I don't know about you but, a lot of times, whenever I read books or articles on relationships, when it comes to signs that you're in the wrong one, oftentimes it has to do with things like abuse (neglect is a form of abuse, by the way), being taken for granted, always giving your all to someone who does very little giving in return (check out "Why You're Always The One Who Prepares A Man For His Wife")…you know, stuff like that. But what happens when you're with a guy who, for all intents and purposes, is pretty close to greatness? You like each other. The chemistry is cool. If someone were to ask you for a list of 10 things that you appreciate about the connection, you could state them with a fair amount of ease. Problem is, for the past few weeks (or even months), you've been feeling like something, somehow, isn't quite right. It's like, while you feel like you're currently on a path to soaring, for some reason, your relationship feels like it's in the way—although you can't put your finger on why you feel that way.
If what I just said somehow scratched an itch somewhere in your psyche, take out about seven minutes or so to check this piece all the way out. When it comes to being in the kind of relationship that is truly best for us, it's not enough that the relationship is cool; it also needs to be one that is helping us to progress, clearly, in life. If you can't say that about your own, real talk, it's probably doing the opposite (holding you back) which isn't a good thing. So, how can you know for sure if your man is holding you back in this season of your life?
Let’s Start with “If You Have to Ask” (and You’re Reading This Article)
So, usually when I'm writing something where I feel like this particular point needs to be mentioned, I will save it for the end. But, in this case, I'm going to switch up a bit. Have you ever heard the saying that oftentimes, we're looking for someone to tell us what, in the back of our mind, we already know? While I'm sure that some women clicked onto this article, just for curiosity's sake, I've been writing (and relationship coaching) long enough to know that some of y'all clicked on here because you are seeking confirmation that your man is indeed a "stumbling block" of sorts. It's not that you don't love him. It's not that the two of you don't share some good times together. It's not even that he doesn't have some awesome qualities. It's just that—it feels like you're not at a place in your life that you thought that you would, once you finally met "the one". Because of that, you've been looking for a sign to let you know that the eerie feeling that you have in the pit of your stomach is spot-on.
While this first point may not be the huge blinking neon sign that you've been looking for, if you keep reading, something tells me that you'll have the clarity you seek in just a few more moments. Let's keep going.
Reflect on the Concessions You Made in the Relationship Since Day One
There is no way that a relationship is healthy (or is even going to last long), if both parties aren't willing to compromise along the way. Since none of us are perfect, there are even certain concessions that are usually made in order for a relationship to flow smoothly. But when it comes to this particular point, what I do encourage you to ponder is what it literally means to concede. When it comes to "acknowledging what is true" (like maybe your man doesn't look exactly how you thought your dream guy would or he doesn't check off on every single thing that's on your "what I want in a man list"), it's realistic to accept that it's rare that any of us get all of what we want and that's OK. But when it comes to another definition of concede which is "yield to pressure or circumstances", you really should think about if you are currently conceding a hell of a lot more than you should; perhaps because you've been doing more than you ever have, ever since the relationship began.
- Did you always overlook some of his traits that you can never seem to really mesh with?
- Have you always ignored the fact that he's not really the best complement for your life?
- Did you let your family members or friends talk you into starting what has felt more like a hindrance the entire time (just because it hasn't been the right time)?
- Have you always wanted a relationship that has more passion, more drive—more something that is lacking in the one that you're in?
- Did you do what I've done in a few of my relationships—go into it convincing yourself that you would eventually like the guy as much as he liked you? Only, that still hasn't happened…yet?
Maybe you're staying in the relationship simply because you've been in it so long that you fear the thought of starting over. Maybe you're remaining because you don't want to hurt your man's feelings. Maybe the relationship is good but something in you knows that there's a man out in the universe who you can actually be great with.
If this is hitting close to home, just remember that a concession in the form of compromise is one thing. But if you are sacrificing your own core needs in the process of remaining where you are, that is unhealthy. It's also not very fair to either one of you in the long run.
Ask Yourself What About the Relationship Reminds You of Past Slip-Ups
There are some movies that, you're not really sure why you are intrigued to check it out, but something just draws you in. That's how I feel about the film The Worst Year of My Life. It's about a guy who thinks he's found the one but then he finds out his live-in girlfriend has been sleeping with someone else. When he goes to therapy, he starts to connect some dots that he never saw coming. In case you want to check it out, I'll leave it there when it comes to offering up details, but what I will say is 1) the movie is a great commercial for why therapy following a devastating break-up can be a really beneficial thing, and 2) it is also a vivid visual reminder of why paying attention to your patterns can help you break them.
