I've been reading a lot of stories from ladies my age and older, in which they recount crappy relationships that they stayed in too long. Somehow the stories are just all coming out around the same time, and what girl doesn't love to bitch to her friends about the asshole she dated once? It's good to be able to talk to your friends about some terrible thing you went through or awful decision you made, and hear them say "oh, honey, I been there too" or "wow screw that!" or "you deserve better and I hope (s)he rots."It's cathartic.
So, as I've been listening, I've been noticing some common patterns across some of these stories and I thought I'd point them out to the world to save everyone from letting some trifling so-called love interests take too much of their time, hearts, and strength.
People who never put you first now will not start to later. You're not always going to come first-- not even for your "soulmate" / "other half" / "The ONE." Sometimes their mom will come first. Or their health. Or their dog because their dog is vomiting and your wanting to go see the new Hunger Games movie is not more important than helping their sick dog. People also shouldn't expect you to always put them first. "Sorry, Dan, I can't do our scheduled skype because I have to bail my sister out of jail." That sentence should be met with a "well shit, you do what you gotta do babe, I hope she's okay and that this gets handled painlessly" not a "you never cared about me, I can't believe you'd rather spend time with your screw-up sister than with me!" That said, if someone never or rarely puts you before things that are not that important, they are not going to suddenly start. You can't slip them a love potion that will suddenly end their habit of ditching you in favor of re-watching Fight Club alone.
If you are more concerned with losing someone else than you are with losing yourself, there is a problem. If your significant other, or sig-O as I like to say, consistently threatens to break up with you (or otherwise ditch you) in order to control you, then obviously (s)he's not into you-- (s)he's into puppets. Recognize that if all it takes is hanging out with your friends for an extra hour or gaining a few pounds to make your sig-O consider dumping you, they probably don't care about you that much at all. Don't let anyone tell you that you'll never be able to get someone as good as them and scare you into staying-- because they're a piece of crap for saying stuff like that and if it's him/her or no one, then you're probably better off alone. Love yourself enough to know that you are a beautiful, complex, wonderful, dynamic person, and that someone who sees that will not undermine your independence or manipulate you emotionally. The world needs you in it, and it needs the you that you are, and not the you a controlling sig-O forces you to be.
Make sure your boundaries are respected and your needs are met. Sometimes people don't have the same needs, and that's okay, but it might mean that you're not a good match. Sometimes the issue is that one person's a homebody and the other is a partier, and the partier guilts the homebody into partying and the homebody feels miserable and then resentful. That's not healthy! Other times, it's sex. One person wants lots of sex, other other person isn't ready, or doesn't want that much. Respect what your partner wants and doesn't want, and if you are not mutually aligned in your needs to the point where you're making yourselves or each other miserable, break it off!
There are a lot of really good, totally valid reasons to call it quits. You can still have feelings for each other, you can still care about each other-- that's not mutually exclusive to breaking up! Toxic relationships are not toxic because they are so awful they fall apart immediately-- it's because they linger and poison your life. Take Cady Heron's advice from Mean Girls and suck the poison out-- even if the poison is really hot and a good kisser and cooks a delicious lasagna. You can even break up with someone over the fact that they snore if it really is making you miserable and there really is nothing that's going to change the situation. Sometimes people will try to convince you to settle, but it's really just a choice you gotta make-- are you willing to learn to live with it? Is he/she willing to get it fixed somehow? If the answer to both is no, then that's your answer right there. Maybe snoring is a "silly" reason to break up, but if all it takes is a silly reason to break you up, then there was probably a deeper issue than just the snoring (even if it was just not caring enough).
Never trust someone who tells you your feelings are stupid, invalid, or pointless. If something hurts you, it hurts you. That matters, whether it's the death of a family member or it's your sig-O forgetting to call you back. Be fair in how you assess the situation, but never let anyone tell you you are wrong for how you feel. People who tell you you shouldn't be upset are disrespecting you as a person, disregarding your feelings, belittling you, and can even be setting you up to feel worthless so you are more easy to control. I hear about this when it comes to cheaters-- they'll try to call you "crazy" or "paranoid" or "jealous bitch." People who call you those things are not deserving of your time.
You don't owe anyone anything. (*Except maybe family.) You don't owe him or her "closure" so don't get a coffee with him or her to "just talk" if you really don't want to. You don't owe anyone a second chance if they have treated you poorly. You don't owe anyone sex or a kiss because they decided to foot the bill for your date. You don't have to stay with someone because they helped you through a rough time if they're making you miserable now.
Watch how someone treats others-- that is who they really are. Any butthead can be nice to people they care about or people they think might be valuable-- but how does he/she treat waiters at restaurants? Your friends? Your family? Don't forget to see who someone is not just to you, but to the rest of the world.
If you are more in love with the person you knew (or imagined) in the past than you are with the person standing in front of you, it's time to get out. Relationships are really good life experiences, but not all of them are meant to last forever. Some relationships, like milk, have an expiration date-- and they start going bad after that. People grow apart. That's okay, and it's not a good guy / bad guy deal. You can fall out of love. Don't stay with someone for the person they were two years ago, because there is someone out there who will love them for who the are today and tomorrow.
A real partner will care about you, respect you, communicate with you, make you feel fulfilled and supported, and be excited to grow with you. Don't settle! Relationships are hard work, but don't let that fool you into thinking they should be miserable, unfulfilling, and damaging!