THE STREETS DON'T LOVE YOU BACK

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We are all creatures of habit, which alas means, many of us stay in a relationship even when it sucks or a niggling feeling inside tells us that something is definitely out of balance. We disregard warning signs because we so want to believe that issues will phase out - that the other person will change. Other times, we stay because conflict is hardwired in our upbringing and so, in a twisted way, dysfunction feels normal and familiar.

Whatever the grounds, it's important to note that warning signs don't necessarily mean that the relationship is on its way to kaput. "A warning sign is exactly that, a warning," says Dr. Noelle Nelson, author of Dangerous Relationships: How to Identify and Respond to the Seven Warning Signs of a Troubled Relationship. "A label on a medicine bottle doesn't mean you will suffer the side effects, just as the presence of a warning sign in a relationship doesn't mean it will develop into a violent domestic relationship."

With that said however, it is important to pay attention to the red flags since awareness is what paves the way towards improvement. If your partner is not willing to change certain key behaviors, then at least you have the knowledge to move on.

Here are some warning signs to look out for:

Blame game
Of course, it's natural and healthy to occasionally argue with your partner. Disagreements and opposing points of views can actually be a good thing. They add a fiery element to the relationship, and prompt you to look at things from a fresh perspective. What's not cool is if your partner forbids you from having your own opinion, always claiming that you're wrong. Ask yourself - can you agree to disagree?

Also, be wary if the supposed love of your life pushes your feelings aside and says things like, "I don't want to talk about this s*&t." If that's the case, you shouldn't be talking to them period! Nasty and sarcastic remarks are also reason for alarm. Your partner may claim they're just joking but they're simultaneously eroding your self-confidence. The remarks become more devastating as time goes by and then before you know it, you're in an emotional crisis, says Deborah A. Filler, a Toronto-based clinical therapist and non-denominational minister.

Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde
If you're constantly walking on egg shells instead of fluffy clouds, it's time to note that a red flag is flapping wildly in the wind. Just because your partner found out that they owe $5000 in taxes this year doesn't mean they get to come home and criticize, demean and cut you to the quick. If your lover regularly exhibits sudden personality changes then also beware. It's not normal to be Mr. or Ms. Wonderful one day and Mr. or Miss Nasty the next. What's really going on? Is this conduct influenced by drinking or drugs? If so, then you definitely have a problem on your hands.

Green-eyed monster
In a healthy relationship, the two of you chose to come together. You re-commit every day and you are free to come and go. You can be yourself. But if your significant other tries to control what you do, where you go and who you see, something is wrong. Your partner should not tell you which friends to have, what outfit to wear or whether you can wear cologne to dinner. And they should definitely not check up on you, make unfounded accusations or bombard you with questions about where you were and who you were with. If this is occurring, it's time to take a stand and address the obvious insecurity issues abounding.

Let's (not) get physical
Probably the most brutal red flag is if your partner holds you down, pushes, shoves, slaps or hits you. No person shoud EVER be touched out of anger. If this is the case, you simply need to leave and get help. In that order. Love yourself enough to walk away. Then try and figure out how you got into the situation in the first place so that it never repeats itself.

Square pegs
Basically, if you're upset more than you're happy, then something is awry. A relationship shouldn't constantly feel like hard work or like you're trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Perhaps you've been making excuses thus far regarding your partner's less than adequate behavior (read: co-dependency), but it's now time to listen to yourself. Tune in. Is your internal guidance system screaming at you to get out? Don't pretend not to know what is deep inside of you.

Most people find themselves in at least one bad situation in a lifetime. It's not what happens to you, it's how you handle it. If your partner displays any of these traits, try and speak to them first. If nothing changes, suggest counseling or assess whether or not you wish to remain in the relationship and take steps to better your life....

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