Have you ever told a friend they should break up their relationship because they were so clearly miserable, but now they’re married to their partner and neither of them speak to you? The truth is, you can’t be told when it’s time to end your relationship; it’s a personal decision you have to make on your own.
So when it’s your turn to consider whether or not it’s time to end your current situation, that choice has to come from you. But how do you know if it’s time?
“The decision to end the relationship or not depends on what we are expecting,” says Lawrence Siegel, clinical psychologist. “What have we been getting from this relationship in terms of what we want, what we can tolerate, and what is a deal breaker? The simplest level is, are we getting what we want? If the answer is no or not really, it’s all downhill from there.”
Here are some tell-tale signs that it might be time to break up with your partner.
1. Does your partner annoy you?
Of course. When you spend a significant amount of time with someone, he or she is bound to become annoying. But we’re talking much more than loud chewing or leaving socks on the floor. If the things that your partner does in their day-to-day life – in their fundamental existence – annoy you to the point where you can’t look past it endearingly, that’s something to pay attention to.
“I think we get to a point where we have to ask whether or not we are willing to tolerate the little things,” says Siegel. “If every little thing becomes annoying, we have to go back to the basic question: What are we in this for?”
2. How much of your relationship is affected by resentment?
Every couple fights. Or, at least, the healthy ones do. It’s important to fight. But if you’re finding your arguments are fuelled by resentment – for example, if past problems creep up into every discussion and the issues are impossible to move past – that is a signal to a larger problem.
“If you start thinking about things you aren’t doing in your own life, or wish you could be doing if not for this relationship, that’s when resentment starts to creep in,” Siegel adds. If feelings of security and trust start to feel threatened, that is a big red flag.”
3. Would you rather do things by yourself?
Alone time is one thing. That’s something we all need, and are entitled to. But if you start wishing that you were having all of your adventures without your partner, that’s not the best sign. At the end of the day, a relationship is a choice. You choose to be with the person you’re in a relationship with. And if you’d rather not choose them anymore, you have to start thinking about why.
4. What is your outlook on the future?
When you take a step back and evaluate the bigger picture, do you think of your future with that person? And if so, does it fill you with dread or delight?
“All of these bring us back to the question of, ‘Is this really what I want? Do I feel better? Am I a more positive person with this person?’” Siegel says.
5. Do you still want to try?
Just because you answered “yes” to any or all of these, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s time to call it quits. The question then becomes: Do you want to still keep trying? Every relationship ebbs and flows. There are going to be rough patches; that’s part of sharing a life with another human. But if, at the end of the day, you being without this person makes you even sadder than being with them at the moment, that is worth noting. There are still ways to sort it out.
“Is this an endpoint or a crossroad?” Siegel asks. “At that point, somebody has to be the adult. Someone has to call a timeout, and both agree that there is something going on.” From there, you need to have a discussion about how much effort and energy each partner is willing to put into repairing the relationship.
“The crisis of ‘do we move forward or do we end it’ can be the best opportunity to really talk about all of the issues we haven’t talked about before,” says Siegel.
If you can see your relationship thriving down the road, then you have a direction to move in. But if not, sometimes the best thing for a relationship is an ending.
“Sometimes things cannot be worked out,” Siegel explains.
The hardest thing to accept is that sometimes it just can’t be fixed – but staying and holding on will ultimately be worse for you both. Letting go and allowing each other to find what truly makes you happy will set you free.
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