Leave Your Relationship? 11 Signs You Should
There comes a point when the doubt is just too much. You look around and question everything. Is this worth it? Should you leave your relationship?
It’s a tough question. In most cases, relationships are started or entered on feelings of pure love and adoration. Yes, a honeymoon period passes, but even as you settle into life together, that foundation is still there.
But when you realize that this isn’t what you want, you have to make an important decision.
Do you stay or do you go?
And just in case you didn’t know, those are both completely viable options. If you want to make it work, you can do that no matter the circumstances. The same goes for leaving. We often see people legitimize staying, even when they don’t want to. Whether that be for the sake of your commitment, your religion, your children, your finances, etc., you just have to stay.
The truth is that you don’t have to stay with anyone for anything. Ever.
With all of that in mind, let’s talk about whether or not you should leave your relationship.
How Did You Get Here?
Sometimes, when the end is in sight, you might want to rush to it. You want as clean of a break as possible because you need to get past this pain.
It’s not unreasonable to feel this way, but it’s not going to get you anywhere. When something falls apart, there is never one party at fault.
“Fault” doesn’t exist in romantic relationships, or else none of them would last.
As you mull over leaving, try not to skip over the pain because it will just hurt you later.
Instead, try to figure out what happened that got you here. What mistakes were mistakes made? Did you ignore warning signs? Are there habits that compacted the problem?
For example, when the relationship began, maybe you noticed that when your partner gets stressed by their work, they get easily aggravated. At the time, you brushed it off as a reasonable response to the situation, but as the years went by, their fuse, which was already short, got shorter and shorter.
One day, you wake up and realize that their emotional state has always been the priority you had to adjust for, and you don’t want to go that anymore. There is an obvious path to this point; recognize your part in it, but don’t take responsibility for it all.
A relationship, unless abuse is involved, is split 50/50. Someone can hand off the reigns, but that is still an act involving their half of the pie. Even in the most complicated of situations, the “fault” is split right down the middle.
Make the Distinction Before You Leave Your Relationship
By understanding how you got to this point and objectively attempting to identify each person’s part, you can place the habits and cycles that brought you here. The worst thing you can do is say “it’s all their fault” or “it’s all my fault” and move on.
Identify your part so that when it is time to either address the current issues or begin a new relationship, you can prevent the same mistakes from being made.
11 Signs You Should Leave Your Relationship
How do you know that it’s time to leave your relationship? In romantic partnerships, we always hope for happily ever after, but that is never the case.
In our opinion, it’s never a good idea to let things go as they are when your relationship is doomed. It’s more pain for everyone involved, especially when the goal of continuing is not to break up.
Leaving can sometimes be the best option for everyone.
So, what constitutes a “sign of trouble”? We think that if you notice any of the following in your relationship, you have some work ahead of you.
1. Priorities Change
We are constantly growing and changing. Hopefully, we grow with our partners, but that doesn’t always happen. Major life events often test a person’s values and how they match up with their partner’s.
Your beliefs don’t have to be exact copies, but things change when you experience a significant loss (personally or professionally), a severe illness, or an accident. Something like that might draw both parties to reconsider what is essential, making even the most healthy relationship stumble.
2. Missing Passion
Technically, your relationship still works, but it’s missing something. There are ways to help this situation, but it usually indicates a lack of enthusiasm for the connection.
3. Lack of Trust
When a partner has broken the bond of trust, it can be hard to come back from. These feelings are common in situations where there was an affair, a large amount of money lost, or any other type of transgression.
As life goes on, the feelings of betrayal may remain, which means the relationship may not recover.
A few examples of this include:
- Telling others your secrets
- Telling lies regularly
- Financial issues
- Breaks promises
4. Values Clash
As mentioned above, you don’t need to feel the same way about everything, but you should agree on quite a bit.
It can be frustrating if you have different feelings about how you save or spend money, what kind of life you want, or how social you prefer to be. In the beginning, you might have felt attracted to those differences, which is understandable. It’s nice to be challenged by your partner to be better and do better.
But you also have to live life in a way that works with your core values and desires, and that is not easy if you are trying to save for a house and they just bought a Ferrari.
As humans, very few of us enjoy engaging in conflict, but it’s an inevitable part of every relationship. It’s a common misconception that conflict is the source of relationship problems, and this falsity is dangerous because it leads people to avoid conflict. Ironically, the conflict itself is never really the problem; it’s the way we approach it (or, in this case – don’t).
