I am not exactly qualified to give 'how-to' dating advice.
I am single. I have never lived with a significant other. Hell, my Tinder picture is me sitting in a hot tub in a business suit. (I probably could've stopped at "Tinder picture.")
Clearly, I am not in the middle of my happily-ever-after.
I am in the middle of a lot of stuff. For example, I'm in the middle of watching "Grey's Anatomy" on Netflix, a workout plan, learning how to cook something besides pasta, planning trips to see friends and making things up when someone expects me to list hobbies.
A wonderful relationship, however, is not on that list, but neither is a half-hearted relationship.
I'm often conflicted when I talk to friends who stay in unhappy relationships because they fear being single. I'm even more conflicted when I catch myself doing the same thing.
It's very hard to end something, to look at your relationship and ask yourself, "Am I happy? Is this still what I want?"
What if the answer is no?
It's difficult to throw that big muscular arm off your shoulder and waltz back into single life, or as we like to think of it, the black hole of perpetual loneliness.
I'm not going to tell you what the red flags are in your relationship. You know exactly what hurts you and where you draw the line.
What I will tell you is, it's OK to leave a relationship without knowing what the next step is or without knowing who the next step is.
Walking away from a relationship is not easy. But if staying in it is doing more harm than good, keep these few things in mind:
Life can't be outlined.
We're used to having a plan. Kindergarten started at age 5. Middle school was around ages 12 to 14 (or whenever your body decided to produce the most B.O. and the least self-awareness). Then came high school, promptly followed by college. Then, it's our job to find a career.
Up next after that: marriage and children (by age 30, obviously).
Until this point in our lives, everything has been planned. Everything we've worked through includes a clear path to a new phase of our lives.
And now, we see engagements posted all over Facebook, and we stand in weddings, embracing the joy we see in our friends.
But with that joy comes sheer terror that we're not on track. If we're not progressing through a long-term relationship by the time we hit 25, we're never going to achieve this goal. We're doomed. Game over. Thanks for playing — don't forget to adopt a cat on your way out.
However, feeling that you've let the wrong person go doesn't indicate that you'll miss out on a lifetime of happiness. Rather, the right time will present itself, along with the right person.
You deserve a positive internal monologue.
A lot of things contribute to your thoughts about yourself.
It's your mom telling you how valued you are, your best friend scolding you for doubting yourself, your hometown friend explaining her favorite thing about you or your college roommate giving you a pep-talk before an exam.
It's also your favorite coach pushing you to excel, your sibling calling you out on your bullshit and your dad asking why you thought your irresponsible decision was a good one.
This voice inside your head has been built, altered and tailored by the people you've chosen to prioritize in your life. These people love you, and their voices all come together with one big filter: your own voice.
When you make room for a significant other, you start to prioritize their thoughts, opinions, their perception of you. If they aren't supporting you, loving you or making you happy, the voice in your head becomes more focused on your insecurities and less so on your accomplishments.
Letting go of someone bringing you down obviously eliminates that negativity and cranks up the volume of the internal encouragement you used to hear.
You have not failed.
Walking away before you've resolved something feels like giving up. And a relationship is no exception.
Often, it feels like throwing in the towel and saying, "I'm not good enough to fix this." And that's especially difficult when it's something you desperately want to work.
But a relationship is not a textbook you can study or a formula you can memorize. You can't stay an hour late practicing your romance. It's not something you can fix by yourself, either.
By all means, do your part. Reflect on yourself, give it your all, talk it out and listen. Do what you can to make your half of things the best they can be.
But remember, your half is just that: only one half. If the other half of your relationship isn't doing its part, the relationship can never be whole, and you will never be happy.
Make peace with yourself, forgive yourself and believe in yourself. Yes, if you leave, it might just be you and yourself for a bit. But you should embrace that because a whole and happy you is invaluable. And for now, it is enough.