Is Your Partner Holding You Back? Answer 5 Questions to Find Out

In the course of a lifetime, people change. Your interests evolve, dreams come and go, and the life you want to live may take a dramatic turn. Change is natural, but it can get complicated when you and your partner don’t share the same life goals anymore. Maybe when you met, you both wanted a house in the suburbs, kids, and stable jobs, but now all you want is the freedom to explore and travel the world. When your projected life paths don’t match, it can lead to a major setback in your relationship. Suddenly this person who you love so much may make you feel trapped as you realize there is no way you could share a happy, fulfilling future together.

When your relationship is stalled or feels like it is holding you back, it may be time to re-evaluate it, your life goals, and your partner. By asking yourself a few probing questions and answering them in a truthful manner, you can determine if your partner is actually holding you back, and if fulfilling your goals and dreams is worth the potential loss of your relationship.

1. What exactly do you want to accomplish?

man hiking in the mountains

Ask yourself what your own long-term goals are. | Philipp Guelland/Getty Images

It may be easy to elaborate on your dream of becoming an actor or your goal of living abroad, but keep a broad scope in response to this question. Go through each major area of your life and determine what life goals matter most. What sort of relationship do you want? Career goals? Do you want a family? If so, when? Touch on where you want to live and what sort of lifestyle you want for yourself. Once you have your overall life goals written out, it will make it easier to see where your current relationship and unfulfilled dreams fall within your master plan.

2. What’s stopping you from achieving your life goals?

Man exploring by himself

Take an honest look at your life and ask yourself what’s stopping you from doing exactly what you want. | iStock.com

This may seem like a simple enough question, but it can take guts to answer it honestly. What’s holding you back from living the ideal life you outlined in response to the question above? You may quickly jump to point the finger at your unsupportive partner, but is it really their fault you’re not fulfilling your life goals? Or could it be more complicated than that? Keep in mind that money, time, courage, and family obligations can play a hefty role in limiting your dreams, and let’s not forget about the biggest factor of all: you. Before you blame your partner, take a moment to determine if your own insecurities and fears may play a role in holding you back as well.

3. Have you been communicating clearly?

a traveler at the airport waiting for their flight

For some, life goals include traveling. | iStock.com

If you’ve determined that your partner is the sole or primary reason you’re not able to move forward to live the life that you want, take a step back and make sure that you’ve been communicating your needs and desires with them in an open, honest way. Unless they really suck, your partner wants what’s best for you, but they won’t know what you need unless you tell them. Evaluate the ways in which you’ve shared your goals, aspirations, needs, and wants. Have you told your partner in a serious manner that you want to make certain changes to your life? By not expressing your needs in a clear way, you could be sabotaging your own relationship by resenting your partner for something that they don’t even know they’re doing.

4. What will the new reality actually look like?

senior couple holding hands

Have an idea of what your dreams, goals, and plans will look like. | iStock.com/Jacob Ammentorp Lund

Before you take the plunge and either let go of your partner or let go of your dreams, take a brief moment to envision both realities. You are already well aware of your current reality and the areas that are unsatisfying, but before you make a drastic change that can’t be undone, make sure that you are picturing your desired reality accurately. There will be things that suck, places that are challenging, and some days you may miss your partner and your current life. Make sure you’re ready to give up the good things in exchange for the fulfillment of creating the life you’ve imagined.

5. What do you need to let go of?

feet in front of two arrows painted on the road

Think about what you need to let go of to achieve your goals. | iStock.com

You’re at a crossroads and once you’ve pictured both paths and destinations in a realistic manner, all that’s left to do is choose a route and start walking. It may be hard to admit to yourself that in order to move forward, you have to let go of your partner and the life you’ve built together. It may be equally as difficult to realize that the dreams and goals you’ve been obsessing over aren’t realistic or need to be put on hold. Be gentle with yourself as you make this decision and be honest with your partner about where you’re at and what support you need.