Stonewalling occurs when we know an argument is on the horizon, so we do everything to avoid it. This can mean leaving the conversation and not discussing it again or just pretending that nothing is wrong. When we avoid conflict, we internalize and hold grudges.
As a couple, our relationship starts to become superficial as we ignore problems or act on them in a passive-aggressive manner. Issues that were once not a big deal eventually become a big problem as stonewalling continues.
Being criticized sucks, especially when it’s done by the person you love most. But what makes criticism even worse is when the critique turns into a “character flaw.”
For example, if your wife gets mad at you for loading the dishwasher incorrectly and says, “why are you so messy?” Do you think or say, “I can’t be married to somebody who is this controlling”?
If so, you guys are generalizing one instance and turning it into a character flaw. These kinds of interactions quickly escalate and leave a lot of pain in their wake.
7. Feelings of Contempt
Healthy external communication is crucial for a successful marriage, but the internalized view you have of your partner needs to be healthy and positive as well. Feelings of contempt, for example, are incredibly detrimental to a relationship. Researcher and Doctor John Gottman will go as far as to say that contempt is the “kiss of death” for a relationship.
Contempt is more than just feelings of anger or frustration towards your partner; it involves thinking that you are better than they are. If you feel like you’re better than your partner – on any level, it means you respect them less and therefore treat them as if they aren’t equal. You certainly don’t have to agree with everything your partner says/does, but you do need to at least respect them enough to try to understand their opinions and feelings.
8. Acting Defensive
It’s incredibly frustrating when people refuse to own up to their mistakes. Relationship dynamics can start heading south when you or your partner refuse to take responsibility for your actions. Continually playing the victim and behaving like nothing is your fault (especially when it is) will cause your spouse’s patience to run thin.
There is nothing wrong with making a mistake, but the refusal to own up to these mistakes can become problematic.
9. Holding On
If you are asked to recollect and think about your marriage, what montage of memories plays in your mind? In a healthy marriage, the memories showing up will mix good and bad but mostly remain positive. If you associate your marriage with only negative memories, that means you have a negative view of your marriage overall.
Marriages require a lot of work and commitment, and you do reap what you sow. To maintain a healthy and happy marriage, you need to avoid the common relationship pitfalls mentioned above. Steer clear of divorce by continuing to foster healthy relationship dynamics with your spouse.
10. Abusive Behaviors
When abuse is involved, all bets are off. The stakes are so high in every conversation that you are constantly filled with anxiety because it could all fall apart at any moment.
We know that every situation is complicated, and confusion and difficulty are tenfold when abuse is involved. The bond you have with your romantic partner is sacred and should make you feel loved and safe at all times. If that is not the case, there are two other likely scenarios.
You and your partner have a lot of work ahead to create a loving, safe relationship you deserve, or you have to leave.
You have to decide which one it is.
If anything is mentioned below that you recognize in your relationship, we suggest you immediately speak with a mental health professional. You deserve a relationship filled with love and kindness.
Some warning signs of an abusive situation include things like:
- Behaves abusively with your friends and family
- Do not support your goals in life
- Is highly jealous without cause
- Opposes or ignores your thoughts, feelings, or concerns
- Physically abuses you
- Pressures you to have sex when you are not interested
- Resists your attempts to improve the relationship
- Threatens violence
- Tries to isolate you from your friends and family
- Verbally abuses you or puts you down
Again, you deserve to be loved and safe. All of the behaviors listed above are both very, very serious and could be dangerous for you. Please consider reaching out to a mental health professional if you are dealing with any of this or are trying to leave your relationship because you deserve better.
The Impact of the Stress of Leaving Your Relationship
No matter which way you go on this, it’s not going to be a walk in the park. Leaving has challenges, and staying has challenges.
All of it is stressful.
One thought you might be having that is particularly difficult to see past is that leaving would mean they have just wasted so much time, so it’s better to stay. This is called the sunk cost fallacy.
Oxford Language defines this phenomenon as someone being “reluctant to abandon a strategy or course of action because they have invested heavily in it, even when it is clear that abandonment would be more beneficial.” If you have been in a relationship for a long time and have invested a lot of your resources into it, you might think that that is enough reason to stay and try some more.
It is not.
