This is a time of great change. So many people are feeling an under current of restlessness and longing for something more meaningful. Very often, that restlessness manifests in relationships breaking up, job or career changes, selling houses, relocating and other major decisions that portend an opportunity to begin again. We want the high back, that sense of satisfaction with the quality of joy in our life.
We wrestle with the issue of ending relationships because of the pain, the history and the security of the known. It’s hard to hurt people you love and scary to start over. So, when do you know if it’s really time to go?
Couples often come to therapists, consciously or unconsciously, to break up. They may need to hear from a third party that the relationship is over and they are not guilty or wrong for knowing it. Sometimes they just want to make sure their partner has some support because they have already decided to leave. It’s an insurance policy against having something bad happen.
The reasons people leave are varied. In some relationships, too many connections have been broken to get back. We connect with each other on four levels: spiritually, emotionally, intellectually and physically. First the intellectual and emotional connections go when we stop talking to each other on a real level. Then the touching and passion leaves and finally, we do. In some cases when partners have either neglected their connections for a long period of time, or if they have broken them by being untrustworthy, couples may feel it’s simply impossible to get back. It is possible to recreate these connections and rebuild trust, but both partners must be willing and committed to the process. It’s amazing to see people fall in love with each other all over again.
Another reason people leave is because one partner is growing and wanting deeper connections and the other partner refuses to do his or her own work and grow as well. It is exhausting being in charge of a partner’s emotional well being when he or she refuses to do the healing necessary to feel whole and secure. These kinds of relationships become uneven because one partner becomes a parent rather than the beloved.
When people ask, when is it really ok to leave, my answer is always when you can’t go back. The truth is, that any lessons you have not learned in your current relationship, you will learn in the next one. Your own spirit is the highest authority about when it is time to go. There is a subtle, or not so subtle, knowing that no matter what you say to yourself, there is no going back. It is a sense of truly being done. People stay long after than knowing has arrived and often end up hurting each other more because of the disconnect.
When you know that it is time to leave, do it with integrity. Do not add betrayal to the pain of ending a relationship. If you still have questions as to whether the relationship can work stay until the questions are answered. Get into therapy, buy a good book that has exercises in it you can do together and see if you can reconnect. Break Up or Break Through is the book I wrote for reconnecting couples and providing new tools and aliveness to relationships.
It’s important to remember that you can change the form of a relationship without losing the love. You may not be great partners, but you might become great spiritual or extended family. Very often the people we have been in relationships with know us best and can support us in the ways we need most. This goes both ways. So unless your partner has become someone you would not choose as a friend, don’t lose the valuable connection you have made. Simply change it into what works better for both of you.
Whenever you are about to make a major decision, such as leaving a relationship, it is critical to be fully aligned with yourself. That means taking some introspective time. Does every part of you agree with the decision you are about to make? We rush so many things in this society that the unfortunate result is that we often look back with regret. Take the time you need to make sure there is no doubt. Fear or anxiety is different than doubt. You can feel fear about starting over and still know that it is exactly the right this to do. This is a normal human emotion and doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t move forward. But if you have doubt that this is the right decision, give yourself and your partner the respect you each deserve to make sure. Do nothing until you feel certain about your decision. Ask yourself, who am I going to or from? If you are just looking for the next fix that helps you avoid your feelings you’ll be looking outward for someone else to fill the gap. If it is the right decision, and part of your path to leave and you will feel like you are taking this step toward who you really are and what is inherently right for you.
© Dr. Dina Bachelor Evan 2013