Is it time to leave?

The holiday season can take a huge toll on relationships. It brings out emotions we have buried, and the end of the year is a time of natural reflection about what we want the new year to bring. This can lead to people questioning whether staying in their current relationship is what they want and need. It felt timely to write about the ending of relationships and the decision-making process around whether to stay or go.

One of the things I tell my clients is that whatever happens with their relationship, I know they will be ok. I will hold the hope for them, while they figure it out. I honestly believe that the end of a relationship can be a positive thing. We have this idea that when a relationship ends, it is some kind of failure. We should have been able to make it work, we didn’t try hard enough, change enough, bend enough etc.

How about the idea that sometimes we just grow in different directions and sometimes get to a point where we are no longer compatible? I don’t think it’s a question of outgrowing or putting a value judgement on things. I don’t think that’s helpful. I think it’s more accurate to say, we no longer want and need the same things.

Sometimes this disconnect can be because the relationship was filling an unhealthy need, and as we deal with our challenges, we no longer want or need to fill that unhealthy need. It can be around entitlement. If we came in to the relationship expecting very little in terms of getting our needs met, and then do some work and figure out we are actually entitled to get those needs met, it can cause a disconnect. The person we are with may not be able to meet out newly discovered and defined needs, or they may not be aware our needs and wants have changed.

It’s very easy at that time to start finger pointing and blaming. You should step up, you should do this or that or the next thing. What we need to remember is that we are the ones who have changed the rules. Our wants and needs have changed, often without consulting or considering our partner. We have contributed to the disconnect. Does this mean it’s our fault? Should we have not grown? Not discovered we want more out of life than we previously imagined we were entitled to?

Not at all. We just need to be aware that this is not the fault of our partner. It’s not them failing us, it’s a shift in the dynamics of the relationship that is no longer sustainable.

How do we elegantly manage the transition? How much should we try to bridge the gap? At what point do we accept the gap is too big and we need to leave the relationship?

There is no singular answer to that, and I would strongly recommend getting some professional help to work through these questions. It’s some of the most rewarding work I do with clients. Sometimes the outcomes surprise us, the couple work on their own issues and find ways to reconnect. They come out the other side stronger as individuals and more united as a couple. Sometimes we work on an exit strategy, find ways to elegantly and kindly end the relationship.

The question of ‘Is it time to leave?’ is a hard one. It’s not something I recommend deciding without talking it through with a professional. It’s not something to decide after a fight or betrayal. It’s a decision that needs to be carefully weighed, a strategy put in place to make a graceful exit.

To make a time to talk through your relationship queries, you can email me on anita@step-familydynamics.com or get in touch with a local therapist you feel comfortable with.

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