The stress of possibly leaving your relationship can make the whole process rough, and life’s usual issues can make the decision even more difficult. Take your time and, if you leave, make sure it’s the right thing to do for you and for the right reasons (which are also up to you).
Sometimes we hear this phrase or even use it ourselves, without ever pausing to consider its meaning. A toxic relationship, whether that’s between friends, lovers, or family members, is one in which one person’s needs are met at the expense of, or without consideration for, the needs of the other person. Unequal is the keyword.
We all have bad days. And sometimes, we take out our anger, sadness, or frustration on those closest to us. It happens. We feel bad, apologize, and try not to do it again, though no one’s perfect.
But a toxic person brings this negative energy into the relationship time and time again. Instead of making you feel happy, they make you feel stressed, drain your energy, and stifle your personality. Their nastiness may not be overt, at least not all the time, but the negativity lurks, casting a pall on your friendship.
How to Stop Being Toxic
Yikes. Do you want to be that person? Most likely not.
Are you with that person now? Possibly.
Sometimes we engage in these negative behaviors repeatedly without meaning or without realizing it. Your patterns become your routine, and you might not be aware that what you’re doing is toxic. Not all toxic behaviors involve being mean to others!
If you feel like you are a little too close to being toxic for comfort, you can change.
When you are involved in a disagreement, try taking the perspective of the other person. Perhaps it sounds like they are criticizing you when, in fact, they are simply speaking in a rushed or matter-of-fact tone. Maybe there is some truth in their request/statement.
Be willing to accept responsibility for behaviors that are upsetting to others without seeing it as an attack on yourself as a person. Maybe you could be better at picking up after yourself, but this doesn’t mean you are a terrible person. Sometimes it can be challenging to own that we aren’t perfect, but this skill can significantly improve your relationships.
Of course, steer clear of name-calling and other character attacks.
Ask yourself if you’ve had this feeling before? Perhaps you are feeling left out, inadequate, or rejected. Is this an old feeling? Does this feeling tend to repeat itself? If so, then you may be responding to your past more than your present.
When we respond to our past, something about the present moment has triggered an old wound, and you’re responding to that old wound. When this happens, you have perceived the current situation through your old belief, which means it’s likely not true in the present, but rather your interpretation of the recent events.
When You Don’t Want to Leave Your Relationship
No matter what your issues are, you can come back from anything. Relationships can bounce back from affairs, loss, and any sort of life-altering event; it just takes work.
The one condition is that both parties have to be willing to put in the effort to bring about change.
For example, if you have an affair, come clean to your partner and let them know that you want to work through this chapter and heal your relationship; they can say no. When one partner decides not to try, they can’t be forced into cooperation. You should see that as a sign to leave your relationship.
The same idea applies vice versa. If your partner strays and then comes back, you are allowed to discontinue or continue the relationship depending on what you feel called to do.
But so long as both you and your partner are willing to try to save your marriage, anything is possible.
Seeking Advice and Support
It might be beneficial to have a support system of trusted friends, loved ones, and a therapist involved when making a big decision. It can help you mull over all the different aspects and not feel rushed to make up your mind.
If you need more support or just need a knowledgeable, objective point of view, consider meeting with a counselor or therapist. In situations of abuse, you need to talk to someone utterly unattached to the relationship.
With the help of a licensed professional, who helps people through massive life changes every day, you can sort through the issues, expressing feelings as you feel them, seeing things you might not have before, and more. Your therapist will protect your story and any related information and not judge you, no matter how confusing or severe your situation.
Should You Leave Your Relationship?
The only person who can make this decision is you. If you can find no way to make this work in a way that doesn’t affect your quality of life, maybe it’s time to make a change.
More often than not, when people come to us with this question, they already know the answer, but they want to be validated. Be careful not to ignore your true feelings on the matter.
As you make this decision, try to:
- Consider the short and long-term effects of staying and leaving.
- Look at this from all different sides.
- Balance logic and instinct, meaning trust yourself, but don’t ignore reason.
- Take your time. No one should rush you through this.
- Give your relationship every chance you can before ending things. If you have given your partner and your relationship a fair shot without hope for change, it might be time to move on.
Take all the time and resources you need because it is a big deal.
If you need someone to talk to or more information on whether or not you should leave your relationship, contact one of our Houston counselors for help. Our relationship therapists are available for face-to-face therapy sessions. To get started now, give us a call to schedule an appointment at 832-559-2622 or schedule an appointment online.
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