1. They compare their current relationship to past relationships that were objectively worse. Just because a relationship is better than what you’ve had doesn’t mean it’s right.
2. They make assumptions about what is and isn’t possible were they to break up with their partner. Sure, the dating pool is far slimmer than it was 2, 5, or 10 years ago, but that doesn’t mean people don’t find one another after the age of 25. It may seem rational, but that doesn’t make it a good reason to stay.
3. They make a mental list of everything that’s “right” about the relationship, and that logical reassurance is what provides their emotional contentment. In other words: they are happy because it makes sense, not because they’re just into the person.
4. They claim to “just know” they’re with their soulmate, though the person is acting in decidedly un-soulmate-like ways. Millions of people believe millions of things about what is and isn’t right and destined and perfect for them. They are, very often, wrong. (Almost everyone who gets married is basically convinced they’re with the right person. Divorce rates indicate otherwise.)
5. They blame circumstances. So-and-so can’t commit because they’re still heartbroken from their last relationship, they’re working on their career right now, and so on. The reality is that if someone wants to be with you, they will be. That’s all.
6. They focus on why they’re afraid to leave more than they do why they want to. They realize that being the only one responsible for their lives, or having to date again, or potentially being single for a stretch of time is daunting, and so they stay because that’s somehow scarier than the alternative: being with the wrong person forever.
7. They confuse comfort for love. Not wanting to disrupt the patchwork of the life they’ve spent a long time building can be a pretty compelling reason to stay in a relationship, but being used to something isn’t the same as actually wanting it.
8. They believe their partner’s words more than they do their actions. It’s easy to say that you love someone and want to be with them, but unless your behavior supports your promises, they mean nothing at the end of the day.
9. They remain unknowingly in love with the idea of someone. They love the fact that they’re handsome or sexy or that they work in one field or another, or that they’re such a social butterfly. Essentially, they are in love with how the world sees that person, and how impressive they are. They’re not in love with their experience of the person themselves.
10. They remain unknowingly in love with someone’s potential, not their reality. They love that they have the ability to be kind – though they exert it sparingly – or that they are on the road to becoming a successful entrepreneur – though they’re more talk than action – or that they know they “someday” want a relationship – though they clearly don’t want one now.
11. They remain unknowingly in love with someone’s future, not their present. They love the fact that with this person, they could have the ring and the home and at the very least, a security blanket – someone to come home to, someone who provides a sense of structure and certainty in some way or another.
12. They find “signs.” Everybody who ever has even has just a crush on anybody knows that when your brain is fixated on one person or thing, you begin to see them everywhere. This is not the Universe saying that you’re meant to be together, this is your brain’s association mechanism validating what it wants to believe is true. You only see what you look for.
13. They let other people’s opinions inform their emotions. When their parents and their friends and their extended families all love them with their current partner, it almost begins to convince them that they are indeed with the right person, whether they’ve realized it or not.
14. They think they need time to “see how they feel.” Too much indecision in a relationship is the most glaring, obvious sign of all: you are absolutely sure of how you feel or of what’s really going on, and absolutely terrified to be honest with yourself about that reality.
15. They claim the person is “everything they’ve always wanted,” which is just another way to say they chose a partner based on the person they used to be, not the person they are now.
16. They conveniently “forget” about everything that’s wrong as soon as things begin to smooth over. They fight every single weekend, and then as soon as they’re feeling a bit better about the situation, stop talking about it entirely. They use the few “good” moments in-between all of the glaring incompatibilities and issues to sustain them for a bit. But of course, a shaky bridge doesn’t hold up for long.