Know when to walk awayJul 25, 2023
Should I stay or should I go? This is a question I get asked all the time. And the truth is, there is no one answer that is going to fit all the different situations out there! Deciding whether to stay or leave a relationship is a complex and deeply personal decision that can have a significant impact on your life. Relationships go through ups and downs, and it's not always easy to determine whether the challenges you're facing are temporary or indicative of deeper issues. What I do find, when working with clients, is that once we start to expand our awareness and commit to understanding ourselves on a deeper level, we often question some of the relationships around us because we become more discerning about the choices we are making.
Look at your own levels of stress
One of the most important things I have learnt about this decision, as I had to make the incredibly hard decision to move forwards with a divorce, is that this decision needs to be made on a good day. Which means you have to look at yourself first. What is causing you to feel the way you are feeling? How can you settle your nervous system? How can you start showing up as a more expansive, less stressed version of yourself? Because the truth is, stress is an absolute killer in a relationship. If we are stressed, if we are not dealing with the stuff going on in our own lives, separate to our partner, we cannot make a grounded, aligned decision. In fact stress basically stops our ability to be emotionally intelligent! So number 1 - look at yourself first!
Is this present in your relationship? I mean conscious communication that comes from a place of love rather than blame and shame? Effective communication is a cornerstone of any successful relationship. Evaluate how well you and your partner communicate. Are you able to express your thoughts, needs, and concerns openly and honestly? Is there a safe and non-judgmental space for both of you to share your emotions? Are you listening to one another carefully attempting to understand more than just the words that are being said? Healthy communication fosters understanding, connection, and the ability to resolve conflicts in a constructive manner.
The Gottman Institute identified 4 ways of communication that are predictors of divorce. These are defensiveness, criticism, contempt and stonewalling. (You can learn more about this in “The Lover’s Guide To Conflict.”) Ultimately if you and your partner are no longer making the effort to communicate effectively or you are not willing to try and get help with this, it might be time to walk away.
What are you actually arguing about?
So often in relationships we are arguing about surface details, small annoyances & sill frustrations. We often have the same argument over and over again. But what is it on a deeper level that you are actually arguing about? Why are you resenting one another so much? What is actually causing the pain and what are you actually feeling? Disappointment? Fear? Anger? Sadness? Regret?
Again, this is about you looking at your own stuff. Taking responsibility for how you feel - really no one can make us feel anything yet we so often use the phrase “you made me feel…” When we do this we start to realise that “whatever is hysterical is historical.” Meaning that the stuff you are getting upset about often doesn’t have anything to do with the situation at present. The likelihood is this is hurting you on a deeper level because it’s tapping into things like fear of failure and a fear of not being enough. These pain points start in childhood, so starting to become aware of this can be like a magic pill for your relationship. You can start to see when and where you are being triggered in your relationships and gain a deeper understanding and bigger perspective of where your work lies.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not asking you to take on all the responsibility of the relationship, that’s something I believe both parties should do. But what I am saying is that by looking at your patterns of behaviour and where it comes from you can start to have different standards for the relationship, you can set boundaries, you can ask for support and you can be vulnerable. Vulnerability inspires connection. The person that is willing to communicate and work as a team, as well as accept the part that they play, is the person to stick with and see whether you can work things out.
Can you compromise?
Consider the compatibility between you and your partner. While differences can bring excitement and growth to a relationship, fundamental compatibility is crucial for long-term harmony. Evaluate whether your values, goals, and interests align or if there are significant disparities that may lead to ongoing conflicts or dissatisfaction. Look for shared aspirations and a vision for the future that is mutually satisfying.
This is a subject that Mark Manson splits into two parts. We all have preferences & wants. And then we also have values and needs. Preferences are things like wanting to go to a particular restaurant, wanting to have dinner early or late, who gets to drive the car…. Values are more fundamental. This covers things such as spirituality, religion, money, what freedom means to you, your lifestyle, your beliefs (some vegans will only want to be with vegans and some carnivores will only want to be with carnivores). The important thing is to know that this is so individual - just because I have some values in my life that I will need my partner to share, doesn’t mean you have to have the same. In fact you will cause yourself a lot of pain and suffering if you are choosing to live your life through someone else’s values.
Mark Manson writes:
“Basically, you need to ask yourself if who you are as a person is in some sort of conflict with who they are as a person. If the answer is yes, then it will be nearly impossible to have a healthy, long-lasting relationship with this person. That isn’t anyone’s fault, and it also means you may need to move on.”
