from yours. 

Or you can help them see why something was hard for you and what you need to make things right. 

Your words are you power. Use them.

Click here to download a free template for what to say when you or someone you know is going through a hard time.


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