When to End Your Shitty Relationship, According to Dr. Ruth
If you want to make a Valentine swoon, legendary 89-year-old sex therapist Ruth Westheimer has some important advice: “Do not give them my latest book, okay?”
It’s not that Dr. Ruth, as she’s better known, opposes Valentine’s Day. “I'm all for it because it gives lovers an opportunity to buy some flowers or a card and to say to their significant other, ‘I love you.’” (Her own late husband was a bit of a V-Day Grinch, though, she says in her thick, German accent, with a laugh. “He thought it's an American invention.”)
But the thing is, her book Stay or Go—a manual for people who are stuck in shitty relationships—won’t do much to inspire confidence in your paramour. Westheimer sympathizes with every hopeless romantic who’s been to that dark place, waiting for a doomed romance to turn around. “Even if deep down they do know it, sometimes it's very difficult for them to admit that to themselves,” she says. She’s a proponent of couples therapy when hope and trouble come hand in hand. But there are a few red flags that mean it’s time to call it quits.
VIDEO: Dear Dr. Ruth, Sex Therapist
Here’s what to look out for, according to the doctor...
1. YOU’RE CONSTANTLY BORED
As couples spend more and more time together, they may replace romantic nights out with Netflix and Seamless—but that’s not what Westheimer means by boredom. The thing to watch out for, she says, is when “you do not look forward to being together.” That is the basis of a strong relationship, and missing it, “is the biggest warning sign.” Do you avoid going home because you just don’t feel like hearing about their day again? Not great. “When you really are not looking forward to see the partner or to have a talk, that's a sign.”
2. YOU’RE STUCK IN A NEVER-ENDING FIGHT
“Another warning sign is constant bickering,” says Westheimer. Every couple butts heads. But that should never become your primary activity together.
3. YOU NEVER TALK
Even worse than bickering, says Westheimer, is not talking at all. Some couples find themselves orbiting each other without ever really interacting. “Not having any relationship of talking to each other,” she says, gives you no chance to build a strong foundation together.
4. YOU READ HER BOOK AND FIND YOURSELF NODDING ALONG
Westheimer does not recommend her book to people who don’t already have doubts. “I don't want you to start having thoughts,” she warns. “It would be nice if you could say, at the end of having read the book, you know what? I’m going to make it work. We’ll go to a therapist. I'm going to talk to a trusted friend.” But if you do give it a read and find yourself mmhmm-ing at every scenario described, well, head for the door.
BUT! IF SEX IS THE ISSUE…
Many couples’ problems stem from diverging preferences in the bedroom, says Westheimer. But if that’s what’s on your mind, she says, don’t panic; it’s usually not a deal breaker. What is a deal breaker is shying away from having a conversation about sex. “There are plenty of books, plenty of programs making sure that people know how to pleasure each other, how to make sure that both are satisfied,” assures Westheimer.
When you do approach your partner about improving your sex life together, make sure to keep the mood upbeat, Westheimer instructs. “Turn it around carefully. Always put a positive spin. Because if you say ‘You’re a lousy lover,’” she says, “That's the first step to leaving.” (And then you can buy her book.)