1. When your practical side starts reminding you that there are plenty of other fish in the proverbial sea, you instinctively tell it to shut the fuck up. You don’t want to think about all the other great candidates out there—even the wealthier, more attractive, kinder ones. You don’t want to be reassured of your market value, either. You’d rather things just went back to the way they were.
2. When you picture your significant other hooking up with someone else, it makes your stomach turn and the hair on your arms stand tall, but not out of jealousy or possessiveness. It sickens you to know you’ve lost something so precious—the safe, loving intimacy that once defined your coupledom—and you desperately want that back, even if you’re not quite ready to do what it takes to resurrect it.
3. Being single doesn’t sound awesome, even if it means you get to have sex with the guy you’ve been crushing on at work forever. Or that you can finally go crazy on Tindr.
4. You entertain plenty of doubts and vengeful thoughts, but once you think your hypothetical plot all the way through, you quickly realize how dumb it would be to drain the bank account, cheat, or ransack the apartment out of anger. Exacting revenge on someone you care about won’t feel good.
5. You can’t imagine living with anyone except your boyfriend or girlfriend. After all, your wardrobe wouldn’t look quite right hanging next to anyone else’s—a ridiculous thought, maybe, but whatever.
6. You can’t imagine traveling with anyone but them, either. Your bras and underthings can’t be packed in a suitcase with anyone else’s—another ridiculous thought, maybe, but you’re okay with that.
7. Lately, hanging out always seems to end in fighting, but there’s no one else you’d rather waste time with. You want to binge-watch Netflix with your boyfriend or girlfriend, even if things are too contentious to risk deconstructing television plots.
8. No matter how nasty the arguments get, you still hold back the really nasty stuff. Something always stops you from going to the pitch-black place from which there’s no turning back.
9. You still like the way your partner smells in the morning, and not just because their scent is wonderfully familiar.
10. You respect your partner as a human, even if you hate their fucking guts right now.
11. You’re still physically attracted to them, too. You just don’t want to have sex with them ever again. You’ll have to, of course, eventually—when it’s time to make babies. They’re the only reasonable option for mothering or fathering your future children.
12. Once in a while, even now, your maddeningly obtuse partner manages to make you smile, reminding you that your inside jokes are awesomely resilient.
13. When you watch your significant other interact with strangers or acquaintances, you can’t help feeling a sense of pride for being associated with them. There’s value in being on the team and you know it on some level.
14. As terrible as things are, you feel automatically happy whenever your partner gets good news. No, you’re not that good of a person. But your vicarious pleasure could be a sign of undying affection.
15. No bad stretch seems to blunt your ability to intuit your significant other’s moods.
16. You never turn your “I’m available” light on all the way up when things get shaky.
17. It doesn’t make you feel that good when strangers hit on you, anyway. If anything, being hit on reminds you how hard it is to find someone worth holding onto.
18. You know how much work it will take to get back to the good place, but the work doesn’t scare you. You’re willing to do whatever it takes, even if you’re not quite ready to start yet.
19. You never forget the good place. When you think about your first few months as a couple, the blissful, early relationship feelings rise up from somewhere deep within to tickle your heart, reminding you that they’re still there, waiting to be relit.