Answering these questions will tell you everything you need to know.
By Dr. Ava Cadell
Whether you’ve been in a relationship for a long time or you just started dating someone new, we all face times when we feel the need to step back and evaluate our love life. Sometimes, a partner looks great “on paper” at first, in terms of your similar interests or circle of friends, but then as things move forward, the daily behavior and interactions between you just don’t make your heart sing.
What’s happening here? Is there anything you can do to figure it all out? How do you determine if you’re in a healthy relationship, or if you should break things off?
Creating your own simple “positives vs. negatives” list can help you clarify what is and what is not working in your relationship. Sure, all relationships require some degree of compromise, but that doesn’t mean you have to settle for being unhappy the majority of the time.
In the case of the woman whose inventory is shown below, she had been dating someone for three months and slept with him after seven dates. She saw him two more times after that before she called me for help, because she was feeling confused and conflicted about becoming his girlfriend. In her gut, she felt he wasn’t right for her, but at the same time, she didn’t want to be alone.
Use the sample below as a guideline as relationship advice and create an inventory. This will help you figure out if you’re in a good relationship, or if it’s an unhealthy relationship and it’s time to move on.
Make two columns. In the first, list every one of his positive qualities that you can think of. In the second, list every one of his negative qualities you can think of. (Note: remember that these were specific preferences of one woman. What you think of as a positive will match your own personal preferences.)
- He’s an old friend
- He’s kind
- He’s gentle
- He has a good job
- He’s financially stable
- He’s intelligent
- He’s romantic
- He has a good sense of humor
- He has no ex-wife or kids
- Gives compliments
- His lives too far away
- He has too many health issues
- He hardly has any friends
- He goes to bed much later than I like to
- He doesn’t like to travel
- He is a pessimist and is always preparing for the worst
- He suffers from severe OCD and anxiety
- He’s a homebody
- He doesn’t satisfy me in bed
- He wants to talk on the phone much more than I do
- We have serious political differences
- He brags about his ex-girlfriends
- He complains about other people too often
- He is constantly talking about his problems
- He isn’t generous
In the case of this particular woman, after writing her lists of both his positive and negative qualities, she read them back to herself and had a major revelation upon discovering she’d listed 15 negative qualities as compared to only listing 10 that were positive.
Next, I asked her to think of her top 10 priorities in life and then to note whether or not he could help her fulfill them.
List your top 10 priorities in life. Mark each with a YES or NO in regard to whether or not your partner can help you fulfill them.
- Travel — NO
- Home — NO
- Generosity — NO
- Sex — NO
- Social — NO
- Conversation — NO
- Bedtime Compatibility — NO
- Romance — YES
- Compliments — YES
- Friendship — YES
In the case of this woman, the man she was seeing could only enhance three of her ten life priorities. And, on the flip side, she was easily able to find seven priorities he would actually make more difficult for her to achieve.
Once the work of compiling these two lists is done, review the data you’ve collected to answer the ultimate question of this exercise: “Is this person going to make my life better?”
As you can see, the not-so-great news for the woman in this same sample is that the negatives far outweigh the positives in her particular situation, but the good news is that armed with this information, she could now pinpoint the source of her frustrations and disappointments within the relationship.
This left her with two choices:
- She could discuss these issues with her partner and see if there were ways to improve things between them.
- She could create an exit strategy in order to leave this relationship and continue searching for someone who would be a more positive match.
When this woman chose the latter, I told her not to be sad because this was a way to get better in touch with her deepest wants and needs and she therefore, now has a better chance of finding a man who is worthy of her physically, mentally, emotionally, sexually, and spiritually.
It was the first time I saw her smile and she told me she felt relieved, as though a huge weight had been lifted off her. You’re better off alone than being with somebody who lacks the qualities that you are looking for in a relationship.
In the meantime, be your own partner and treat yourself as if you are madly in love with you.