Despite what you’ve been taught in school, that small voice in the back of your mind isn’t necessarily your conscience — it may be the last fully functioning piece of your brain, desperately trying to tell you that the person you’ve been seeing isn’t even close to being your soul mate. As unwelcome as this conclusion is, isn’t it better to come to it by yourself rather than being lectured about it by an expert? No? Well, in that case, read on for a list of signs that it’s time to get back into the trenches and continue that trudge toward true love.
1. Your date is devoted to another. “On a regular basis, he spoke to his mother more than he did to me,” says Bethany from Minneapolis, MN. “He talked to her every day, and then he would compare me to her. She has him on such a short leash that he hasn’t ever made a major decision without her!”
2. Your spending habits don’t match. “If she shops to make herself feel good, and he feels better when money is saved for the future, look out: irritation, frustration, and arguments can result,” says Rita Benasutti, Ph.D., a therapist in Boca Raton, FL. In other words: Get out now, while your credit-card balance is still manageable.
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3. Your politics are too different. Although there are some famous liberal/conservative couples out there, “If you have opposite ideologies, it’s usually a deal-breaker,” says John Seeley, author of Get Unstuck! The Simple Guide to Restart Your Life. So, “if you find yourself saying things like ‘I can’t believe you voted for him’ or ‘I can’t even kiss someone who likes that person,’” it’s time to move on.
4. Your sweetie just doesn’t get your jokes. Take it from me: If that obscure Monty Python reference provokes polite but uncomprehending giggles on a first date, it’ll be met with frosty silence six months down the road. The same formula applies if she thinks Garrison Keillor is hilarious, but you’re more like Homer Simpson banging on the TV set and shouting, “Be more funny!”
5. Your love interest isn’t ready. “I met someone over a year ago, and we really hit it off,” says Michele from Atlanta, GA. “He would call me from work daily, saying that he missed me and couldn’t wait to see me again. But the closer we got, the more he started to pull back. Finally, I threw in the towel, realizing that even though we were compatible in many ways, he was not emotionally ready for a relationship.”
6. Your honey wants kids and you don’t (or vice versa). “Often, a person is so happy to find The One that he or she assumes love, marriage and having children go together, but for the other person, being a twosome and being in love is enough,” says Dr. Benasutti. “It’s a good idea to have a serious heart-to-heart talk with your potential mate to understand his or her perspective.”
7. Your tastes are too different. “The number-one reason for failed relationships is what I call ‘refinement incompatibility,’” says Zannah Hackett, author of The Ancient Wisdom of Matchmaking. “Some of us are content to go camping, while others can’t survive outside a Ritz-Carlton hotel room. Some things are negotiable, but refinement incompatibility is not one of them, no matter how magnetically attracted you are to each other.”
8. Your lifestyles clash. If you’re a corporate executive pulling in six figures a year, you’ve probably figured out by now whether you can tolerate a man or woman who earns an order of magnitude less in terms of salary. No harm, no foul: ending things now is better than leading someone along (or unexpectedly sticking your date with the tab at that expensive restaurant).
9. Your first connection fizzles. “When we first met, the chemistry wasn’t there,” says Lauren from New York, speaking of a relationship she had high hopes for... at first. “Sometimes that attraction develops as you get to know a person and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s very different from instantly having that sizzle of chemistry when your date glances at you for the very first time.”
10. Your relationship has you on edge. “I believe that The One strengthens you, lifts you up and does not produce anxiety,” says Kathryn Alice, author of Love Will Find You. “When something isn’t right, your intuition keeps trying to let you know by putting nagging doubts in your mind as well as continual anxiety. This is a gut thing, and your gut is rarely wrong.”
Bob Strauss is a freelance writer and children’s book author who lives in New York City. He’s also written the Dinosaur guide on About.com, the online information network owned by the New York Times.