If you're fortunate, like I have been, you will get the chance to spend some of your time with some pretty amazing people. You'll get to learn new jokes, see what someone else does in the bathroom, hear what's truly in another person's heart, have some wild sex, and come to know yourself quite well in the process as well. There are a whole host of reasons why it's great to have a relationship with another person. If you're anything like me you might have ALSO found yourself at that place in a relationship where you wondered whether or not it was time to leave. How do you know when it's time to go, and how do you follow through on such a decision?
It's next to impossible to consider your relationship objectively - and when you DO try to analyze your relationship you're definitely going to experience the most major case of "logical mind takedown" you've ever experienced. You may recall from our discussion of learning how to find and follow your intuition that your logical mind is great at analyzing the facts of a situation, but when it comes to major decisions your much better served by a process that allows your WHOLE self to take part. The logical mind can often throw a wrench in the works. It'll go something like this (internally):
Whole self: This relationship just feels wrong. It's time to go. I'm going.
Logical Mind: Wha-wha-wait a minute! But I love this person! There are so many good things about them. But I'm miserable. I'm not happy. I want to leave. I deserve to be in a better relationship. But maybe this will work out? Maybe we'll finally find happiness together, like when we first started dating? There are so many things this person adds to my life....(voice trails off endlessly)
Whole self: Hello? Anybody listening? Hello?
If you were ever in this situation, you probably just kept right on keeping on in that relationship, at least until the next round. This degree of confusion is not conducive to decision-making, until you're at the end of your rope and you just MAKE a decision to be done with it. In the meantime it's ups and downs and ups and downs and, in my opinion, a lot of time WASTED. Not utterly wasted if there are still some good things about your relationship - but mostly wasted. Wasted in the sense that there are so many other things you could have been doing with your time - primarily devoting your energy to living the kind of life that you want to live and doing things that FILL YOU UP. In my coaching work with people, we talk about ways that you can actually take control over this dynamic in your relationship, with exercises that can give you certainty and clarity about how things are going and what kind of potential really exists with your partner. In my experience, the cycles of uncertainty in a bad relationship are ultimately draining. Very. Draining.
OK - list interlude. Here are some of the warning signs of a relationship you shouldn't be in any longer:
- Your partner tells you that you should love them more. Loving someone, in and of itself, should be enough.
- You're waiting for your partner to change. If you find yourself saying something to yourself like "once they see how much their behavior hurts me" - for the 50th time - then it's time to go.
- Your partner is waiting for YOU to change. Ok - you all know that I am a strong believer in our ability to change for the better. So changes in you and changes in your partner are definitely POSSIBLE (as long as you or your partner is self-aware and WANTS to change). However, if you can't accept your partner as they are right now, then you're not in love with your partner - you're in love with the idea of your partner - either who they once were, or who you want them to be. The song goes "Love the one you're with" - not "love the idea of what you'd really like the one you're with to be" - it doesn't have quite the same ring, does it?
- There's always tension between the two of you. You and your partner should THRIVE in each other's presence - or, at a minimum, you shouldn't be getting in each other's way. If the tension between the two of you keeps you from being spontaneous or makes you second-guess yourself, then it's time to either deal with it (once and for all) or move on.
- You're always wondering whether or not you should really be with this person. Listen: it's your intuition calling! If you're always questioning your relationship, then there are two things going on - either you don't know yourself well enough to know whether or not you should be in your current relationship, or you DO know yourself well enough to know whether or not you should be in your current relationship. In either case, the answer is the same (though the reasoning is different) - it's time to go.
- Your relationship feels insecure. You or your partner experience lots of jealousy. Trust is one of the key elements in a good relationship. Now I'm going to assume here that you or your partner wouldn't actually DO anything to undermine your relationship. So, if you wouldn't, where is that feeling coming from? If you've experienced some major betrayal in your life, make sure you spend some time dealing with your trust issues. If you don't have "general trust issues", then your uneasiness is probably rooted in your intuition telling you that the situation just isn't right. Listen to your intuition, and leave. (also see my article on Overcoming Jealousy in a Relationship)
- You're always arguing. In a relationship, a certain amount of arguing is normal. Arguing all the time is NOT normal. If you're always in a state of conflict, well, that's definitely ONE way of relating to another person, but I wouldn't want to base a relationship on that.
