Deciding if you should end a relationship

Are you in a relationship you’re unsure about? Are you unhappy but you’re afraid that if you left you would feel even worse? Are you unsure if you should end a relationship? Does it feel like staying and leaving are both bad options?

Romantic relationships are often one of the most influential and meaningful relationships in people’s lives. Partners can make you feel supported, encouraged, loved and much more. Maintaining a positive relationship takes effort and sacrifice, but they give much more to your life than they take.

Unfortunately, relationships can be toxic or unhealthy. There’s often no way to know if leaving your partner will make you happier or if you would be better-off staying and trying to improve the relationship. The exception is if you’re with an abusive partner – there are likely many challenges you would face after leaving, but being with someone who abuses you is always bad for your mental health and you need to leave to stay safe and healthy.

Knowing what you want is often very difficult since emotions in these types of situations are usually confusing and contradictory. However, you can feel more prepared to make such an important decision by understanding your motivations for wanting to stay or leave, identifying your fears, and considering how realistic your beliefs are.

Regardless of the decision you make – whether you leave or stay – making a decision and owning the outcome is very empowering, but it can also be challenging. You may never feel completely sure what you should do. But by taking time to reflect on your relationship and yourself, you can feel more capable of making a decision that honours what you want and need.

Who makes you feel like you can’t end a relationship and be happy?

Important to understanding your situation is knowing if your partner is causing you to feel like you can’t be happy if you left, or if you’ve given yourself these beliefs. If your partner is making you think you don’t deserve a better relationship, can’t make decisions that will benefit you, or that you won’t be happy without them, you have to recognise this behaviour for what it is – manipulative and hurtful at best and abusive at worst.

A relationship where one or both partners use manipulation to make the other feel like leaving and being happy isn’t an option is unhealthy. They might not be doing it on purpose since some people don’t know how to have a healthy relationship or they aren’t emotionally intelligent and introspective enough to realise how their behaviour affects others. Relationships where partners hurt each other because they don’t know any better are known as toxic relationships.

But if your partner is intentionally manipulating you into believing you have to stay with them, they’re being abusive. Abusers want to have power and control over their partners, and trapping someone in a relationship by making you depend on them gives them this power. Some abusers are capable of changing, but this takes a great deal of work since they don’t want a healthy relationship – they want control. So without a great amount of effort and typically professional help to unlearn their beliefs, a healthy relationship with an abuser isn’t possible.

If your partner is intentionally making you doubt yourself and question your ability to be happy without them – regardless if they do this to control you or because they don’t know any better – they need to realise what they’re doing to you and improve their behaviour if your relationship is ever going to improve. You can change yourself, but if your partner continues acting in ways that are toxic or abusive, your relationship is likely to stay unhealthy.

If your partner has narcissistic qualities, it’s more likely that they’re manipulating you. Most narcissists are master manipulators who don’t regret about mistreating someone to meet their needs.

If your partner isn’t manipulating you, you’ll have to ask yourself why you aren’t sure if you should leave or not. Discovering what’s holding you back from leaving can help you understand what you want and uncover any thought patterns that are keeping you from making a decision that could result in significant changes to your life.

Ask yourself why you’re still together

If you haven’t left, it’s for a reason.

Consider the following reasons for staying. They can help you recognise what’s driving you to leave, why you’re considering staying, and what’s holding you back. There are many, many more reasons people stay in relationships that aren’t making them happy, so it’s possible that none of these will be relevant to your situation.

If they apply to you, ask yourself if you formed these beliefs on your own or if your partner used manipulation to make you feel this way.

1) There are things about your partner you can’t stand

Even highly compatible couples have ways they annoy each other and disagreements that keep coming up, but they still love each other despite these differences. Points of tension between partners is inevitable – even couples who have been together for decades and are very happy have grievances they’ll never resolve. A fulfilling relationship isn’t one where you never bother each other, but one where you don’t let these things get to you.

If your partner has habits, characteristics and beliefs that upset you and they’re unlikely to change, ask yourself if you want to accept your partner as they are and commit to not letting their quirks bother you. If you can’t imagine being able to do this, then it’s unlikely you could stay together and be happy – your partner would have to change or you would have to pretend you’re okay with things about your partner when you aren’t, which usually leads to a tense relationship and bottled-up emotions.

