How do you decide it’s time to leave a relationship that hasn’t fallen to the level of an outright failure, but it’s stopped feeling gratifying? Couples can spend years, even decades, in relationships like this! These relationships can best be described as “comfortable.” And comfort in a relationship isn’t something to be taken lightly. At some point our lives, comfort and security are the things we will likely crave the most from a relationship. The complicating factor in all of this is that you can’t find comfort and security with just anybody. It needs to be with someone who’s making you feel that way based on serenity and happiness.
But if you’re often finding yourself wondering if you’d be happier with someone else, you’ll never feel fully comfortable or secure with your current partner. And your partner won’t feel it with you, either.
If a relationship is toxic, then the decision to leave it should feel like a relatively easy one to make, unless there are children or financial issues involved. It’s when the relationship still feels kind of good–not too bad, but not so great anymore–that the decision to leave becomes a difficult one. It may be very easy for you to envision a more wonderful relationship with someone else. Even so, it can be very difficult to give up the so-so one you’re in, especially when you figure in the trouble and pain involved in breaking up.
Of course, this does not mean that you should leave a relationship at the first hint of dissatisfaction! No relationship is wonderful at every point. Commitment is as valuable as it is because it carries people through the less-than-wonderful times. It’s when the less-than-wonderful times become the standard, and you don’t foresee any wonderful ones in the near future, that you naturally may begin to consider alternatives to staying in the relationship. It’s possible for commitment to hold a relationship together, but commitment can’t carry that weight on its own. There has to be something else of value in the relationship to work together with the couple’s commitments.
If you find yourself in a so-so relationship and your pondering your options, ask yourself this question: Why are you staying in the relationship?” Your answer should be, “I can’t imagine myself feeling happier with anyone else.” It may seem selfish to place your happiness as the top priority in a relationship. But it’s not selfish. Happiness is what relationships are for, after all. Nobody is obligated to remain in a relationship that isn’t make them happy. The only obligation they really have is to try to be as honest with their partner about their concerns as is possible, and if the time comes, to end the relationship with empathy and sensitivity.
If your answer is anything else besides the happiness one, you may want to consider the option of leaving the relationship. There may be reasons to stay in a relationship that seem “nobler” than happiness, such as feelings of obligation, duty, or gratitude. But if those things aren’t giving you a sense of happiness and fulfillment, then they aren’t enough to serve as an anchor to a successful and healthy long-term relationship.
Try looking at it like this: Would your partner want you committed to the relationship just because you feel like you should be? Conversely, would you want your partner to stay for that reason? True love isn’t rooted in obligation. True love only has meaning when it’s freely given.
So if you’ve decided you want to end your relationship, but you find it’s going to be difficult to actually end it due to the pain you and your partner will feel, here are some factors to consider:
- There will certainly be pain involved when the relationship ends. Even though the relationship wasn’t a great one, it wasn’t terrible, either. There is warmth and love that will definitely be lost. As time goes on, the pain will fade. And you and your partner will both have the rest of your lives to find happiness again.
- If you’re feeling unsatisfied in the relationship, your partner probably is, too. Before you make the decision to end it, you’ve hopefully discussed this with each other. Ending a relationship shouldn’t ever come as a surprise to one of the people involved in it. If it does, then nobody is doing anyone else a favor by staying in it. Staying would just serve to extend the dull long-term pain in an effort to prevent the sharp short-term pain of a break-up, which may be inevitable anyways.
It’s easy to be lulled into the false sense of security and comfort of an okay, so-so relationship. It’s also easy to put off ending it by trying to rationalize that it’s better to stay in it. But if you truly believe that you and your partner could both be happier with someone else, then you owe it to yourselves to consider if ending the relationship is the best option.
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