How do I know if and when it's time to break up?

There's a lot of good in the guy I’m dating, but the bad is unacceptable. What do I do?

I keep waiting for the guy I’m seeing to make the changes I need. How long do I wait? And what if he never changes?

Chances are, at some point in your dating past or present one or more of the above questions has weighed heavily on your mind. The truth is, there’s no one size fits all answer to these questions. However, your gut knows what you want and need to do. It's up to you to tune in, listen, and honor what you know is right -- for you! And while it's admirable to hang in there, try to work it out, and make the best of things, at some point you need to recognize when it's better to cut your losses and move on rather than stick it out for another day, week, month, year. The following are some tips to help you tune in to what your gut is really saying:

Know what you want
So often I hear from my clients that they feel they stayed too long in the wrong relationship, only to later regret all that wasted time. The best way to guarantee that you don't waste time in the wrong relationship is to become clear about what you want BEFORE you get into a relationship. That starts with knowing your relationship requirements. Even if you're already in a relationship, go ahead and make your list of your non-negotiable requirements. If your current partner or person you’re dating doesn't meet them (and is incapable of meeting them), that may be a clear indication that Mr. Maybe is actually Mr. Wrong.

Become a red flag specialist
When you're dating someone, they reveal themselves through both words and actions (unless they're a serious con artist). It's up to YOU to pay attention. And it's equally important to become a red flag specialist, a.k.a. someone who can easily and unemotionally identify a relationship red flag when it's presented to her. Everyone's red flags are different, and they're based on your relationship requirements and core values. If your potential cutie is consistently late, that could be a red flag. If your date claims to be smart, together, financially secure, etc., but his actions tell you a different story, your red flag alert system should sound the alarm.

Develop 20/20 vision
Rather than project a fantasy of who you'd like your date to be, it's essential that you take off any rose colored goggles you're wearing and see the men you date for the individuals they really and truly are. By being clear about your requirements and honing your ability to identify red flags as they are presented to you, you’ll cut down on wasted dating time and avoid getting into a relationship with someone who doesn't meet your requirements.

Put a timeline on The Waiting Game
If you're in a relationship and are waiting for your partner to make some changes (get a job, fix their finances, get out of their funk, etc.) before you decide whether to stay or go, put a deadline on your waiting game. And feel free to communicate the deadline to your partner. Let them know if you don't see promised changes in a reasonable timeline, you're not going to just hang around and wait for them to get their act together. You have needs, too, and they don't involve putting off your life indefinitely while your partner tries to “figure things out.”

1, 2, 3 strikes you're out
In baseball, there's a reason you only get three strikes before you're out. Otherwise, the game would go on and on, strike after strike, with no end in sight. Dating requires a similar rule -- the Three Strikes Rule. If you play by the Three Strikes Rule, you give potential dates a margin of error without feeling taken advantage of. If your date is consistently late, doesn't call when he says he’s going to, behaves inappropriately, or engages in any other unacceptable dating behavior, you reserve the right to call Strike One. And it's important that you call him on it so that your strike system is clear. If he repeats the same behavior, Strike Two. And again, reiterate your needs, letting him know you're not messing around. Strike Three? He’s out (regardless of how cute he is). It may sound and/or feel harsh at first, but if you really want to cut down on wasted dating time, you’ll listen to your gut and practice the Three Strikes Rule.

Now that you know how to cut down on wasted dating time, you can continue rocking your dating life by picking up a copy of my book If He's Not The One, Who Is?: What Went Wrong - and What It Takes to Find Mr. Right.

Got questions about rocking your dating life in 2010? Email or post a question or comment on the blog.