However, partners shouldn’t intentionally upset each other or refuse to consider changing to make one another happier. If your partner knows they’re routinely bothering you and they haven’t made any efforts to consider your feelings, you might not be able to have a healthy relationship. You can’t expect someone to make fundamental personality changes or to adopt your ways of doing everything, but someone who is unwilling to accommodate some small requests might not be your ideal partner. Your partner could already be doing the best they can, but if you’re still routinely annoyed with them, its possible that you’re incompatible and can’t make each other happy.

By asking yourself if you can accept your partner as they are you can have a better idea whether your relationship has the potential to make you happy, or if you and your partner are incompatible.

2) You think staying is better than leaving

Your partner might not make you happy, but you think you would be even more unhappy if you weren’t together.

Thinking of your relationship as the better of two bad options will make it difficult to have a positive perspective. Relationships should contribute to your life in many meaningful and enriching ways. If you’re only together because you’ve weighed up the pros and cons and decided they’re slightly in your partner’s favour, then you can’t get these benefits.

If you’re with your partner because you think you would be more unhappy if you left, realistically picture life on your own. How would you spend your time? Who would you spend time with? What would you miss about your partner? What would you do that you don’t do now?

If you haven’t been single for a long time, you can have a distorted view of life without a partner. By thinking in specifics about what your life would be like – rather than just in generalisations –you can have a better idea of what you would gain and what you would lose if you left.

However, if you decide to stay, you don’t have to just accept how your relationship is and hope that somehow it gets better. You can actively work to make changes that will make you, and most likely your partner, happier.

3) You don’t think anyone else could love you

If you have a low opinion of yourself, you may believe that your partner is the only person who could love you, so if you leave you’ll be alone forever.

People who have what they consider baggage are more likely to feel this way. Your ‘baggage’ could be your age, your appearance, certain aspects of your personality, your history, having children, and much more. You can make yourself believe you should be grateful to your partner for tolerating you and that very few people would be so understanding. You don’t think you have alternatives and your only options are staying with your partner or dying alone.

Ask yourself how accurate your perception of yourself is. If you left your partner, would you really not be able to find someone else who loves you just because you’re overweight, a parent or impatient sometimes? Everyone has things about them that are annoying to some people, but are attractive and enticing to others. With all of the people in the world it’s impossible that your partner is the only one who could love you.

Why do you believe you wouldn’t be able to find another partner? Have you told yourself this or has your partner convinced you they’re the only one who is selfless enough to be with you?

Some people know how to find partners with low self-worth and target them because they know they can manipulate and use them without having to worry about consequences. People like this aren’t interested in healthy relationships or making their partners happy; they want to get their own needs met without having to consider the needs of someone else.

If your partner intentionally makes you believe no one else could love you, your relationship can’t be healthy because they don’t respect you or see you as an equal, which is essential to a healthy relationship.

Believing that your partner is your only option can make you feel trapped and helpless. You may also feel like you’re unable to ask for change so you can’t try to improve the relationship. Thinking that no one else could ever love you is a strong sign that you need to work on your self-esteem, challenge your negative thoughts, and realise that your partner isn’t the only person in the world who could love you.

If you don’t think you could find someone else who would want to be with you, consider going on dating websites or apps. This isn’t to be unfaithful to your partner, but to test the theory that you can’t attract another partner. You could also think of this as finding out how looking for a new partner feels rather than staying with yours.

It’s very unlikely that you couldn’t find another partner if you want to. And you might even be happier on your own.

4) You think you’d be lost and helpless without your partner

Some people don’t think they can be happy or take care of themselves without a partner. They know their relationship is making them unhappy but they’re afraid they would struggle to meet their day-to-day needs if they broke up.

If you feel this way, ask yourself if your partner is the reason you believe this. If your partner is telling you you’re incapable of taking care of yourself, they’re manipulating you into feeling reliant on them. You can’t have a healthy relationship with someone who wants you to believe you’re helpless because there isn’t equality.

If you believe you can’t take care of yourself, ask yourself how realistic these beliefs are. What daily activities would you struggle to do? What sort of responsibilities would you be unable to fulfill? What is the worst-case scenario if you break up, how likely is it, and what steps can you take to prevent this from happening? What skills and abilities could you develop that would make you feel more capable?

Building the skills you think you’re lacking would not only make you feel better prepared for a life without your partner, but also build your confidence and independence, which is valuable regardless of whether you choose to leave your partner or not.

