Many people stay in unhealthy romantic situations due to some form of “love.” But more often than not, they’re more so captives of emotions other than love (fear, comfort or complacency for example) than the one thing they claim to be their reason for remaining committed to a less than deserving partner. This 4-part series will explore the many ways one can be “held hostage by love,” and offer some tell-tale signs that you may need to muster up courage and plan your exit before it is too late. Remember, committing to someone is and should always be a welcoming, willing and desired choice.

Here’s Part 1.

“We have history. We literally have built a life together. I’m not happy, but I’ve been through too much to let this go.”

Either we’ve been that couple or know one or ten who just shouldn’t be together. They remain in a relationship either for the kids, the crib, the fake ass life they’ve built or any reason other than truly loving, respecting and transforming each other. Honestly, they barely like or understand each other and have very little in common, but they look great on paper AND more importantly, they have “history.”

In other words, TIME and a yearning for a love that once was appears to be a solid reason for living in passionless, yet content existence.

History, history, history …

It seems like more and more couples are subscribing to the, “It’s cheaper to keep her” philosophy. No, love ain’t no fairy tale, but I’ll be damned if you should settle for who you’re “used to” at the expense of who you love. I understand that leaving someone who is familiar is far from easy. After all, when you committed to them, you did so with a forever or two in mind. We are taught to adhere to the mantra of, “for better or for worse,” no matter how bad it really is. But at what expense do you stay? How much sacrifice of oneself and/or their joy should be dolled out at the expense of “staying together?” How do you even know you’re staying due to history versus true love? Here are four ways that “Father Time’ may be holding you hostage in your relationship.

1) You recognized ages ago that you were not compatible.

One of the worse things a person can do is stay with someone because they’re a “good man” or “good woman.” People can be hella dope, but that doesn’t mean you they’re your life partner. If you can’t be in each other’s presence while doing absolutely nothing, or do not feel that spark …that chemistry …that passion at all, then you might want to rethink who you are committing to. If you view your significant other as more of a roommate than an excitable being who you can joyfully share your existence with, you may be headed down the road to settling. While you should life a live that fosters your own identity outside of your relationship, love is about partnership. If you are finding yourself less interested in BUILDING with your mate on all levels, and more interested in daydreaming about a more fulfilling partner, then you may want to rethink your commitment …which brings me to my next point.

2) You’re finding yourself drawn to other people romantically …and you act on those feelings.

It’s normal to be attracted to others. What isn’t so ordinary — or at least it isn’t supposed to be when your in a committed relationship — is receiving emotional, physical and sexual fulfillment from someone other than your mate. No, your significant isn’t supposed to fulfill all of your needs. We are multi-dimensional beings who crave a variety of experiences in the form of friends and family members who contribute to our wholeness as a being. But if you innately click with someone else then err uh …yeah. While cheating doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t love your mean, it certainly conveys a lack of fulfillment.

3) You no longer see your present mate as your future, but your past.

When you stay with someone simply due to the time, effort and work you’ve put into a relationship, you tend to remain more out of obligation to what’s been built versus a true love and desire to share life with him or her. Time is and always has been a robber of quality, and history can a robber of joy. What good is saying you’ve been together for a certain amount of time if you’re living a passionless, fruitless lie?

4) You believe that someone else is better suited to be your life partner.

Your mate just doesn’t do it for you anymore. He isn’t trying and she just doesn’t care. While you may share an attraction to someone else, your SPIRIT should be reserved for the one you are meant to share your world with. Spirit connections are very real and so are spiritual disconnections. If you can so easily plan a life with another in your mind, then it is best to go and live it.

Sometimes “history” is just that, history. We can plan to share our life with someone, but if our intuition is saying, “no” the best thing we can do is listen to it and not force a dead situation. If you are feeling trapped, the best thing to do is come to appreciate one fact: that giving up and letting go are two drastically different things. We are meant to experience abundant love and joy, and we’re meant to be with someone who is crazy about us, and we them.

Shantell E. Jamison is EBONY’s senior editor of love and relationships. Her book, “Drive Yourself in the Right Direction” is available on Amazon. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter @Shantell_em and Instagram @Shantell_em.