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Relationships can be a wonderful part of life. In a perfect world, your partner is your biggest supporter and cheers you on as you strive for the things in life you really want. Unfortunately, the world isn’t perfect, and some relationships do more to hold you back than to enhance your life.

This isn’t to say that a partner who tells you quitting your job to go to Italy for a month is a bad idea is holding you back. There’s a difference between loving feedback and keeping you from achieving your dreams.

Feeling held back by your relationship also doesn’t mean you don’t love your partner either. That’s the most difficult part. What are you supposed to do if you’re torn between thinking about all the things you might do if you were single or even with someone else and still caring about your partner?

Is it really your relationship or is it you?

The first thing you need to do is determine what it is that’s actually causing you to feel held back. Is there something about your partner’s personality or their approach to life? Are they so controlling or negative that doing the things you want to is too difficult? Or is it possible that they are just a convenient scapegoat for your own behavior?

Sometimes fear is what really keeps us from moving forward. But admitting to yourself that you’re actually afraid is difficult and could force you to face truths about yourself that might be uncomfortable. It’s much easier to blame someone else, like your partner, for the things you’re unable to do.

“I really would like to go skydiving, but Stacey would freak out.”

“I’d love to try for that promotion, but it’s in New York, and Wendy would never want to move.”

“I’ve always wanted to write a novel, but Cindy never gives me any space.”

Rather than the women named in these statements being the problem, it’s possible that fear is what’s keeping these men from really moving forward.

It’s not just fear, however. Lack of confidence, feeling insecure in your own abilities, lack of experience, and depression are all things that can hold you back and make you feel like you are stuck.

So, before you completely convince yourself that it’s your relationship that’s the problem, you should take some time to examine yourself and your motivations. It could more you than them, and thus you may be trying to fix the wrong problem.

What if it is them?

However, if you think that the problem really is with your partner and your relationship, you will need to be as sure as possible before addressing things. Look for the following signs that your relationship is what’s holding you back.

  • Your partner belittles your goals. Strong, healthy relationships occur when each partner supports and respects the other. Maybe it sounds like a stretch to become the next CEO of your company or someday climb Mt. Everest, but if that’s your goal, then your partner should be willing to support it. Making your partner’s goals seem silly, unachievable, or unimportant isn’t fair, respectful, or loving.
  • They have cut you off from your friends. Maybe they haven’t come out and said you couldn’t see your friends or refused to hang out with them, but partners certainly can make things with friends difficult. If your partner is disinterested, rude, or aloof when it comes to your friends, it can leave you feeling isolated and alone.
  • You and your partner don’t want the same things. You don’t have to agree on everything or have the exact same interests, but you should see eye-to-eye on the big things like kids, religion, and where you want to live. If your ideas about those things differ, then there is likely to be a tug-of-war, and someone will lose if you don’t know how to resolve differences. That person will end up feeling like they have to give up things that are important to them and will likely feel stifled by the relationship.
  • They make you feel inadequate. Relationships should have a feeling of equality between partners. If one partner makes the other feel less than or disregards accomplishments or feelings, it will create division and undermine the confidence of the other partner. This can make one person feel like they’re being held back from the life they could be leading.
  • They try to control things. When the balance of control in a relationship is tipped too far toward one partner, the whole relationship suffers. One thing that makes a relationship strong is creating a partnership in which each person has an equal say in activities and other decisions. When that doesn’t exist, one person’s happiness suffers, and resentment can build, creating other problems.

If any of these signs sound familiar, then it’s entirely possible your relationship is holding you back from being happy, fulfilled, and achieving the things you want to achieve.

Can you change things?

Before deciding that the only option is to split up you need first to consider whether you can initiate positive changes in your relationship. It’s entirely possible that your partner has no idea how you feel and what they are doing. And if you still love them, it’s worth it to make every effort to save things.

If you have allowed their behavior to go on unchallenged for a long time and never expressed your dissatisfaction, then perhaps your partner thinks everything is fine. The only way to determine if you can shake the feeling of being held back is to have an open and honest conversation about how you feel and what you need.

If, on the other hand, you have thought through things and realize that the root of the problem lies within you, you’ll need to figure out how to get past your worries and move forward. In this case, it’s still worth having a conversation with your partner. It may turn out that their feedback is just what you need to propel yourself in the right direction.

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