Is It Time To Drop A Relationship? It Is If You See These 10 Signs
Are you a relationship person? I am and have always tried to prioritize my personal connections with others.
In fact, I'd say having high quality, intimate, authentic, healthy, and emotionally mature relationships are my top life value, and I devote lots of energy and quality time to the people I care about.
It took me a long time to even think about how to let go of a relationship because I was so focused on nurturing my friends and family, even to my own detriment.
When conflicts happen, I'm often the first person to reach out and attempt to heal the relationship problem. I'm quick to forgive, and I hope I'm quick to ask for forgiveness when I've messed up.
That's why for me, letting go of someone is particularly difficult. In fact, up until a few years ago, I couldn't imagine myself making the decision to release a relationship altogether.
My mantra has always been . . .
How to Let Go of a Relationship
“We can work it out.” And sometimes for me, “working it out” meant acquiescing, stuffing my true feelings, or tolerating things that deep inside I didn't want to tolerate.
Then one day I could no longer do that. Well, it wasn't just one day — it happened over a few years. I got to the point in my self-awareness or reached some internal shift, where I knew I had to let go of some relationships.
The pain of dissonance, differences, and responding inauthentically outweighed my desire to keep “working it out.”
Letting go of a relationship is painful — even if it is draining you, holding you back, blinding you to your true self, or worse yet, toxic or abusive.
We invest a lot in our friendships, our marriages, our business partners, and our family members.
And most often it is one of these close relationships, a person or people with whom we've been intimately and deeply involved for many years, that cause us the most pain and turmoil.
At some point in one of your relationships, you will reach the point where the pain and difficulty outweigh the positives — where the consequences of letting go seem less daunting than the reality of staying put.
The best way to say goodbye to someone you care about but can no longer be around differs depending on the type of relationship — and the fallout that might occur from ending it.
Saying “goodbye” to your spouse or a toxic family member will be much harder and more involved than letting go of a friend.
Here are some general rules of thumb for ending a relationship:
- Never just “ghost” someone and drop out of his or her life without a word. An in-person conversation is usually the best way to go. A call or hand-written letter can suffice — but never a text.
- Try to have the conversation when you are calm and clear-headed about your decision and can articulate your feelings without rancor.
- State why you need to end the relationship without unkindness or blame. Offer examples if you need too. Focus more on your own feelings and needs rather than blaming the other person.
- Listen to the other person‘s response and feelings without anger or defense. He or she will likely be hurt and angry, so prepare yourself in advance for these emotions.
- If the conversation becomes too angry or emotional, you can end it or suggest a follow-up conversation or call once things have calmed down. If you are ending a long-term love relationship, you will likely have many of these follow-up conversations before you completely let go.
- If you are determined it's time to drop the relationship, try to avoid the other person's attempt to re-engage you or guilt you into remaining in the relationship. It's hard to let go, so a clean break gives you the space you need to process your decision.
- Communicate with any other people who will be affected by your decision. You don't need to throw the other person under the bus, but you can state that for your own mental health and happiness, you need to break from this person. (Communicating with children about a divorce will require more intense and detailed conversations based on the ages of the children. It's advisable to seek the support of a trained counselor to help you.)
Knowing how to end the relationship is one thing, but one of the most difficult stages of the process is knowing when it's time to cut the cord. Let's go over some of the best ways to know for sure.
When It's Time to Let Go: 10 Ways to Know for Sure
The decision threshold is different for every individual. And certainly, the type of relationship can set the threshold.
It is harder to let go of a marriage that involves children than it is, say, a business partnership or friendship.
However, there are some universal themes of discord in any relationship that lead to the realization it's time to say goodbye.
Here are some of these themes:
1. Verbal, emotional, or physical abuse.
Whether it's a spouse, a parent, or a friend, if someone is abusing you in some way — through physical actions, psychological games, or consistently cruel words — it's time to let them go.
In many cases of abuse, the abuser has whittled away at the self-esteem and confidence of the abused, making it much more difficult for the abused person to leave.
Especially in a marital context, these situations are very complex and usually require the intervention and support of a trained counselor to help extricate the abused person.
But unless they leave the relationship, the abused person will continue to be fearful, full of self-doubt, and constantly anxious and stressed.
And as long as you remain in an abusive relationship, the abuser will continue his or her bad behavior.
2. Consistent dishonestly, disloyalty, or deceit.
Most close relationships can survive the occasional incident of lying or dishonest behavior. Even some marriages can survive a one-time affair with counseling and healing.
But consistent, repetitive instances of dishonesty or disloyalty suggest the person involved has an issue of character and integrity that cannot be overcome.
