I know, I know it is February, the month of love, Valentine’s Day so why am I writing about the right time to end a relationship?
This is the perfect time to clarify what you want in your relationship. Valentine’s Day can offer you an opportunity to pause and reflect more deeply on your life. Either affirm your intention to enjoy and celebrate your relationship, or allow yourself to be clear that your relationship is not working, and it is time to end it.
Maybe you simply aren’t sure one way or the other.
So how do you know which way to go?
Love has us experience an intense physical attraction, changes in our brain chemistry, and a profound psychological state of longing for the other person. In our ancestral past love served to ensure that we would mate, conceive, and stay together in a harsh environment long enough to care for our weak and dependent offspring.
So are our relationships and experience of love today only dictated by this ancient chemistry?
Artists, psychologists, writers, philosophers and the rest of humanity has been trying to define love for as long as we have felt it.
We know that we can have familial love, platonic love, religious love, and we can create love – love for our country, our career, our community, and others. Greeks managed to define “what-is-love” into four types: agape: unconditional love; eros: passionate love; philia: love and loyalty for your friends and community; and storge: love for your family.
So what are we talking about when we talk about “falling in love”?
Most popular songs croon about it, half of our books and films obsess over it, and everybody wants it. Most of us have had the experience that on one hand, falling in love can lift us up; on the other, it can destroy us.
Psychologists describe this kind of falling in love as having three components: desire, passion, and intimacy. In order to move from “falling in love” into a thriving, successful relationship I assert there are two more elements needed commitment and compatibility.
Commitment is deciding, dedicating, applying, devoting and promising to create a thriving successful relationship. Compatibility means having affinity, closeness, harmony, rapport, and empathy for the other person.
The long term success of experiencing love in your relationship, will be in direct proportion to being committed to and compatible with the person that you have fallen in love with.
This brings us back to the question, “When is it time to end a relationship?”
First and foremost your relationship should add to the quality of your life. If you are ambivalent about your relationship it means your relationship is sick.
How sick is it?
I highly recommend that couples ask themselves these questions:
1. Are you fighting most of the time? Do you feel continuously frustrated about your relationship? (This is not about who’s fault it is. Are you unhappy more than you are happy in your relationship?)
2. Do you have goals that are incompatible? If there is no resolution to your incompatible goals then it will be impossible for you to have a fulfilling relationship no matter how much you love them. Example: If you want children and your partner doesn’t – your relationship is headed for trouble.
3. Are you being abused mentally (your partner is constantly telling you that you are a failure, no good, belittling you, etc.); emotionally (is your partner routinely cold or angry, yelling, calling you names, not respecting you or your boundaries, etc.); or physically (does your partner threaten violence, strike you, throw things, etc.). If you answer yes to any part of this question, I highly recommend that you end this relationship. Being in an abusive relationship will cost you your self worth, and could possibly cost you your life.
4. Are you finding more reasons to spend time apart, and more pleasure being apart than together?
5. Are you having to change your core values, beliefs and goals to accommodate your partner or to please them?
6. Are you living in hope that your relationship will stop being problematic?
7. Are you constantly changing your appearance to please your partner – hoping they will approve of you or find you attractive?
8. Can you communicate without bickering, arguing or fighting?
9. Is there respect and listening in your relationship?
10. Do you have fun and mutual dreams for the future with your partner?
11. Are you habitually chasing after your partner with no reciprocity?
12. Do you have a growing feeling of emptiness about your life?
When you ask yourself these questions you can see if your relationship is enhancing your life, or draining it. At the very least, you should be happier in your relationship than outside of it.
A sick relationship can be worked on and transformed. However, both partners need to be willing to commit to work on it and put in the effort. If one partner in the relationship does not admit or recognize the problem that the other partner has brought up, finding a solution will be nearly impossible.
It is essential to any healthy relationship that each person in the relationship be able to see and understand their partner’s point of view or side of the argument. This willingness and ability will allow for greater affinity, love, and understanding in the relationship.
Often when someone has strong feelings of love for their partner they think it is better to ignore the problems in the relationship. Usually the problems get worse. Eventually the problems will have to be dealt with, or the people in the relationship will be miserable. Don’t wait for the problems in your relationship to get severe enough to show you that the relationship is over – that is the hard way to do it.
You can love someone and not have it be in your best interest to stay in the relationship.
Is your relationship enhancing your life?
One last thought: Don’t let yourself be confuse about whether or not you should leave your current relationship with whether or not you might find a new relationship.
If it’s clear that your current relationship should end, as painful as it might be, have the courage to end it – endings always offer up new beginnings.
“Relationships – of all kinds – are like sand held in your hand. Held loosely, with an open hand, the sand remains where it is. The minute you close your hand and squeeze tightly to hold on, the sand trickles through your fingers. You may hold onto it, but most will be spilled. A relationship is like that. Held loosely, with respect and freedom for the other person, it is likely to remain intact. But hold too tightly, too possessively, and the relationship slips away and is lost.”
— Kaleel Jamison