5) You’ve invested too much in the relationship to leave

If you’ve been with someone for a long time, you’ll have invested a great deal in each other and have shared many experiences. You could share bank accounts and expenses, have property in common, and children or pets together.

This can present many practical barriers to leaving – how will you split what you own? Who will stay and who will have to find somewhere else to live? How will you share your kids or pets? The thought of needing to resolve these problems can be daunting, so you could stay since there is so much to do and lose.

A shared history might be enough to make your relationship worth salvaging, especially if you believe you can make changes that would help you enjoy the relationship more. But if you feel like you just don’t have the energy to find solutions to everything you would need to resolve, ask yourself what you’re sacrificing in exchange to not negotiate your way out of the relationship. You could spend the rest of your life in a relationship that doesn’t make you happy and miss out on a more enjoyable life by staying with your partner.

You can also ask yourself if you suspect your partner would make leaving difficult. They might not necessarily be manipulating you into staying this way, but knowing if you’re the one who doesn’t want to go through the challenges of leaving or if you’re worried about your partner being difficult, you can have a more realistic idea of what you would need to do if you decide to leave.

You don’t need to view a finished relationship as a failure or a waste of time. Even – sometimes especially – unhealthy relationships can teach you a great deal about yourself, such as what makes you happy, what you need from your partner to feel loved, provide insight into your boundaries, what you’ll sacrifice for someone else, and more.

6) You’re worried about your partner’s emotions

Some people will stay with a partner because they care for them and don’t want to hurt someone they’ve loved and may still have strong emotions for. This can cause people to stay in unhappy relationships because they believe their partner doesn’t want the relationship to end.

These relationships can satisfy the desire to be wanted and needed. Believing that someone depends on you for happiness is very appealing. You think you’re protecting your partner and feel selfless because you’re putting your partner’s emotions ahead of your own. But relationships like this can’t be healthy since there isn’t equality in the relationship – you’re telling yourself that you’re working harder and sacrificing much more than your partner, while they’re getting more satisfaction.

Unless you ask your partner how they feel about the relationship, you can’t know for sure what they want. They might be just as unhappy as you are but believe they should stay for your sake, so you’re staying in a relationship neither of you wants or needs.

It’s also possible your partner is intentionally making you believe they’d be destroyed if you left. They could be playing on your emotions to keep you in a relationship where you’re willing to put your needs ahead of theirs more often than what is healthy. This is another example of manipulative behaviour (which may be unintentional) that makes a relationship unhealthy.

Feeling like you don’t have the option to leave can be a sign your partner is manipulating you, but you could have come to these beliefs on your own.

If you care about your partner and don’t want to leave them, you could work together to try to salvage the relationship. If you haven’t been communicating your emotions, your partner might not know you’re unhappy. If both of you want change, then it’s possible to repair and strengthen the relationship. But if you suffer in silence, the relationship won’t improve.

Even if you stay with your partner and accept your relationship as it is, making a decision about what you want and what you’re going to do with your life is empowering and gives you ownership of your situation. This can help motivate you to take action later if you aren’t happy with what you chose.

You may never feel sure that you want to stay with your partner or know that you want to leave; this uncertainty is unavoidable. But by considering your options and what’s important to you, you can feel more capable of making such an important decision.

You may also benefit from working with a mental health professional. They can help you understand your situation, encourage you to utilise your strengths, and give you the opportunity to explore what you want with someone who will listen and encourage you to discover what you’re thinking and feeling. If you have beliefs that are holding you back from making a decision or thinking that leaving your partner is a real option, they can help you work through these barriers and realise you do have options. They may also identify unhealthy or abusive behaviours your partner has that you didn’t realise could be harming your relationship and mental health.

You can ask yourself the following questions to help you clarify your thoughts, feelings and wishes.

What are my reasons for staying?

What am I afraid of losing if I end a relationship?

What am I worried the consequences will be?

Are these fears realistic?

What do I want from my relationship?

What is holding me back from making a decision?

Do I truly believe that leaving is an option (because you can’t decide if you want to stay or leave if you don’t think you have a choice)?

How can I feel more capable of making a decision (because deciding to do nothing is also making a decision)?

What do I want?

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1 Comments

  1. ufabet April 18, 2024at11:28 am

    Very well presented. Every quote was awesome and thanks for sharing the content. Keep sharing and keep motivating others.

    Reply

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