Something’s not right with the relationship. Dissatisfaction scratches at the door of your experience all day long.
It’s nothing you can pinpoint exactly, you can’t really say “IT’S SO BAD, I NEVER WANT TO SEE YOU AGAIN!” It’s just regular negative feelings: impatience, annoyance, disappointment, frustration……
Not terrible. But not satisfying.
You’re somewhere between ‘not worth upsetting the apple-cart’ and ‘life is short, I need to breathe again’.
In these circumstances, how can you know when it’s time to call an end to the relationship?
There’s no simple answer of course. Every break-up is unique, partly because there are as many ‘right’ moments to choose to say ”this is the end” as there are people to say it.
Some will look to leave at the slightest disturbance; others will insist on sustaining the commitment for ever, no matter the cost or the suffering. Most of us are somewhere in between.
There are no rules for justifying separation, only the needs, values and aspirations that the two of you bring.
And it’s there, in the tangled undergrowth of your beliefs and desires, that the answer lies. But you may well need to dig very deep into your self in order to find it.
What makes this process particularly challenging is that the answer you’re looking for isn’t an absolute truth. It’s more-or-less simply what feels best for you right now. That’s much less solid, more prone to shape-shifting than ‘truth’, but it isan answer; and if you’re asking the question, then it’s what you need to find.
You’re a complex being of course, and there’s a lot of undergrowth to get through. But there are ways to help point your gaze in the right direction. You could use the following questions as starting points (writing the answers can be helpful):
- Do you truly feel you have a free choice to stay or go? If not, why not?
- Are you able to communicate satisfactorily with each other? If not, why not?
- What is your single, most potent concern about separating?
- Do you believe life will be more satisfying after the relationship ends? If not, why not?
- Do you know how your partner would respond if you say ‘It’s over’? How do you feel about that response?
- Do you want to seek help to save the relationship? If not, why not?
You might need to keep coming back to the questions in order to elaborate after further reflection or as circumstances change. Often, where you find the most difficulty in answering is where you need to dig deepest.
As a professional in the field, I will of course say that seeking professional help can be a real benefit for couples and individuals who are in a place of uncertainty over their marriage or partnership. And the questions above are examples of actual questions you might be asked by me, in order to help you try to find your best answer.
But in the end, you alone have to answer the questions. Only you can do your own excavating for your own answer.
Whatever your answer is, by doing the work of self-excavation, you’ll have much greater confidence to action it with all your heart.
As with so much in an important relationship, the very act of searching for an answer to a problem it brings, is a means to learn about ourselves. The quest for self-knowledge is one reason why we human beings have relationships in the first place; and sometimes, it’s the means to show us why a relationship has to end.
There’s one exception to all the above – if you’re in an abusive relationship of any kind, then there’s no need to reflect or excavate. Just do all you can to get out immediately. There are plenty of agencies who can help. In the UK, you can start by simply calling the Samaritans on 116 123.