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Sex + Relationships

3 Signs Your Relationship is Holding You Back (& 2 Signs It’s Not)

Being in a relationship can be an amazing experience. But being in a relationship can also feel like a real burden when one or both of you feel like you might be holding each other back. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if you are, plus it can be a difficult conversation to have. More than that, though, sometimes you care about your SO so much that you don’t want to believe that he or she might keep you from pursuing bigger things. No matter how you might be experiencing it, it’s a tough topic, so we’ve spoken to some collegiettes about how you can tell if your relationship is holding you back.

Your relationship is holding you back if…

1. You’re so focused on your SO that you can’t focus on yourself

It’s totally normal to focus on your partner in a relationship, but when it gets to a point where you can’t focus on yourself anymore, there is a problem. “I was in a relationship for three years, and the main reason it ended was because we both felt we were holding each other back,” *Jordan* says. “I was super invested in his world that I never focused on myself. After it ended I realized I had no clue what I was doing with my life.” Jordan says that after she and her SO split, she was able to discover so much about herself that she wasn’t able to do with him. Of course, when you’re dating someone you should be invested in their world, but you shouldn’t lose yourself in it. If you find you can’t focus on yourself and your goals in your relationship, then you should consider spending some time apart.

2. You’re losing yourself

Going along with that, losing yourself in a relationship can be a big red flag alerting you that your relationship might be holding you back. “If you’re at a point in your relationship where you’re sacrificing things you enjoy, it’s time to move on,” Rachel Petty, a recent graduate of James Madison University, says. “I was dating a guy who didn’t like to go out as much as I did. He’d beg me to stay in, and I’d miss out on nights with my friends. If the person you’re with is causing you to be less like yourself, they’re holding you back.” It’s important to strike a balance between doing things your SO likes to do and things you like to do, but if you feel like you’re starting to change yourself and what you like to do to fit your SO, then like Rachel said, it might be time to move on.

3. You and your SO have two very different life paths

It can be incredibly difficult when you realize that you and your SO have two different life paths, primarily because you are pursuing two different careers. “I’ve been in a relationship for five years with a guy since sophomore year of high school, and I’m coming to realize our career paths (and life paths) are going to be so different,” *Laura* says. “Pre-med and business don’t really seem to have the same life path.” When one of you is staying in school for another four years (or longer) and the other wants to start their career in a different place, you might end up holding each other back because you’re now in two different places in life, which means it might be best for you to focus on yourself for a little bit.

Related: 3 Little Things You Should Stop Doing For a Healthier Relationship

Your relationship is not holding you back if…

1. You can communicate successfully about what you both need

You’ve heard it before: communication is key. And it truly is, especially when it comes to determining if your relationship is holding you back. “Ultimately it comes down to: do you want to be together and make it work?” Jackie* says “If you do, you have to work through it like (my SO and I) did. We said, ‘Okay, this is what I need to do in order to get to where I need to be and if it means we don’t see each other for a few days or speak heavily, that’s what it needs to be.’” Jackie says it’s definitely not an easy conversation to have, but if you genuinely see a future with your SO, then it’s a conversation worth having, especially so you two don’t end up holding each other back.

2. Your SO is your biggest cheerleader

If your SO is your biggest supporter, always encouraging you to go for your dream, and you do the same for him or her, then you guys are probably not holding each other back. That doesn’t mean it will be easy, but it does mean it will be worth it in the long haul. Emily Veith, a recent graduate of California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, says her boyfriend is a big supporter of hers. “He supports me doing the things I love, and is there cheering me on when I walk into interviews for legislative offices (I want to work in legislature.)” she says. “Also, he gives me time to focus on me. For example, when I was trying to complete my senior project before I graduated in June, he stepped aside and said I needed to focus on my project so I could accomplish my goal.” Her bottom line: “When your SO stands by your side and supports you and your dreams and helps you to accomplish those dreams, that’s when you know they are a keeper.” We couldn’t agree more.

Of course, what works for everyone in his or her own relationships is completely individualistic. But it is important to look within yourself to figure out if you can accomplish what you want in life while also being with your SO. Whatever the answer might be, it’s okay. What’s important is that you’re doing what’s best for you right now, and sometimes that’s not what other people want. At the end of the day, though, you have to take the best care of you and your dreams as you can, even if that means you’re riding solo for a little while. Your dreams are worth it.

*Names have been changed.

Micki Wagner is a senior at the University of Missouri-Columbia where she is pursuing a major in Magazine Journalism and a minor in Classics. When she's not writing, she can be found watching beauty videos on YouTube, wandering around bookstores and daydreaming about her celebrity crushes. In addition to writing for Her Campus, Micki also writes more personal pieces on her blog at https://theresidentialblonde.com/. You can follow her on Instagram @mickimouse95.