When is it Time to End the Relationship?


“There is a time for departure even when there’s no certain place to go.”
~Tennessee Williams

Sometimes a relationship becomes so difficult that partners begin to question whether it is worth trying to save it. How do you know when it is time to quit?

There are some obvious indicators. If there is physical or emotional abuse, infidelity, dishonesty, or out-of-control addictions, and the partner refuses to get help, it is time to think about taking care of yourself. If the partner’s behaviors are having an ongoing negative impact on children, it is time to think about protecting them.

Sometimes the problems in a relationship are not as serious as those mentioned above, so making a decision becomes more difficult. Just because issues may not be deal-breakers in the classic sense, it does not mean one is not justified in leaving a relationship.

If there is constant arguing or frequent fighting, and things never seem to get resolved, one has to question if this is how he or she wants to live. If there is no involvement between the couples, no connection, no sharing of activities and no genuine expressions of love, then this is not a partnership in any sense. It is just two people living under the same roof. If both are fine with living like roommates, then it works for them. However, if one wants more, and the other is not willing to work on creating more, then there is hardly a reason to stay.

Some would cite vows made years before as a reason not to ever leave. Those vows included things like loving, honoring and cherishing one another. If the relationship has deteriorated to the extent that at least one of the partners feels it impossible to continue, then it seems the marriage vows were broken long before any talk of separation.

To stay in a situation that is stressful, conflicted, and depressing is harmful to one’s health. It literally can make a person ill. If you know inside that your relationship is destructive and all attempts to heal it have been unsuccessful, then sad as it may seem, it is time to move on.

There are many reasons that people stay in unhealthy relationships despite knowing it would be better for them to leave. Sometimes they fear what the partner would put them through. A partner may threaten that if you leave they will make sure you end up with nothing in terms of finances or property. A lawyer would never let this happen.
Sometimes the person who is suffering is insecure with low self-esteem. They worry that they will never find another partner. They worry what friends and family will think. These individuals need to make their own wellbeing a priority.

Then there is the justified worry about how the children will be affected. Over decades of doing therapy I have heard countless children say they wish their parents had separated sooner. Do not underestimate the harm that comes to children when there is conflict in the home, or the lack of warmth and humor that exists in a healthy family.

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