If you are unmarried and in a long-term relationship, you ought to break up now, because who has the time to wait around? And no, I don't mean "wait around for a proposal." I mean stop wasting your time in a relationship with someone who doesn't make you truly happy when you could be out exploring the world or meeting "the one."
I admit that every relationship — good, bad, messy, too long, or too brief — serves a purpose and helps you get to where you are meant to be. But, at some point, if you are unsure of where the relationship is going, end it. It's a lesson I've learned the hard way and one that helped me know when to ditch the guys that weren't working and to know when to keep the one that was. There are reasons why you might be staying in long-term relationship leading to nowhere, but none of them are because you are happy.
You might be stuck and don't want to mess with the status quo, and that's okay. I was stuck in my first long-term relationship, too. When I graduated college, I left my small town in Pennsylvania behind to move to New York City with a boyfriend I met that summer. In NYC where rents are sky high, most relationships begin, continue, or end out of financial necessity. Couples often break up when one person finds a better deal on an apartment. Or relationships are fast-tracked when two-bedrooms are too expensive, like in my case.
So at 22, that's how I went from dating to locked into a relationship at the time when I had the whole world at my fingertips. I stayed in that relationship for nine years until neither of us could hide our unhappiness and we ended it. Nine years! That's a long time to stay in a relationship that was barely romantic because I was afraid of change.
I have so many friends who settle for relationships that are just OK. Sometimes they are sticking it out for a ring and sometimes they say marriage just isn't for them. That's a lie, too. Everyone I've ever known who's said that — including myself — is because they were in an unhappy relationship. Some pretend that their long-term relationships are as serious as marriages (I was one of those people), but it's not. There's a reason why you're in a long-term relationship and not a marriage: because you don't want to be married to that person. The majority of people are in this type of relationship, and you should just end it now and stop dragging it out. The long-term "stuck relationship" is just not going to work out well for you.
If I wasn't being stuck, I was being stupid. I stayed in the next relationship for three years because I stupidly ignored clear signs that it was going nowhere. I was attracted to drama — which at the time I called passion — and it was exciting enough to stick with it. This is the relationship where one minute you're in love and the next you might be breaking up. Your friends likely roll their eyes every time they have to suffer through hearing another one of your fights. There's no reason anybody should be in a long term relationship like this one. You know who you are, end it.
There are exceptions to my theory — some long-term unmarried relationships work out happily ever after — but I believe most people fall into the stuck or stupid category. They fall into their marriages or just drag on relationships forever before breaking up.
After a nine-year and then a three-year relationship that went nowhere, I did something drastic. I spent the next year aggressively working on myself, figuring out what I wanted, and what I would not longer accept in a relationship. I bought the book, Calling in the One — a seven-week program filled with daily exercises to help you be "truly open and ready to create a loving, committed, romantic union."
It helped me realize that life is short and I did not want to waste time with anyone that wasn't right for me. The minute that feeling of knowing the person probably wasn't right for me came to mind, I cut the date loose and moved on. My motto was: "Next!"
I met my husband online while he was living in Canada and I was in New York City. We fell in love in three days and the day we met in person — three weeks later was the day we moved into together. We were engaged and married six months later.
My past relationships and my year of hard work helped me realize that when you meet the one that you can't live without, you don't live together for years and years. You move quick because you know. It's like what Harry said to Sally in When Harry Met Sally: "When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."
Now, I feel like I don't have enough days in my lifetime to spend with my husband and that's how you want to feel about the person you choose to spend your life with.
Otherwise, what's the point?