"How do I know when it's time to leave?"
We usually hear this question when:
A couple has made a commitment but everything they felt when they made the commitment is now gone.
When they have grown and changed over the years and everything that was there when they fell in Love now seems to be no more.
There are times that you feel deep Love for you partner and want to stay but find yourself attracted to other people. You want to Love your partner so badly but can't seem to figure out how to be committed.
And sometimes it's simply the comfort of the familiar that prevents you from doing what in your heart you know is best.
The fear of hurting someone that you truly care about can prevent you from taking the necessary next step in the relationship and ultimately in your life.
But sometimes leaving is just about avoiding intimacy and you end up running away from what you truly want the most. You mistakenly think that you want something else, and find yourself longing for what you don't have, never truly feeling fulfilled in any relationship.
When we're thinking about ending it, usually all of these thoughts are going on at once and we don't know which one is true. It can be very hard to know what the right choice is and scary to think that you might make a mistake that you'll regret for the rest of your life.
In this post, we're going to give you a checklist to check-in with yourself about what might really be going on.
1. You're attracted to someone else.
Finding people attractive is completely normal and understandable. Ending a relationship because you find another person attractive or cheating on someone is immature and a sure path to a cycle of unfulfilling relationships.
You are not going to want to be in your relationship every day of your lives together. If you do it right, you will most of the time. There are going to be times when everything is amazing, exciting, passionate and so on. When this is the case, it's a clue to look at the relationship, not away from it.
When you avoid doing this work, you tend to think "the grass is greener on the other side." This misguided idea will cause you to re-create the same challenges in multiple relationships over time. It will also cause all of your relationships to lack depth and intimacy.
While at times, the proper choice for everyone involved is to move on, we find that the real reasons for breaking up have nothing to do with attraction to another person or an idea of what some other relationship might be like.
Looking outside of the relationship for answers is usually an attempt to avoid facing the discomfort of what being in the relationship is bringing up.
2. You haven't learned the lessons yet.
The work of a relationship is to grow. Every relationship that ends should have taught you something critically important about creating the relationship that you do want. Don't trick yourself into thinking this is about being attracted to someone else--it's not. This is about you recognizing that the qualities that you are looking for in a partner are not present in this person. Seeing that helps you to better refine and clarify what those qualities are, so that you will be more able to recognize them when you start dating again.
You should also have learned about yourself and your areas of growth in relationships: What triggers you? Where do you hold back in terms of intimacy? How can you grow in in the areas of openness, understanding, and forgiveness? What breakthroughs did you have with this person? What are the things that you tried to avoid and why did you do that?
If you can't answer questions like this or if you think that "it's all their fault," it's unlikely you've learned what this relationship had to teach you. You co-created this relationship and, for better or for worse, it didn't happen that way by accident. We never suggest that anyone remain in an abusive relationship, but if you were in one, you could learn about why you allowed that to take place in your life and what attracted you to that person.
When we don't learn from relationships, we are more likely to repeat unhealthy patterns. If you are not learning profound things from all of your relationships, you are missing the point.
3. You are being reactive and impulsive.
Not all relationships are meant to last forever, but more relationships have the potential to last than those that do. If you are reacting harshly you'll leave relationships that could last. We always recommend that you try to work it out first.
If you are thinking you want to leave, sit with it for a while. Talk to some trustworthy friends or mentors about it. This is a great time to work with a coach as well. When you don't do this work on the front end, you will likely regret leaving. You will also find yourself repeating these patterns in future relationships because you've missed out on the learning and growth that would come from doing the work now in the current relationship.