“I’m not saying this to shake you up/I’m just saying this to wake you up/It’s all good when we’re making love/All I ask is don’t take our love for granted…”—Lil Wayne

On more than one occasion, I’ve been in relationships where I felt like I was being taken for granted. I was 100% committed to the union, but continued to accept a lackluster 50% commitment from my mate. There were countless times where I’d want my significant other’s love, support and affection, only to be greeted with a “We’re going to see each other later, so I don’t need to check on you during the day,” or a “You know corporate functions aren’t my thing, so I’m just gonna chill at the crib.”

Few emotions are worse than the feeling of being taken for granted. You pour your heart and soul into making a relationship work, endure sacrifices that sometimes include forsaking your own happiness for that of another, only to come up short on the receiving end.

Often we stay longer than necessary, in hopes of one day being able to look back on this period as one that we “got through together.” Hope is the main reason why we hold on to toxic relationships. It’s the one emotion greater than fear, and in my opinion, the most powerful emotion of all. But hope is not enough. Hope will not save your relationship; but realizing that you should never get too comfortable will.

Yes, your life partner should be someone who you can be your full and complete self with. Ideally, you have a relationship based on solid, raw, genuine communication and you accept each other for who you are and who you are becoming.

That is not the type of comfort I’m referring to.

Usually after a number of years (or sometimes months even), one or both parties get comfortable. The dinner dates stop. The surprise flowers sent “just because” are few and far between, if present at all. There aren’t any more “good morning” texts or phone calls to express that “I’m thinking about you.” The relationship goes from moments of elation to an all but dismissive routine. In some cases it feels like the one who tries to keep up with the initial practices and behaviors that brought you together in the first place is a nuisance.

Your “love” becomes more of an obligatory routine than a freely given practice that you look forward to. If you don’t hear from each other for the whole day, it’s no big deal. It’s as if you are living two separate lives, and see each other while you’re at home by default.

Here’s the problem with some people. Once they realize that they “got you,” they get cozy. Instead of continuing to do what they did to capture your love, attention and affection, they spend their time pursuing other options. “Other options” can sometimes be a new love interest or other interests in general. A breeding ground for separation is underway, and it happens well before you opt to split up.

No one should have the expectation that things will be exactly like they were in the beginning, because life still has to happen. But there shouldn’t be such a difference that you start to question who it is you’ve committed to. You shouldn’t feel like you’re involved with a completely different person.

Those of us who feel taken for granted do one of three things after communicating to our partners that there’s trouble in paradise. We check out of the relationship; we stay and live miserably with our cries falling on deaf ears; or we plan and execute our exit. The first two solutions are terrible and will only result in further unhappiness for both parties involved. They also subliminally reinforce the notion that our mate’s actions are acceptable.

But the third option, leaving even before you actually walk out the door, is one that’s powerful.

When you wise up and start looking in the direction of someone who truly appreciates you, s/he will be left wondering what the f*ck happened. It offers a much needed reality check—one your mate most likely thought would never occur.

I would never advise someone to leave someone for someone else. That’s a disaster waiting to happen. But leaving him or her for yourself? That’s another story.

Life is too short to be stuck in dead-end situations where only one person benefits. Complacency and joy do not go hand in hand.

If you notice that you’re drifting apart from your significant other, verbalize your concerns and give your mate the opportunity to demonstrate corrected behavior. How they react will determine how much they value you and your relationship. But even then, you must be careful. It could be a genuine attempt to correct the issue, or an act of doing “just enough” to satisfy you for the time being. Only time will tell.

We each have a choice in who we choose to align ourselves with romantically, and it shouldn’t take anyone having to lose someone to realize his or her value. For those of you who are overlooking your mate, I encourage you to really think about whether or not you want to be with them. If you do, then act like it. Show appreciation in the ways you did initially to woo him or her. Support his or her passions, even if you’re not passionate about what they do. It isn’t about you.

Give your mate the love, affection and respect they deserve, or be prepared for someone else to possibly do so. If not, then set them free. Either way, just make sure you don’t get too comfortable, because it will cost you in the long run.

Shantell E. Jamison is an editor for EBONY.com and JETmag.com. Not confined to chasing headlines, this Chicago-based writer, radio personality and cultural critic is also the author of Drive Yourself in the Right Direction: Simple Quotes on How to Achieve Your Best Self.