Do you often question whether you’re demanding too much from your partner?
Do you wonder if you should be better at loving them the way they already are?
Do you spend a lot of time thinking that you just need to work through more of your own stuff, and that they’re teaching you good lessons?
Something that can be very, very tricky, particularly for self-aware people (and triply so for women) is determining whether you’re dating someone’s potential instead of actually dating them.
I spent a long time feeling caught in this trap myself, and I know it can feel excruciatingly hard, especially when you really love your partner.
So I’ve put together 6 of the most important questions to ask yourself if you’re continually unsure whether this is the case for you.
You can answer them in your head, but I really recommend writing your answers down in a journal if possible. And if you don’t have much time, I suggest skipping to question 6, as that one will probably tell you everything you need to know.
How to Know if You Should Stay in Your Relationship: 6 Simple Questions to Ask Yourself
1. Do you respect your partner?
Respect is a feeling of deep admiration for the way someone chooses to show up in their life.
Do you respect the way your partner handles conflict? Do you respect the way they treat you and others?
If you don’t admire your partner’s work in the world, the things they choose to do with their time, or the decisions they make, you should take a hard look at why you want this person’s life aligned with your own.
2. Do they actually meet your needs?
If you’ve never made a list of all the things you need and desire in a relationship, you should do so now. And then ask yourself if your partner meets all of those things.
And I really mean “all.”
Your partner won’t meet all your *human* needs, but they should meet your relationship needs, or at least be working toward meeting them fully (and of their own desire – not because you beg them to do it). If you regularly have a conversation with your partner about your same needs not being met again and again, this is a red flag.
Sex can be a need. Loving touch can be a need. Words of affirmation can be a need. Deep conversation can be a need. There is not a need that is “too much” to ask for. Needs vary depending on the person. If you don’t feel like you have any needs, journal about who taught you that you weren’t allowed to have them. If you feel like your needs are too much, examine how much you actually value yourself.
This doesn’t mean your partner needs to meet 100% of your needs 100% of the time – but overall, they should be meeting the needs and desires you have in a relationship. Don’t settle for less than everything.
3. Are you helping them grow/create their dreams while they don’t do much on their own?
It’s great and beautiful to believe in another person. It’s so nice to see someone’s highest potential.
And if you’re regularly spending most of your energy trying to pull another person along on their path, stop it.
In a healthy relationship, you get to inspire your partner in their self-growth. You get to trigger them and work through it together. You get to co-create things together.
But if you’re putting in most of the work, and you find yourself resenting them for not doing it on their own, then it’s time to have a conversation with them about it.
Women in particular (though it’s not limited to women) seem to do this thing where we imagine ourselves having done soooo much of the work and then think we owe it to our partners to help them along the same path. Deep down, this comes from not valuing ourselves fully (because of a world that has taught us not to value ourselves fully).
The effort you put in every day matters. The energy you expend navigating the emotions in your conflicts is valuable. The questions you ask are valuable. The space you hold is valuable. The time you spend making your partner’s life better is valuable. If you aren’t receiving EQUAL value in return, question that.
4. Do you have the same values?
Your values are the things you care about in life. If you and your partner don’t care about the same things, it will be really hard to stay together. Values can include things like religion, politics, social issues, family, financial security, creativity, freedom, adventure, nature, honesty, reliability, generosity, service, optimism, self-growth… the list goes on.
If you aren’t sure what your values are, a fun way to find out can be by writing down the things you really care about and like to do. For each thing, ask yourself: why does this matter to me? Why do I like this?
If you keep asking “why,” eventually you’ll get down to a topic or a feeling. If you do this for most of the things you like to do in your life, you’ll start to see commonalities among your answers.
As an example, I like to read books because I get to relax, I learn more, and I feel inspired. The core values at the root of why I like to read are self-care, knowledge/truth, and creativity.
You and your partner don’t have to have the same exact values, but if you differ on one or more that really matter to you, that is important.
5. Is the only reason you’re staying because you just love them so much?
I know you love your partner. Most people love their partners. In every single relationship I’ve been in, I’ve felt like I loved my partner more than I could ever love anyone.
But each breakup and each new relationship has proven that I can love lots of people. You can also love lots of people. Lots of people can love you.
People exist – within the 7 billion other people on this planet – who can love you in the ways you deserve and long to be loved.
Do not ever forget that. Love is everywhere. Love is not a scarce resource, even if it sometimes feels that way.
“I just love them so much” means that separating would be painful, of course – and it is also not a good enough reason to stay together.
If you regularly daydream about what it’d be like if you left them, that’s a sign. If you constantly can’t figure out if the relationship isn’t working or if relationships just require work, that’s also a sign.
Especially if you value self-growth and self-awareness – it can be way easier to question if you just need to work more on yourself than it is to face the fact that the relationship doesn’t feel good for you anymore.
6. If you knew they were going to stay the same way they are right now forever, would you still date them?
This last question is probably the single most important thing you could ask yourself.
Another version of it is: if you met your partner today, would you still date them?
It’s true that people change over time. And it’s also true that if you’re not aligned with this person today, you’re already growing in different directions.
The purpose of being in relationship is to help each other grow. You want to be able to envision your partner’s highest version of themselves and inspire them to get there. You want to love them through the challenges they face on their way, moments when they falter, and times when they doubt themselves.
But holding up somebody’s potential when they don’t even see it themselves is exhausting, and you’ll drain your own spirit in the process.
It’s also often a lie.
The potential you see in them comes from you, not from them. The potential you see is often the way that your partner would show up if they were a completely different person. That’s not potential, it’s an illusion.
It’s not your role to convince or inspire your partner to do their own work. It’s not your role to initiate them into it. If you’re continually questioning the relationship, that’s already your answer.
If you feel like you’ve outgrown your partner, don’t you dare dim your own light and sacrifice the gifts you give to the world while you try to pull them along with you. You deserve more than that.
Relationships do require work.
But the work you do in a healthy relationship feels rewarding, not exhausting.
It’s possible to feel more in love after every argument. It’s possible to get all of your needs met in your relationship. It’s possible to feel continually lit-up, turned-on, inspired, and energized by your partner.
You can call that in any time you want – just by deciding you deserve it.