Five Tips for Knowing When a Relationship is Over
Whether to walk away from a relationship or whether to stay is one of the hardest decisions we face in life. When you’re in the middle of a passionate relationship with a lot of time and emotions invested, it’s hard to have perspective.
Walking away from a relationship, or admitting that a relationship is really over, is even harder when we’ve poured years of our time, energy, and love into it. Nevertheless, there are certain times when ending a relationship is inevitable.
Sometimes we have to end the relationship ourselves. At other times, our significant other may end the relationship. No matter who ends it, at some point we must face the truth: the relationship is over. There’s a right way and a wrong way to go about anything, and that’s never more true than when you’re breaking up.
But how do you know when a relationship is really over?
When should you tough it out and fight for your love? When should you tell yourself that you did your best, and now you have to let go?
No two relationships are ever quite the same, so regardless of what friends and family members may advise, you’re the only one who understands your relationship. Only you can decide what your course of action should be, because you have all the information.
That being said, there are certain signs in every relationship to look for that will tell you when your relationship is over.
1. Abuse of any kind is a deal-breaker.
If your significant other is abusing you – physically or verbally – then it’s time to end the relationship. It’s one thing if your significant other says a few harsh or hurtful words in the heat of the moment; it’s another thing if verbal intimidation, verbal threats or physical violence occur often.
Remember, this is a matter of respect. If your partner can’t show you enough respect to avoid hurting you, or if their idea of coping is to hurt their loved ones, no real partnership can exist with this person.
Often, abusive partners tell their significant others that no one else would want them. That’s a matter of control, not truth-telling. There’s always someone out there, but if they want you too frightened to leave, they’ll say anything to put fear in your heart: fear of loneliness or fear of retaliation.
The abused partner often feels in his or her heart they would never be able to get anyone better. Neither of these two statements is true: love should not include emotional or physical violence. There are people good enough to love you on terms of respect and nurturing, so you can always find someone better than an abuser.
A common pattern in abusive relationships goes something like this: there’s a fight, and one partner becomes aggressive to the point of violence (verbal or physical). The abused partner threatens to leave. The abuser then feels ashamed and remorseful, and promises that it will never happen again.
At that point, if the abuser doesn’t seek psychological treatment, the abused should leave – period. If the abused does not leave, the cycle is likely to start over again. The abusive partner must show they want to change, or else they fall into the same behavior patterns that has brought them to the point of abuse.
If you are the abuser, maybe it’s time to admit you have a problem and seek out help before you lose your significant other for good.
2. Are you trying to “save” your significant other?
Sometimes, even when a relationship is not explicitly abusive, there is nonetheless an unhealthy pattern of codependency.
What is codependency?
Codependency is when one significant other passively supports the bad behavior of the other. Psychology refers to the passive partner as an “enabler”, because they enable the negative patterns of their partner. For example, one partner may have a drinking problem, and their significant other constantly makes excuses for them, rather than confronting their partner or helping them seek help.
In codependent relationships, the enabler often feels that they can somehow “fix” or “save” their partner. The enabler always “cleans up” after the enabled, taking responsibility for or hiding their partner’s mistakes, rather than encouraging their partner to face their mistakes and change. You think you’re doing them a favor, but in fact, you’re helping to make their problem chronic.
Recognizing that your relationship is a codependent one does not necessarily mean that it’s time to end the relationship. Perhaps your partner needs to stop drinking, needs to stop taking advantage of you financially, or needs to end another type of bad behavior that you’ve tacitly allowed for some time. Before ending a codependent relationship, try getting your partner to take responsibility for his or her negative behavior (if you are the enabler).
This can be done with a serious heart-to-heart talk. This can be by suggesting counseling or rehab. This can be done with an intervention of all their concerned friends.
If you give your partner a chance to change and they don’t seek help or alter their behavior, then it’s time to admit the relationship is over. Remember that you can’t “save” your partner. You can support him or her, and you can encourage him or her to seek help.
In the end, you must allow them to take responsibility for their own life.
3. Are you or your partner emotionally unavailable?
What does the term “emotionally unavailable” mean? If your courtship with your partner started enthusiastically, with lots of love, romance, and potential, then fizzled as one of you became more and more withdrawn and self-isolating, you may be in a relationship in which one person is emotionally unavailable.
Realizing that your partner is emotionally unavailable may signal that it’s time to end your relationship. On the other hand, this recognition may signal that you need to work together as a couple to improve your relationship, or even that you need to work on how you relate to your partner.
People withdraw and isolate for many different reasons. Probably the most common reason is an experience of abuse in their past. Abuse – especially sexual abuse – makes it difficult for people to trust others again, and trouble with intimacy is a common issue.
Does this sound like you or your partner? If so, then if you know you still love each other, you should patiently work through the issue together.
It’s also common for one person to simply be more expressive of their affection than the other. Depending upon cultural heritage and personality, self-expression may simply come more naturally for one person. This is not necessarily a reason to end a relationship.
The differences in your personalities can be a strength, as opposites attract and you draw strength from each other, where you might not necessarily have natural strength yourself.
Remember, when a person is not emotionally expressive, all that expression of emotion coming from their partner can drive them to withdraw even further. The responsibility falls on both individuals to work through these differences, with patience and acceptance for the other person. It’s time to end the relationship, only if both parties have made an honest attempt to work through their emotional differences and things still aren’t working.
4. Have you fallen out of love?
Some people decide a relationship is over, because they have fallen out of love. Falling out of love is a legitimate reason to end a relationship – if that’s what’s really happened. But falling out of love is not the same as getting bored with your partner or having a midlife crisis.
Be careful to differentiate between growing bored with your relationship and falling out of love. If you end a relationship just because you’re bored with it, the chances are that you’ll get bored with the next person, and the next, and the next.
Boredom within a relationship is often a sign that we’re placing too high an expectation on our partner – expecting him or her to make us feel satisfied and fulfilled in our life. Our personal satisfaction is not the responsibility of our partner, and just because we feel dissatisfied with our life, doesn’t necessarily mean we should blame our partner for it.
If you are unfulfilled, it’s probably become you aren’t happy with yourself in some way. If you’re bored, look inside – not outside – for the answer.
If your partner leaves because he or she says they have fallen out of love with you, the last thing you should do is plead for them to come back. No one likes desperation; no one likes neediness. Instead, give them space and a chance to think carefully about their decision.
5. No matter what happens, try to relax and accept.
When our partner is unfaithful, abusive, or consistently emotionally unavailable, it’s time to end the relationship. When our partner tells us they’ve fallen out of love with us, that they’re leaving us for someone else, or that they can’t be with us, because we’re too emotionally unavailable, it’s also (usually) time to end the relationship.
Maybe your relationship is over for good. Maybe you and your partner just need some space and some time to figure things out. No matter what happens during this break-up process, try to relax.
Try to accept what’s happening, instead of wishing for it to be some other way. The more we cling to a broken relationship, the more pain is in store for us. Sometimes, just letting go is the best way to move on with our lives.
Contrary to what you might be feeling right now, the heartbreak that comes at the end of a relationship does fade. Although you feel like you can’t live without them, you can. Although you feel like there are no other fish in the sea, there are.
Take heart in knowing that many others have been in your spot, and most of them found true love and fulfillment in someone else’s arms. You’ll see one day.