“Relationships can be our biggest source of pain, as well as our biggest source of joy.” -Monica Berg, Rethink Love
Not all relationships are meant to last. We know statistically that many of them don’t. Knowing that all relationships have challenges, how do we know when to stick it out and when to walk away?
Here are 4 questions to ask yourself before breaking up:
1. Every relationship is meant to teach us something, whether it lasts or not. What have you learned, and are you still learning?
Everything has a purpose, from the greatest moments to the most seemingly inconsequential. This is also true of everyone that comes into our lives, whether romantic or not. When a relationship challenges us, it provides us with opportunities to grow in profound ways.
If you believe everything is coincidental, it can be worrying to choose a partner. How could you ever be certain you are making the right choice? But if you have the intuitive understanding that there is a purpose to everything, then the fact you met this person and feel something for them is not a coincidence. Remind yourself there is a force that directed you to this person. Even if it’s not the right relationship for forever, know that you are not there coincidentally. Think about what you have learned and what you can still learn from the relationship before exiting.
Only if you are willing to go through that process of growth will you be able to gain clarity about whether this is someone you should stay with or leave. Even more than this, if you fail to learn the lessons from this relationship, you’re very likely to encounter the same issues in your next one. That work is necessary for us to change, either for the benefit of the relationship or to prepare us for a new relationship.
2. Do they love you for who you are?
The goal of a healthy relationship is to become more and more vulnerable with each other. In the beginning of a relationship, it can be scary to reveal ourselves completely to our partners out of fear that we will lose them. This can lead us to hide parts of ourselves from them. Eventually, these parts of us are revealed, and when they are, it can make the other person feel duped, lied to, or that they weren’t trusted.
Logically, we want a partner that sees all of us and loves us for who we are at our core. This requires trust and vulnerability from both partners. Building transparency is a process that should begin as early as possible.
Honestly assess if your relationship is strong enough to handle open honesty. Identify one vulnerable thing you haven’t yet shared with your partner and make a plan to share it as soon as possible. Start small. If they respond well, offer more and more. If they don’t, then it’s an indication that they aren’t worthy of knowing the deepest parts of you.
3. Are you disappointed for the wrong reasons?
We are raised looking at fairytale love stories of “perfect” relationships, full of romance, attraction, and excitement that never fades. Of course, that is not a realistic depiction of what relationships entail, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing our real-world relationships to these perfect images, and in doing so, finding that it fails to measure up.
Where might you have unrealistic expectations? Did you have an illusion of what this relationship would be that isn’t being met?
4. Strong relationships require time and effort. How much are you both investing?
Instead of viewing the flaws in your relationship as reasons to leave, try looking at them as opportunities for growth. Think about how you can make this into the relationship you envision instead of assuming there’s no way for it to improve. Anything important is worth working on before walking away.
Working on a relationship can sound hard and stressful, but it doesn’t have to be painful. Nothing important ever gets accomplished without time and effort. You wouldn’t expect to build a successful business without those ingredients. The same is true of a thriving relationship. The relationships that work are the ones you work on.
While these are some helpful guidelines to start with, every person’s scenario is different. For instance, if someone is being abused physically or mentally in a relationship, they should absolutely end the relationship and seek help right away.
There is no foolproof way to know if a relationship is meant to last forever. The most important thing is to search your heart and soul and ask yourself the difficult questions. A healthy relationship is one where there is constant growth, open transparency, and a commitment of time and effort by both partners. Make your relationship work, or leave the relationship, because the bottom line is that life is too short to be unhappy. Focusing on these four areas can help make it clear when it’s time to move on from a relationship that just isn’t working or if it’s a relationship that can stand the test of time.