If you've addressed this issue many times over the years, and the behavior continues, you will not be true to yourself and your own integrity to remain connected to this person.
No matter how many positive qualities they may have, consistent deceit will chip away at your respect for them and for yourself.
4. Divergent core values.
If you and your loved one have wildly differing core values on your most important life principles, you simply will not have a peaceful and mutually supportive relationship.
Some less intimate relationships (like a friendship) can handle this, especially if each person is respectful of the other's values and life decisions around those values.
But for those relationships where the two people impact each other on a daily basis, finding a middle ground for making decisions, choosing a lifestyle, raising children, managing money, making business decisions, etc., can be impossible.
It requires one or both people to compromise in areas where they simply can't or shouldn't compromise.
Related Post: The Ultimate List of Values
4. General toxicity.
There are some relationships where you and the other person simply clash. You are like oil and water. There's something about the other person that brings out the worst in you and vice versa.
Often this happens with extended family members, siblings, or friendships that have never been quite right, but you've hung on because you feel bad about letting go.
There's a general air of toxicity about the relationship that hangs around despite your best efforts to “make it work.”
For your own peace of mind, it's best to step back from a toxic relationship and admit it simply wasn't meant to be.
5. Consistent, harmful irresponsibility.
If you're in a business relationship, marriage, or partnership with someone who's consistently irresponsible, it will eventually undermine your love and respect for this person.
If his or her irresponsible actions relate to finances, life obligations, or raising children together, you will be directly impacted in detrimental ways.
No matter how much you care for this person, eventually you can no longer tolerate their unwillingness or inability to step up to the plate and maturely handle their responsibilities.
You simply can't allow one person to undermine the other fundamental parts of your life.
6. Refusal to communicate, address problems, or invest.
There are some people in relationships unwilling to communicate, address difficulties, or actively work on the relationship.
They allow it to languish, or worse, actively resist any attempt you might make to work on improving the relationship.
They find it too painful or complicated to communicate openly, or they simply haven't learned the skills of healthy communication.
Or perhaps they aren't invested enough in the connection to make an effort. Regardless of the reason, when there's only one person making an effort, it's not really a relationship.
Related Post: 10 Communication Skills You Absolutely Must Know
7. One-sided relationship.
A relationship isn't really a relationship when you are the only person putting forth the effort.
If you find yourself always initiating time together without any reciprocation, or you regularly acquiesce to the other person's wants and needs, it's time to find someone else in your life who offers you more.
Often kind and giving people attract those who are selfish and demanding. It may take a while to realize that the relationship is one-sided and that you are scrambling to maintain it while the other person does as he or she pleases.
You will never feel validated, supported, or valued in this kind of relationship.
8. Emotional neediness.
You may have a friend or family member who is emotionally needy, not just on occasion, but in nearly every encounter you have with him or her.
This person doesn't just bend your ear. He or she unloads on you and expects you to be his or her personal therapist. Except no matter how much you listen, how many ideas you share, how much good advice you offer, it's never enough.
The relationship seems entirely based on your ability to be the sounding board and pain absorber for the other person.
When you try to share your own problems or discuss something that's bothering you, somehow the conversation always winds up about the other person.
9. Unrealistic or demanding expectations.
There may be someone in your life who has expectations of you and your time that you can't honor.
Perhaps he or she wants you to behave, talk, and dress in a certain way. Maybe they have expectations about how you should raise your children, how you keep your home, or what your political or religious views should be.
Some people have expectations that you spend more time with them than you want to, or they expect you to be available for certain holidays or events.
If you find yourself always compromising your own desires because you don't want to rock the boat or make the other person mad or upset, it may be time to let this person go.
10. General bad feelings.
Do you notice that every time you're around a certain person, you just feel bad? Maybe you feel bad about yourself, and he or she negatively impacts your self-esteem or confidence.
Or you feel uncomfortable, bored, down, frustrated, or any other negative emotion. You may not know why you feel the way you do, but you more often feel bad than good around this person.
A relationship should be primarily uplifting, not diminishing. If this isn't the case for you, then it's time to move on from this person.
If you see yourself and one of your relationships in any of these themes, it might be time to consider letting it go. Letting go of someone you love is painful and sometimes very complicated, but in the end, you must ask yourself if the positives outweigh the negatives; if the connection is lifting you up or dragging you down; if you feel better with or without this person. Ultimately, the most important relationship you must save is the one you have with yourself.
How have you known it was time to let go of a relationship? What realizations or self-awareness did you embrace in order to make the difficult decision? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.