So you’ve been arguing with your partner for what seems like forever. And you can’t even remember the last time you went out on a Saturday night as a couple. Feeling stuck is a common rite of passage in relationships. After a number of years together, it’s normal for a couple to encounter feelings of frustration, anger, and even boredom.
However, after investing a fair amount of time and energy into a person and relationship, it can be difficult to decipher whether it’s time to move on, or whether you’re simply going through a rocky patch that can be overcome.
Here are some common issues that are make-or-break moments of a feeling trapped in a relationship and how to address them.
1. You Argue A Lot
Often there’s a power struggle going on when a couple is arguing 24/7. You might be attempting to change your partner’s ways and not even realize it. Respect is crucial for any solid relationship to thrive. Healthy couples respect each other’s time, needs, and wants.
What to do to stay: Seek counseling, and work on communicating with each other in more respectful, loving ways. Compliment each other and treat each other like you’re on a first date. Cuddle and laugh more.
When to leave: When one partner is constantly belittling and controlling the other, and boundaries are nonexistent. If one of you feels constantly disparaged or like you don’t have a voice in the relationship, it may be time to move on.
2. You Don’t Know Who You Are Anymore
After many years together, some couples seem to mesh into one person. They not only do almost everything together—from hobbies to household chores—but they also don’t know who they are without their partner. They seldom do anything separately, and often don’t have outside sources of support, like close friends and family to lean on. One partner might especially love the idea of being a “caretaker” because it gives him or her a role in the relationship. This type of relationship is otherwise known as co-dependent. A co-dependent relationship ultimately leads to feelings of loneliness, repression, and isolation, which makes it difficult for one, or both partners, to make a break for it.
What to do to stay: Enlist in separate hobbies and reach out to forgotten friends and family for support and socialization.
When to leave: When one partner is wrestling with an addiction and refuses to seek treatment and/or tries to restrict the other partner from leading a more independent lifestyle.
3. You Barely Spend Any Time Together
Spending as much time apart as possible, including either channeling energy into social engagements with friends or a number of hobbies, is a common sign that a relationship is no longer a priority. When one or both partners feel suffocated by their relationship, they usually look for various types of distractions to make them feel more fulfilled.
What to do to stay: Do new things as a couple and create a set schedule each week to spend time together. If you have the time and money, take a vacation so you can reconnect with your partner in a more intimate setting.
When to leave: If your partner refuses to lock down time or always has an excuse as to why he or she needs to spend more time with work or on other things.
4. You’ve Grown Apart
As time goes on, it’s natural for us to grow and evolve. The people we were at age twenty-two most likely do not exist at forty-two. Sometimes couples grow together, while sometimes they grow apart because their ideals and goals have shifted. You want more children, he doesn’t. You want to settle down in the ‘burbs, she wants to travel the world. Couples often stay together despite these differences out of loyalty, or because they think they can change their partner’s mind, which ultimately can lead to disastrous results.
What to do to stay: Communicate and work on a compromise. It’s important to not persuade your partner, but to find a middle ground.
When to leave: When you or your partner refuses to compromise. Usually this is a sign of an underlying bigger problem that cannot be overcome.
5. You’re Sooooo Bored
Developing a routine with each other was cute and comforting in the beginning of your relationship, but now you’re stuck in a rut. You don’t know what to say to each other anymore, and everyday looks and feels exactly the same. And sex? What sex? You don’t physically touch each other anymore, mostly because you’re bored of that, too.
What to do to stay: Introduce new areas of your life to experience and explore together. Whether it’s a new hobby, a new restaurant, or trying out new ways of being together. Maybe that means shutting off your phone for the evening and talking and joking around together, or, yes, making love. Sharing time and experiences together rebuilds the connection.
When to leave: If trying the above doesn’t help matters, or one or both of you refuses to even try making changes, then it’s a sign that your relationship has probably run its course.
Yes, feeling trapped in a relationship from time to time is normal, but the reason it’s normal is because it’s normal to have ups and downs in a relationship. If you’re feeling trapped or stuck maybe it’s time to look at the reasons why. It may be that there’s something you need to address with your partner and work through, or it may be time to think about moving on. Feeling trapped is an intense feeling and something you shouldn’t ignore. Listen to yourself and how you’re feeling, share those thoughts with your partner respectfully and honestly, then either move forward together or apart. Either way, you’ll be stronger for it.