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Hanging In or Hanging On?

Jenna faced a crossroads that many singles come to when they’ve been in a relationship for a long period of time. She put it this way:

“Rick and I have been together for a year, and we’ve run into several problems in our relationship. Plus, some of the early romance has worn off and reality has set in—we’re not perfect and we’ve got some issues to deal with.” Here’s her dilemma: “I’ve been seriously considering whether we’re just going through a blah time that I should press through, or if there are signals that we should break up and move on.”

Another way to put it is: Are Jenna and Rick going through the kind of dry, rough patch nearly every couple experiences at some point, or are there red flags they shouldn’t ignore? Is Jenna “hanging in” with a partner who has all qualities of a lifelong partnership, or is she “hanging on” to a relationship that’s run its course?

Maybe you have been in a situation like Jenna’s. Every romantic relationship is unique and different, but here are ways to assess the hanging-in-or-hanging-on question:

You’re likely hanging on to a dead-end relationship if . . .

Your partner’s emotional health is suspect. No quality is more essential to the success of a relationship than emotional health. If the person you’re dating is self-absorbed, overly defensive, chronically negative, easily angered, dependent on substances, or anything else that indicates an emotional health deficit, it’s best to move on.

You question your partner’s character and integrity. Does your partner consistently demonstrate honesty, trustworthiness, and responsibility? If so, that’s a sign of strong character. If not, look out. The tendency toward deceitfulness and dishonesty has a way of spilling over into many areas of life.

Your values differ. Values are the principles that guide the way we live and make decisions. The list of values is nearly endless: honesty, generosity, kindness, volunteerism, and so on. If you and your partner differ substantially on any one major value–or several less significant ones—trouble is sure to come

You can’t resolve conflicts. In solid relationships, two people learn to manage their differences thoroughly and efficiently so that harmony prevails most of the time. Relationships fall apart when conflicts occur and seldom, if ever, get resolved.

You’re likely hanging in with a promising relationship if . . .

Your partner has all of your must-have and none of your can’t-stand qualities. The person who meets all of your carefully considered criteria for a life partner is someone worth investing more time in. If a partner has the qualities you’re looking for, err on the side of patience and persistence.

Both partners have the utmost respect for each other. Mutual respect is at the very core of enduring relationships. It confers dignity, honor, and high worth to the recipients. In contrast, lack of respect leads to all kinds of relational ills—putdowns, dishonesty, cheating—which are sure to sink a relationship eventually. The foundation is built on solid trust. Love and trust are as tightly intertwined as strands of a rope. When trust is broken, love is diminished and damaged. But when trust is diligently maintained, love grows stronger and stronger. Trustworthy partners know that every investment they make in the relationship will pay dividends.

Both individuals are unselfish and supportive. The best lovers are those who are generous with their time, affirmation, money, praise, and attention. If you notice that the person you’re with shows little regard for your wishes and opinions, is intent on getting his way, and consistently displays a me-first attitude, you’re probably in the presence of someone more selfish than selfless.

All relationships go through times of careful evaluation and scrutiny—as they should. Make sure you’re staying in or getting out for all the right reasons.