- It's your job to fix your partner's life. Listen, the only way a relationship is going to work is if the two people are able to take care of their own shit. Asking for help every so often is one thing. Offering your help every so often is great! However, most real change/healing comes from within - and that's not something you can do for anyone else, or that they can do for you.
- You feel like crying all the time - and I'm not talking about tears of joy. Do I really need to say anything else about that?
- You experience your own worst qualities more often than your best qualities. The dynamics of a relationship that just isn't right can dig deep into the pit of our personal dysfunction and unearth all sorts of nastiness. You'll say things you regret, you'll lash out at the other person, you'll do things that embarrass you in retrospect. At a minimum you shouldn't be in that relationship because you need to spend some time alone getting your shit together - if the relationship dynamic constantly brings out the worst in you, though...what are you waiting for?
- You and your partner are not interested in seeking the highest good for each other. This has to be a two-way street. And it can't be your idea about what's best for the other person - it has to be their idea. Can you accept their idea about what's best for them? If not, see #3.
I developed this list by experiencing every one of these items - multiple times, in some cases. Also, this is just my "Top 11" - there are other items possible - and I'd LOVE to hear from you with additions in the comments!
So, let's say that your relationship maybe, just maybe, fits a few of those items. Why leave? Why not stick it out? Why not try to make it better?
note: sometimes trying to stick it out IS the right thing to do. As I mentioned earlier, it takes TWO people who really are committed to the long process of changing a relationship for the better.
First, let me say that there are LOTS of people out there. LOTS. And out of the billions of people on the planet, your best chances of meeting one of the thousands who would be perfect for you is to be out there, in the world, thriving and doing what you love. Following your passion. Shining for the rest of the world to see. You will attract the right people to you - and they will probably be people who are ALSO being true to themselves. You'll have the best chance of having a successful relationship with one of those people.
There is nothing WRONG with your current partner. The only thing that's "wrong" is that they aren't right for you. So there is no judgement implied in saying that it's "time to go" - it doesn't have anything to do with the other person. It has to do with you, and honoring the way you feel.
And ultimately it's honoring the way you feel, honoring your intuition, honoring yourself - those are the reasons that you should leave a relationship when it's time to leave. Even in your moments of fear, fear of being alone, fear of the unknown, fear of hurting another person, you will feel the STRENGTH of acting in accord with the core of your being. That strength will carry you, will boost you through the turmoil of ending a relationship and re-embarking on your personal journey.
When I contemplated ending my last relationship I was frightened...terrified, really. For the reasons listed above, and then some. Then, one day we were sitting in a couples counseling session after months of conflict. Suddenly it was just clear to me - the whole thing just wasn't right - for me. It wasn't about the other person, it was just about honoring what I needed all along. I loved this other person (and I loved myself), and I could see, as plain as day, that the loving act was to leave - not to stay. So I just did it, right there. The fear I felt vanished, and I experienced the most profound mix of sadness and joy that I had probably ever felt up until then.
"How to leave" is probably best saved for another post. My advice is to be kind, to be loving, and to let the other person know that your decision isn't about them - it's just about honoring what you know is right for you. Acknowledge the way the other person feels, and tell them how much you care about them, how much you don't want to hurt them. It is, after all, your caring for them as well as your caring for yourself that makes leaving the relationship so important. There's a situation out there that's better for BOTH of you. Then I also think it makes sense to have some separation - not total separation, unless that's what one of you needs - but definitely enough separation for you to have some time alone, and some time with friends who can help support you in the decision that you just made. Do things that make you happy, that make you feel the most connection with who you are and what you came to this planet to do.
I am so grateful for all of the relationships that I've had - they prepared me for the right relationship, which I was fortunate to find 3 years ago. And I can tell you that the right relationship will feel right to you, in all respects. Your logical mind might still play its games with you, but your intuition, your heart, will NEVER question the situation. That's how you'll know when your relationship is really "right". I learned such valuable lessons - but at the same time, when I look back I realize that my own fears often kept me from ending relationships when it would have been appropriate. Ultimately, whatever you do is "right" - but the sooner you honor your intuition and pursue the things and people in life that give you the most joy, that make you the most "you", the sooner you will get rid of all that conflict and have room in your life for true love, true inspiration, and true enthusiasm for every moment you get to enjoy in this life of yours.
One last note - please DO comment below if you're comfortable with that. I reply to many people off-line as well (instead of here) if you're looking for some feedback on your situation.