Sometimes, it’s clear that a relationship is unhappy, unsatisfying, and possibly even harmful for us. If there’s no hope for your relationship, it’s important to end it as soon as your situation allows.
Sometimes staying in an unhappy situation is a deliberate sacrifice: For example, some people stay with an incompatible partner if children are involved. However, often it’s simply passive choice stemming from indecision, fear, and even a misguided sense of loyalty.
Why Can’t You Leave?
If your partner stands in the way of you living a fulfilling life, you need to leave ASAP – life’s too short. All relationships require some amount of compromise, but giving up the possibility for happiness is not part of the deal.
Many people find themselves staying simply for their partner’s benefit. This is a mistake: It’s not only unfair to you, it’s unfair to your partner, who deserves someone that truly wants to be with him or her.
Maybe you’re “just waiting for the right time.” But there is never a good time to break up: There is almost always pain and discomfort involved. That persistent delay is your mind’s way of avoiding the pain and hardship of breaking up. Down the road, you may experience acute regret for the time you wasted.
I encounter six major reasons why people stay:
- Guilt – You can’t stand causing your partner pain
- Loyalty – You feel a devotion to the history you share with your partner, even if it’s a bad one
- Misplaced priorities – You place your partner’s needs above your own
- Expectations – You feel pressure from family (yours or your partner’s) and friends to stay together
- Financial or logistical reasons – Financial and lifestyle concerns make it too difficult to leave
- Anxiety about “the moment” – You fear how your partner will react, especially if your partner has a pattern of emotional or physically abuse
Regarding the last point, sometimes the thought of initiating the breakup can be so intimidating that the individual is paralyzed, sometimes for years. Much of the time, the best approach to leaving such a relationship involves a good deal of distance (The advice to “always tell them in person” doesn’t always apply!).
Take The First Step
The longer you wait, the more invested in the relationship you both become. By the time you have the courage to pursue a life you want, you may have kids, financial obligations, and a whole list of reasons why you can’t leave. The first step is accepting that you will have to take action to change your situation. Stop envisioning disaster scenarios and start deciding exactly how you’re going to proceed.
Remember, the pain of a break up is temporary and will pass relatively quickly. It causes much more suffering to avoid the decision and stay in an unsatisfying relationship, wasting your time (and your partner’s time!) in a relationship you no longer want.