This originally appeared on Alternet.org. Republished here with permission.
Are you fighting more than having sex?
When you’re in love, your heart feels like it’s windsurfing, and everything is magical and tinted whatever color is the opposite of regret (beige?). But that whole love-blindness business that helps you fall in the first place also makes it really difficult to figure out when your relationship has taken a turn for the DUMP THEM NOW. With that in mind, we made you a list of red-flaggies to keep in mind as you wade through the relationship muck, wondering if you’re going to make it out alive or sink like a straight-to-DVD Olsen twins adventure.
1. You fight more than you have sex.
We’re not going to get all prescriptive and tell you how much sex you should be having in your relationship, but we will say that if you are yelling a lot more than you’re getting it on, your relationship is off-kilter and you need to shift priorities and/or communication strategies ASAP. If you’re fighting in equal measure to having sex, you are probably just going through a rough patch, or are merely kinky, so play on.
2. You stop fighting and having sex altogether.
Worse than the above scenario (in our opinion) is when you stop both fighting and having sex, aka your spark has been replaced with complacency and apathy. You become roommates who passive-aggressively bicker at Whole Foods because you don’t even have enough fire left to start a real argument or take some aggression out in the bedroom. This is a bad sign. Alternately, though, too much volatility also isn’t helpful—if you are screaming at each other over what salt-and-pepper shakers to purchase at IKEA, for instance. Too much fire and your house burns down, as our friends the three little pigs taught us about divorce all those years ago.
3. You exhibit criticism, contempt, defensiveness, or stonewalling.
According to John Gottman, who has studied hundreds of married couples and can scarily predict who will stay together and who will separate, what makes a marriage work is finding ways to resolve conflicts productively. That sounds easy enough! But to do so, you must avoid these four damaging processes: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. Do you harbor hefty doses of one or more of these negative feelings toward your partner? Then you might be headed for disaster. Of the four, contempt is probably the biggest predictor of doom, and is defined as “the intention to insult and psychologically abuse your partner.” Signs of contempt can include eye-rolling, insults, hostility, name-calling, and mocking her Jewel holiday album (it’s nostalgic, OK?).
4. You don’t trust your partner.
Do you check your partner’s emails or texts or g-chats when he isn’t around? Have you ever counted condoms to see if any were being used without you? Do you not believe her when she says where she’s going or who she’ll be with? Do you lie about being Iron Man to get your partner to sleep with you? Congrats, you have trust issues, and probably a Robert Downey, Jr. fetish. Maybe you have a good reason—like he cheated on you once and is still in the doghouse. If not though, then it may be time to reassess the relationship. Trust is the foundation, after all. Without trust, it’s like trying to do yoga on a pile of Arby’s roast beef sandwiches—messy, awful, and you don’t know why you’re drooling.
5. You want to spend more time with your friends than with your partner.
Maintaining some alone and friend time is integral for a healthy relationship, of course, but when you reach a point where you’d rather hang out with Steve at Applebee’s to drink warm, domestic beer than be with your loving girlfriend, then that’s just fine—see if I care! If you get to a place where you’re avoiding spending time with your significant other, the issues run deeper than your love of Applebee’s, we’re afraid. Same goes for finding excuses to stay late at work or if you’ve taken up scrapbooking to fill the crippling hole of loneliness in your heart.
6. You stop making each other a priority.
Whereas before, you’d return his calls right away, you’d text her funny emojis, you’d have no problem picking him up a tub of Red Vines on your way home, or making her favorite bacon Nutella sandwich, now those acts and sweet-nothings seem like chores and burdens. When you stop caring about doing nice things for your partner (and we mean both big and small things) it’s a sign that you’ve also lost some interest in the relationship itself. You’ve stopped showing up for each other. This isn’t to say that taking her aunt’s Chihuahua to the vet will cease to be annoying if your relationship is solid, but helping your partner out and putting in the small doses of effort that make her feel appreciated are ways to show your good faith and devotion.
7. You constantly suppress your own needs.
There’s give and take and then there’s rolling over completely. If you’ve found yourself in the latter position, that’s a red flag. Deferring to your partner’s needs, whether they are small sacrifices like always watching “Say Yes to the Dress” marathons, or big ones like moving to a new town so your partner can pursue his dream job, suppressing your own happiness for the sake of your lover is doomed to make you miserable, cranky, and resentful. If the power is dramatically off-balance, it’s going to do a number on one or both parties eventually. Real love flows easily in both directions.
8. Non-consensual non-monogamy (aka cheating) is routine.
File this under: Duh, but unless you’ve got an open agreement with your partner, cheating is a big red arrow pointing to splitsville. It goes back to the trust issue we spoke of earlier—how fun that was! So many references to sandwiches! Serial cheating is disrespectful and dishonest. Plus, you could give your partner gonorrhea. Next to a framed portrait of North Kardashian West, it’s the worst parting gift one could receive. We know monogamy is hard, but lying is harder, and so is hurting people you care about.
9. Your partner is your main source of stress.
There are so many craptacular things to be worried about in the world—the war on women’s reproductive rights, how income inequality is so vast it barely fits on one chart anymore, you’re running out of Baconnaise, etc.—but stress from your relationship shouldn’t be consuming your life. It shouldn’t even be near the top of your list of stresses. If it is, you’ve got problems (maybe even 99 of them). The majority of your mental faculties are far better served when not weighed down by relationship strife. If you find yourself in a place where you do more worrying than nurturing, it may be time to call it quits.
Follow @annapulley on Twitter.