How do you know when to end a relationship? Hmm…unless you’ve only been with someone a matter of weeks, breaking up with someone is usually a very difficult decision. There may be obvious signs that you need to pull up stakes and move on, but for some reason you just keep standing in the same spot.
I’ve been asked, “How many mistakes should I put up with before I decide to leave”? That is a hard question to answer because everyone believes differently. What one person wouldn’t put up with one time, may not seem like a big deal to someone else. I usually throw the question right back at the person asking. What do YOU think? Does it really matter if your best friend wasn’t able to forgive their boyfriend or girlfriend for something? Does that mean you’ll be able to call up your boyfriend or girlfriend and break it off with them with no second thoughts if they do the same thing? Probably not.
One thing I know to be true is this…You can’t tell someone else when it’s the right time for them to leave a relationship. Even in extreme domestic violence situations when it is obvious the relationship is causing more harm than good, it still futile to tell someone to leave if they aren’t ready. There really is no “right” time to leave. The right time is when YOU don’t see any other option. The complicated thing is that everyone doesn’t get to that point at the same time. When students come to me with this question, I tell them that only they know when they’ll be ready to leave.
I usually see people in my office when they are in the position of being in pain no matter what they do. They want to break up with the person because there are many things in the relationship that cause them pain. However, the alternative of being alone or being without this person brings about thoughts of even more pain. You may go back and forth with the decision. I always say, if you still have doubts, you aren’t ready to break up yet.
So, what can you do during this time of uncertainty? Work on ways to fix what you think is broke. The trick is to remember that you can ultimately only control your own actions. If you spend all your time thinking about how the other person can change to make your relationship better, you will be in for a very frustrating ride. Even if the person is 95% in the wrong, you still can’t make them change. You can tell them what hurts you or bothers you. You can share your thoughts and feelings, but other than that, there isn’t much else you can do to try to change a person. Let’s say you’re married and angry at your partner. Is it easier for you to kick your partner out of bed and make them sleep on the couch, or is it easier to go sleep on the couch yourself?
Trust me, it is easier to focus on yourself within the relationship. For example, if your partner cheated, can you really control whether they will do it again? If you could, then you wouldn’t feel so nervous about them repeating the action. Following them around and stalking their Facebook page gives you a false sense of control. Micromanaging the relationship and taking your anger out on your partner isn’t going to make the relationship better. Not that you don’t have any power. You can still communicate your feelings to your partner in a healthy way that tells them how hurt and disrespected you are, and you can let them know you would like them to be more open if they want to continue in the relationship. However, you can’t force those things to happen.
Since you can’t control your partner’s actions, then do your best to keep the focus on yourself. Take time to reduce your anger and stress. Maybe take up kickboxing, talk to a counselor, journal your feelings, go for a run or make sure you get enough sleep. Think through the issues in your relationship. Spend time figuring out if there is anything you can change that will make things better. How much time are you spending with your partner? Are you trying to communicate your feelings in healthy ways? Are you trying to be a positive or negative influence?
Face it, you aren’t going to be ready to leave until you feel like you’ve done everything you can on your end to make things better anyway. If you do this and your partner still continues to hurt you or take advantage of you, you’ll be ready to leave way sooner than later. My husband always says, “Lead by example”. Or as Ghandi would say, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. Only be the change you want to see in your relationship.
It will be hard to treat your partner well because they have hurt you, but it is the quickest way to know if they’ll hurt you again. What this does is either make things a lot better because your partner appreciates the change and makes more of an effort themselves, which causes the relationship to grow. Or it is causes the pain to increase tenfold when you’re really trying and they continue to crap all over you. If you really put 110% into the relationship you will see a dramatic change one way or the other. Even if you partner reacts positively at first, but then falls off, it won’t take long for you to reach that pain threshold again which may be just the push you need to get off the fence and end your relationship for good. Trust me, you’ll just KNOW when you’re really ready to leave.
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