Relationship Hell is full of frustration, over-thinking, and way too much worry. Here’s a map out.
I wrote a relationship advice column for a few years and I loved it. Questions came in from people all over the world with all sorts of relationship issues. Should I stay or should I go? He’s perfect on paper but the chemistry’s not there—help! Is it possible that my girlfriend is a lesbian? Will I recognize my soul mate?
Most of the people who wrote in for advice were residents of a place I refer to as Relationship Hell. As the name implies, it’s not exactly nirvana.
And although I’m now happily married to a completely awesome and drama-free guy, I remember my own years in Relationship Hell all too clearly. I was always fretting over some man who wanted too much commitment or one who was afraid to commit. I overanalyzed ambiguous comments and was constantly wondering what he was really thinking. I allowed my mood to be influenced by his mood and based my own self-worth on his opinions of me. And I vividly remember the agony of realizing he was just not that into me.
Sound familiar? Most of us have at least visited Relationship Hell, if not took up long-term residence.
The good news is that even if it feels like you’ve purchased land and established a life for yourself in Relationship Hell, you can always move. The tips below can help you get to a place where you’re ready to contact the movers and get out of dodge.
1. Know that in most cases, you already know the answer
The people who wrote to me for advice were all worried about something. What they didn’t realize is that most of the time, they already knew the answers they were seeking.
If they guy you went out with two weeks ago hasn’t called you back, deep down you know he isn’t interested. But sometimes it helps to have an unemotional outside opinion to help you see things more objectively. Your own ego will take you in circles of justification and rationalization that drive you nuts, so you may want me—or anyone, for that matter—to weigh in and tell you what you already know. This is totally understandable. As obvious as the answer may be to someone else, these questions need to asked because your own mind often feels like the least reliable source in the world.
So, if she’s still sleeping with her ex-boyfriend she is not a keeper. You know this. But write to me or ask an objective outside party if you get confused and we’ll kindly remind you.
2. In most cases, you can be out of your misery immediately if you’re willing to communicate
I’d be retired on a beach somewhere if I had a dollar for every time I heard some variation of, “Do you think he thinks…?”, or “Why would she do…”? The answer is always: How should I know? Why don’t you ask him/her?
Again, I get it—these aren’t fun conversations to have. When you asked him if he wanted to sleep over and he said no, you really want to know what he’s thinking and you really, really don’t want to ask. So you ask me, as if I might know.
The brain is amazing in what it does. But one thing it’s not so great at is tolerating ambiguity. The mind hates gaps in stories or unanswered questions, so it fills in the blanks when they exist. When you don’t ask questions, you’re left essentially making up stories and that’s never good. The truth is almost always easier to take than the stories you’re making up.
Make it easy on yourself and ask them what they’re thinking.
3. Take it Easy: If it’s this difficult, this just isn’t the person for you
Living (and dating) in Relationship Hell can really suck. When you want a committed relationship, the time and effort involved in first dates and getting to know someone new can feel torturous. But that’s no reason to just “love the one your with”, especially if all the signs are telling you to run. If it’s really difficult most of the time, this isn’t the one for you.
Relationships are not supposed to be hard. Yeah, I know we can all cite a million clichés that tell us otherwise (e.g., “relationships are hard work”). There are rough spots—but cheating, lying, verbal abuse or worse are not rough spots, they’re signs to get out.
If you’re 22 and your boyfriend has cheated on you for most of your relationship, he’s not the one for you. If you’re convinced that you need couples counseling after a month together, this probably isn’t the one. It doesn’t matter that you’ve met the parents or that your cat is already attached to him. Try to relax and trust that this is just practice for the really good relationship that’s on its way.
Amy Johnson, Ph.D. is a psychologist and master certified coach. She writes a popular blog full of down-to-earth, achievable steps to living a happier, more enlightened life at www.DrAmyJohnson.com. Grab her FREE ebook on getting out of your own way to create the life you want.