By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD
Every relationship, given enough time, goes through tumultuous periods – even if those episodes only involve a churning under the surface. And when that tumult becomes painful enough, you might ask yourself, When is enough enough? When is it time to let go and move on? This can be a hard decision to make if you’re in a long-term relationship – especially one involving children – or if the love between you and your partner is still palpable. After all, maybe it’s not that bad, or maybe you can turn it all around. So, how do you decide?
It might be helpful to consider the following guidelines for determining if your relationship is one worth keeping:
You don’t feel respected. For any relationship to be healthy, the partners need to feel loved, accepted, and treated with respect. If this is not the case in your relationship, you need to address it. Of course, creating a respectful relationship takes the effort of both people.
You don’t believe your partner is a good person. It’s one thing to disagree with some of your partner’s decisions or to be upset with some of their actions, but it’s quite another to believe that they’re not a good person. You cannot have a healthy, emotionally intimate relationship with someone you don’t respect.
You don’t feel emotionally safe and supported. Relationships are meant to be a safe haven from life’s difficulties. You want to be able to reliably turn to your partner when you’re distressed. You also want to consistently get support for following your interests and living according to your values. If you can’t trust your partner to want what’s best for you and to act accordingly, then you need to seriously question your motives for staying in the relationship.
Of course, you might struggle with the issues listed above and still choose to stay in the relationship. It could be that it’s worth enough to you that you want to work with your partner to make it better. That’s a decision that can have a big payoff –being happier with each other than you ever were before. But it takes work, and maybe some pain. Relationships don’t tend to get better just because you’d prefer to be happier together. So, if you or your partner feels unable to put in the effort to improve your relationship, then you need to consider whether improving it is beyond hope.
Also, as you’re examining your relationship and determining its viability, it’s a good idea to reach out to family, friends, clergy, or professional therapists for help. They can offer a balanced perspective when your emotions overwhelm you, and can provide the sympathy, compassion, and support you need.
The Art of Relationships blog posts are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for individual professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need help for an emotional or behavioral problem, please seek the assistance of a psychologist or other qualified mental health professional.