At some stage, most of us will have to consider whether we want to leave a relationship.
If you have been with the same person for a long time, this can be an extremely tough decision.
The thought of making the wrong choice is terrifying; what if they were “the one” all along, and the relationship could have been fixed?
These questions aren’t a magic solution, but they can help you clarify your feelings and reach a rational decision:
1. Have my feelings changed suddenly?
When someone falls out of love with their partner, or realizes that they need to leave the relationship, it’s usually a gradual process.
If you’ve had a sudden change of heart, slow down and think about what else is going on in your life.
For example, if you’ve hit a particularly stressful period at work or have experienced a sudden bereavement, you might not be thinking clearly.
Sort out your other problems, then return to the issue of your relationship.
2. Have you developed feelings for someone else?
If you have developed a crush on someone else, don’t assume that your current relationship is dead.
Whilst it’s true that looking at other people may signify that your partner no longer satisfies you, it could just be a sign that you need to redirect your energy to improving your relationship.
Cut contact with your crush, identify the deeper issues, and try to fix them before walking away.
3. Has my partner been abusive?
Unfortunately, abusive partners seldom change.
If you have been the victim of physical, emotional, sexual, verbal, or financial abuse, it’s time to put an escape plan in place.
Abusers often become more dangerous when their victims make plans to leave, because they try to take control of the situation, sometimes in a violent manner.
It’s best to work with trusted family and friends when planning to leave.
Charities that specialize in working with victims of domestic violence can also be a valuable source of support.
4. Do I think I have a future with this person?
Imagine what your life will look like one year, five years, and ten years from now if you stay in your relationship.
Remember, most people don’t change.
If the idea of staying with them even a few more months makes you feel ill, listen to your gut and leave.
If you can’t agree on key issues, such as children and financial planning, this is another red flag.
5. If our relationship used to be awesome, what’s changed?
Over time, a great relationship can become stagnant or even toxic.
If this applies in your situation, write out a list of things that have changed.
Are these problems fixable?
If not, it’s time to move on.
If they are, ask your partner to work with you to resolve them.
6. Overall, would I be happier as a single person?
Imagine what your life would look like if you lived alone.
Would you feel lighter and freer?
Does the thought inspire a sense of relief?
If so, your relationship is probably holding you back.
7. Have I grown or changed for the better during this relationship?
For better or worse, our relationships change us.
Ask yourself how your relationship has affected your energy levels, goals, social life, and confidence.
If you often feel drained or even unhappy when you’re around your partner, moving on would probably improve your mental health.
8. Do I like this person, or have I been hoping that they will magically change?
You may have a deep attachment to your partner, but do you like and appreciate them as an individual?
Do you appreciate their personality, their goals, and their achievements?
It’s hard to maintain a healthy relationship with someone you don’t respect.
Assuming for a moment that your partner will never change, would you still want to stay in the relationship?
Take your time
You might need to spend a few hours thinking about your answers, particularly if you have a long and complicated history together.
Individual or couple’s therapy can help you take a realistic look at the relationship, and make the decision that is best for you.
Should your partner refuse to attend therapy with you, they are giving you a piece of valuable information – they can’t or won’t talk about the situation, thereby placing the decision-making burden on you.
This points to an underlying selfishness that will undermine your relationship in the end. Life is short. Don’t waste it with someone who does not make you happy.