(If you haven’t watched HBO’s Insecure, don’t read these spoiler alerts. Instead, go now and enjoy.)
Insecure, Issa Rae’s HBO show that focuses on the lives of two best friends in LA, ended its first season with a break-up. After years together and two couches, Issa cheated and Lawrence bailed. But for some, Lawrence was never a catch anyway, jobless and working on an app for four years while she supported him. In the end though, Lawrence wasn’t so much the issue as it was Issa: what she wanted and what she wasn’t sure she wanted.
We’ve all been there, right? In a relationship, maybe even a pretty good relationship, but still not sure if this is ultimately where we want to be. And at this time of year, when January is about to encourage all of us to be a “new you,” perhaps there are things to be left behind. So, how can you determine when it’s time to let it go and move on? Five ways you might be able to know.
There’s always a “but…” when you talk about the relationship.
Your friend questions some issue with him–his serial unemployment, his divorce that still isn’t finalized, his misogynistic thinking–and your response is “But, we have a lot of fun!” If fun is all you’re interested in, go for it, but if this is a serious relationship that you’re trying to grow, all those excuses will start to get in the way. Everyone has flaws, but if you’re purposefully overlooking those flaws to make the case to stay in the relationship, it might be time to ask yourself why.
You aren’t sure about taking it to the next level.
In Insecure, Lawrence walks Issa by a jewelry store to take a look at rings. Issa freaks out and bolts. Now, partly this is due to the cheating she’d just done, but also maybe she couldn’t admit the truth: she just doesn’t want that with him. And, next level doesn’t need to be marriage. At this time of year, there are lots of next level moments: gift buying, your bestie’s holiday party, and of course Hanukkah/Christmas/Kwanzaa family get togethers. If you’re pausing about whether to take your Significant Other to your holiday shindig maybe it’s because you don’t want your family all up in your business. Or maybe, you don’t want them to get too invested in a relationship you’re not invested in.
You don’t want the same things.
I used to think finding the right partner was about checkboxes. You know: attractive, smart, funny, kind. Those are all important, but as I got older, I also realized that finding someone who wanted to live the same kind of life as I did was equally important. I went on a date with a guy who told me that getting a passport had never been that important to him. Oh, really? I said, but what I thought was, This is done. Do you have so many stamps on your passport, you’ll need a new one before it expires, but he doesn’t want the “hassle” that comes with packing a bag? Are you aiming to be in that 1% money bracket and he talks about capitalism as a destructive force? Do you want to have/adopt/foster parent a kid and he’s explored the benefits of a vasectomy? Getting the life we want can also be about love and partnership, but if you have a partner who stands in the way of all the other things you want in life, is it worth it?
You can’t communicate.
You two have disagreements, sure. It isn’t just the disagreement though, are you both able to see the discussion from the other person’s perspective? Can you, after the heat of the moment, sit down and talk about your feelings and vice versa? Do they also recognize the issues from their past that are preventing them from being able to be the best partner possible to you? Can you do that for them? If it’s no on all these fronts and you’re not committed to making it better, forever will be a mighty long time.
You aren’t being supported.
Your partner wants the best for you, but has a hard time actually showing it. Your storytelling at the Moth doesn’t make it on his calendar. You get the big promotion you’ve been waiting for and the congratulations is half-hearted. When you talk about the obstacles to launching your business, the response is, “Yeah, maybe you shouldn’t even do it.” It’s one thing for someone to challenge you to think through your plans and even get you to improve them, it’s another for someone to dismiss your dreams. And if your partner can’t show up for you (and of course, you’ve also demonstrated that you can show up for them, right?), then maybe you’d both be better off finding the people who will.
Ultimately, we all want the best love we can find, and even if that means going solo on New Year’s Eve, letting someone go now might be opening the way for someone better to come in.