Last year, when I wrote the article, "Are You Dating The Same Guy Over And Over Again? Maybe.", a huge part of what inspired it is, I used to be that kind of person. It wasn't until I got really honest with myself about, not only what my "type" was but why, how my toxic family background played a direct role, and what I needed to do in order to master how to love myself before loving any guy that I was able to actually stop choosing guys who were preventing me from growing and maturing.
Another good sign that your man is holding you back is there are certain things about him that remind you of your ex (or exes). Not only that, but when you reflect on what caused you to end your relationship with "said ex", you see some of those same issues in your current situation. They might not be as big. They might not be as bad. But they are indeed there. And trust me when I say that when a current has similarities to your ex that aren't positive characteristics, eventually they are going to rear their ugly head. Oftentimes, it's once you realize that you're not so much with the right man as someone who is merely familiar to you. Good and familiar are not synonymous. Please always remember that.
Do You Feel Like You’re Going Forwards, Going Backwards or Staying in the Same Place?
Not too long ago, I was talking to a male friend of mine, who is going through a season of shedding some of the dead weight from his own friendships. The reason why I use the phrase "dead weight" is because, something that life teaches those of us who are paying attention is to how to value our time and ourselves; that if a relationship, of any sort, either keeps us stuck in the past or it makes us feel so stagnant that we can't fully and easily move forward into what the future has in store for us, it's really not the healthiest kind.
A good example of how a relationship can keep you going backwards is you find yourself reliving the same mistakes and/or lessons over and over again. Or, you realize that, whenever you're around certain people, you resort back to how you were 2, 5 or even 10 years ago. An example of being stagnant? I'll pull from my own life. One of my longest relationships was also one where I wanted it to transition into marriage. Meanwhile, my boyfriend kept promising that if I just gave him one more year (after several years), that would come into fruition. It never did. He wasn't a "bad guy" for not being able to give me what I wanted. At the same time, I wasn't exactly being very good to myself because, all of the energy that I was putting into waiting on him and even trying to convince him to speed up the clock, was energy that I could've invested into other ways that would help me to get further down my own life's pike.
Make no mistake about the fact that, if you want to know if a relationship—whether it's professional or personal, platonic or romantic—is a good one, one way to know for sure is you're going to be able to document clear indications of where it helped you to become, not just a better version of yourself but a bigger and more progressive version too. Anyone who isn't doing that is either using their influence in your life to push you backwards or to keep you stagnant. Life is too short and precious to settle for either of these scenarios to be the case.
Where Do You Want to Be This Time Next Year?
When it comes to this last point, if you're someone who is contemplating getting into a new relationship, I promise you that if you read (and apply) the article "The 'Pre-Commitment Interview' Every Dating Couple Should Have", it can actually spare you a lot of "Is my man holding me back?" internal conflict and drama. The reason why that is, is because a lot of us find ourselves in relationships that are going absolutely nowhere, mostly because we assumed that our partner was on the same page as us when it came to where we ultimately wanted things to go. Never get caught assuming because, believe you me when I say that, there are a lot of people who are perfectly content being in a relationship (or situationship) with someone—day after day, month after month and year after year—without it ever becoming anything more than what it already is. The only way you can avoid being caught up in this kind of holding pattern is by getting clear on what you want for your life in time increments (like six months from now, a year from now, etc.), sharing those thoughts with your significant other and then deciding if you're both on the same page (or are even in the same book) or not.
So, if you are already in a relationship, this is my final piece of advice. First, make a plan for what you want for your life. Then think about how much closer you can get to manifesting those plans over the course of the next 12 months. Next, get serious about if your current significant other is able to support those plans or if they will somehow hold you back. If you're not sure, bring all of this up to your man, so that you can both speak freely. If he conveys that he wants to help you with where you want to go and that he also wants to be in a different/forward movement space, with you, by this time next year—and his character in times past has proven that his word can be trusted—stay. If he's not sure, give him some time (just not all the time in the world) to figure it out. If he doesn't believe that he wants what you do, to tell yourself that he didn't mean what he said or that he will change his mind? Not only is that a sign of you being held back but—get this—that it's not him who is doing it. It's you.
Bottom line, the best relationships are always progressive. They move forward. They get better. New things happen. Set goals are met. Growth transpires. If you're not able to confidently say, without a shadow of any doubt, that your relationship is in this kind of space, it is worth pausing things and asking yourself, "Is my man holding me back?" and then making some major changes if the ultimate conclusion that you come to, sis, is…yes.
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