"How do I know when it's time to leave?"
We hear this question from people that have made a commitment but everything they felt when they made the commitment is now gone; or people who have grown and changed over the years, as have their partners, and everything that was there when they fell in Love now seems to be no more. There are those that feel deep Love for their partner but find themselves attracted to other people--they want to Love their partner so badly but they can't seem to figure out how.
Sometimes the comfort of the familiar prevents us from doing what in our hearts we know is best. Sometimes the fear of hurting someone that we truly care about prevents us from taking the necessary next step in the relationship and ultimately in our lives. But sometimes, we run from the very thing we truly want the most. Believing we want something different, we find ourselves always longing for what we don't have and never truly feeling fulfilled in any relationship.
These are questions to which there are certainly no easy answers but we do have some guideposts to consider in making your decision.
Successful relationships are built on a foundation of Love, dedication, and a commitment to sharing your lives with each other.
We suggest that for any relationship to succeed, this foundation must be in place, there must be a mutual understanding, and both partners must be on board.
Once both partners have made the choice to spend their lives together, we believe that the first inclination should always be to keep that commitment. We also understand that some may commit prematurely or on an unfounded basis which can undermine the power of the commitment. (For more on this topic, see our related article: How Do You Know When It's Time to Commit?)
This article is directed towards people who have made that commitment and are questioning it. Perhaps they are married, or if not legally married, they have a committed relationship of equal magnitude. It is very common for one or both partners at some point in their lives together to question, "Is this the right relationship for me?", "Did I make a mistake?", "Is there someone better for me?", and/or "Should I leave?"Here we'll be sharing our insights into these challenging questions to support you in sorting through the confusion and ultimately creating a relationship that will thrive.
Don't be reactive and impulsive about it.
For our clients and anyone who is considering leaving their relationship, we make the recommendation: Don't leave too quickly. At any time that you may choose to leave a relationship, if it is not done with thorough consideration and conscious attempts to try and work it out first, it is an impulsive decision and you may likely regret it. You will also likely 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. We often find that when people surrender to the commitment they've made to each other and do the work that it calls for, the desire to leave is gone. Even in the instance when they do leave the relationship, the growth that came from their experience prepares them to better work through challenges in future relationships.
When people neglect doing this work, they tend to think "the grass is greener on the other side". This is a sign of immaturity that, until corrected, could lead to lack of deep and intimate partnerships. While at times, there are situations in which the proper choice for everyone involved is to move on, we find that the real reasons for breaking up have little 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.
People often want to give up on the relationship before they've even done what we call the 'real work' that all successful relationships require. There are great resources available that can bring a relationship back from the brink of separation--fantastic coaching programs (like the ones we offer), counselors and therapists specializing in working with couples issues, programs administered through church or spiritual organizations.
Have you attempted to get support in any of these forms? Sometimes having a neutral party's outside perspective on the situation can help to illuminate what might be going on beneath the surface for you and your partner and support in opening up levels of communication and expression that are new for you.
So how could it work? What haven't you tried?
The idea that the right relationship will "feel right" and "just work" is false. No relationship "just works". It works because of the conscious effort and intention that is put into it and because those involved are committed to having it work.
All people have very different ideas about how and what relationships should be. Likely marriage means something very different to your parents than it does to you. It is essential to the creation of a successful relationship to be clear about the values that both partners individually and together desire to experience in the relationship, and to effectively communicate these values to each other. Learning to define these values together, deciding how you will create that as a team, and then bringing those values to life together is the true gift of the relationship. Leaving before getting clear on these values and bridging this conversation with your partner is doing a disservice to you both.
Many of the challenges that arise in relationships come from a sense of dissatisfaction that does not seem to be directly related to any particular thing. This is because they have a sense that they are not getting what they want from the relationship and feel anger or frustration about it, but they haven't really distinguished what it is that they want from their partner and/or the relationship, or how to communicate about it. When they get clear about their desires and needs and how to discuss them with their partner, chances are that their partner will be willing to offer that to them, or at least willing to figure out how to make it happen.
Sometimes the need is something emotional, sometimes sexual, sometimes practical. There may be a fear of being judged for asking for what they want, or a belief that "the right person would just know what to do and how to do it". There may be an assumption that their partner doesn't want to provide for them in this way, and that may lead to feelings of bitterness or unworthiness. There may be a fear of feeling awkward for