For example, I want to be with someone who values travel and freedom. I have this in my life already so I am unlikely going to choose to be with someone who has a 9-5 with 5 weeks holiday a year. It might sound harsh, but it’s important to me. However I could also choose to compromise if I meet someone who needs to be working in a more structured job role for 6 months of the year but then could incorporate travel and remote working for the other 6 months.
When it comes to needs, we all have 6 fundamental needs that must be met by ourselves, our partners & our friends / community. If these needs are not being met then we won’t feel fulfilled and we will likely feel stuck. These needs are: love & connection, fun & adventure, growth, certainty, variety & significance. To learn more about your needs and how to get them met, click here for my blog on Needs.
Trust and Respect
Trust and respect are vital components of a fulfilling relationship. Reflect on the level of trust and respect between you and your partner. Do you feel confident in each other's honesty and reliability? Is there a foundation of mutual respect and support? Without trust and respect, a relationship can become toxic and detrimental to both individuals involved. To learn more about respect in a relationship click here to read my blog “4 Lessons in Love.”
Successful relationships require effort and a shared commitment to growth. Evaluate whether both you and your partner are willing to invest time, energy, and resources into resolving conflicts, addressing issues, and evolving as individuals and as a couple. A relationship that lacks effort or willingness to work through challenges may struggle to thrive in the long run. Open and honest communication, mutual support, and a shared vision for the future are vital components of a growing partnership. And all of this requires trust and respect.
A Shared Journey
Consider your long-term vision for the relationship. Do you see a future with your partner? Do your goals align or can compromises be made? Do you ultimately want the same things? Kids? Marriage? A life abroad? Envision the kind of life you want to build together and assess whether your aspirations are compatible. It's important to have a shared vision or, at the very least, a willingness to support each other's dreams and work toward a mutually fulfilling future.
Love yourself enough to know you have the choice to walk away
If someone is not meeting your needs, not taking responsibility for their part and is disregarding your worries and concerns, then perhaps it’s time to walk away. If their words and actions are not meeting then this is a big red flag to pay attention to. If you are no longer growing together as a team, if you are not being listened to, if they disrespect your boundaries then again perhaps it’s time to walk away. Your boundaries are important because you teach people how to treat you by what you tolerate.
In one of my relationship break ups I realised that I had slowly begun to tolerate behaviour that was unacceptable to me. I was effectively saying, hey that’s ok, you can keep treating me like that because I did not enforce a consequence to my boundaries being crossed. When I eventually set a consequence and asked for space, I realised that I no longer wanted to be in that relationship. It was such a powerful moment for me and one that has taught me so much about how important it is to love yourself deeply.
The realisation that you do have a choice, that no relationship is permanent, no matter the circumstances, no matter the amount of ties you have, can feel very powerful. You have to love yourself deeply enough to know that you deserve what you desire.
Bring out the best
A definition of an unhealthy relationship is two people who bring out the worst in each other. Do you bring out the best in one another? Of course, there are going to be moments where we don’t behave as our best selves. There are always going to be ups and downs and moments of difficulty, no relationship is perfect. So often people abandon themselves in order to stay in relationship with someone. Self-abandoning is jumping through hoops, changing who you fundamentally are, pleasing them instead of asserting oneself, pretending like everything is ok when it’s not. We have to get really honest with ourselves and stop avoiding the really important questions.
Am I happy in this relationship?
Does this relationship help me thrive?
Do we work together as a team when things feel difficult?
Does this relationship bring out the worst of me a lot of the time? Am I bringing out the worst of them?
Am I honouring my needs & values?
Am I shape shifting in order to keep them in my life?
Is fear of being alone the thing that is keeping me in this relationship?
Is this a rough patch or is this a continuing pattern?
Am I being seen, heard, appreciated? Am I seeing, hearing and appreciating?
Need some additional support?
My workshop "The Lover's Guide To Conflict" will give you the tips, tools and language to help you approach conflict with more ease. The relationship you desire is on the other side of the difficult conversation you're afraid of having. You're ready to live a life that allows you to have deeper connections with your friends, partner, family and most importantly yourself. This 75-minute workshop will give you the tools, resources and knowledge to create healthy relationships and move through conflict with ease.
Please note - the above blog is not in relation to abusive relationships. If you believe you might be in an abusive relationship please seek professional help.
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