Have you ever found yourself trying to decide whether you should stay in a relationship for longer, or if it’s time to leave?
It could be an intimate partnership, a career move, a friendship you’ve outgrown or a painful family relationship that you feel stuck in. It could even be a membership or a home.
At some point in our lives, we all face the question about staying or leaving.
This question begins as a subtle gentle tugging in my awareness, and often then grows more insistent over time.
For those of us on a personal growth path, our central dilemma is usually centered around a second series of questions:
Is it me, or is it them?
Is there more for me to learn in the relationship, or am I learning the act of disengaging from relationship?
Do I tend to stay too long, or do I tend to bail too quickly?
Can I change enough to fit this situation? Can the situation/person change enough to fit me?
How harmful is it for me to stay for longer?
How do I know when it’s really over?
While the answers to these questions are super complex, and more than I can cover adequately in a forum like this, here are Three Key Signs that it’s probably time to stop working on things and to start moving on.
1. Emotional or Physical Abuse:
Name calling, insults, belittling comments, slapping, hitting, put-downs, pushing, pulling, gaslighting (convincing you that you’re “crazy”).
If everything gets turned around on you, and it’s always you and not them, this is a huge warning sign.
If their behavior is always due to some external circumstance, and not an internal experience, this is a huge warning sign.
A pattern of remorseless lies and manipulation, feeling power and satisfaction when others are hurt, enjoying others’ suffering or pain.
Refusing to admit to any problems themselves, zero interest in introspection or their own interior lives, insisting they should be loved and accepted for who they are regardless of the impact this is having on loved ones.
Remember this: The people you love or are invested in are unable to grow, learn or change if they remain unwilling to acknowledge their own conditioning, pain or problems.
Unless someone reaches some version of “I think I am in trouble,” or “I need to get to the bottom of these patterns of mine; they aren’t working for me,” or even, “Why do I do that and how can I change it?” – seriously consider moving on.
If you are in a destructive relationship, you have three tasks ahead of you:
1. Set healthy boundaries
2. Stop using self-blame to maintain hope
3. Know the difference between empathy and self-responsibility.
(But, more on all that next week!)
If you aren’t moving on, you may want to ask yourself some deeper questions to delve into what keeps you in painful situations for longer than may be good for you:
Are you financially dependent on someone or something in any way?
Does some part of you believe that you don’t deserve better or that all people/situations are like this?
Are you buying into the false belief that until you are “perfect” you can’t expect more from someone else? Is your self-blame keeping you stuck?
Life-affirming relationships help us expand into our fullest potential.
They fortify us, they support us, they are built on mutuality and shared values. They support us in becoming more vulnerable, not more defensive. They support us in opening up and melting our hearts, not in getting more brittle, more edgy and more hurt. They increase our sense of safety and security with one another, they don’t erode our trust and increase our vigilance and wariness.
Life-affirming relationships also challenge us, break us open, melt our defenses, but they do so in ways that feel healing, safe and generative.
People who are able to create life-affirming relationships together, often share the following traits:
They take responsibility for themselves and the quality of their lives instead of habitually blaming circumstances and others.
They are curious about themselves and others and are intrinsically interested in change and growth.
They are willing to feel their feelings and connect with their deeper needs. They get vulnerable.
They enjoy learning new skills, gaining new insights and developing deeper connections.
They can nurture themselves up from shame, and can also walk themselves down from grandiosity.
They have defenses, but they aren’t identified with their defenses (they don’t see their defenses as “who I am”)
They have the courage to admit when they screwed up, and accept that mistakes and re-do’s are a fundamental part of closeness.
Every relationship in your life is a potential stimulus for your own growth, just remember, sometimes the growth involves having the courage to leave, knowing when it’s time to disengage, and learning to stand in your own truth and for your own well-being.
And now, I’d love to hear from you!
What stops you from leaving relationships that hurt you?
What has helped you move on from relationships that were toxic for you?
Do you tend to bail too soon, and forgo your own work? Or do you tend to stay too long, sacrificing your own well being? How do you know? What helps you change this?
I’d love to continue the conversation with you below – please leave a comment, story or follow-up question!