It's important to know whether it's time to leave a relationship.

After investing our time, money, emotions (and possibly sanity) into a romantic relationship, we are hoping to receive a hefty return on our investment. What does this “return” look like? Well for some, it’s a commitment made in front of God, to love and to cherish till death do them apart, while for others it’s a promise to respect each other’s needs and grow together. And of course, there are those who wish for their partner to grow up, clean up after themselves, and change entirely. But what happens when you experience a significant loss on your investment and, therefore, aren’t gaining as much as you’d originally forecasted? Do you stay or do you go? Let’s try to work this out together.


What are you looking for in a partner?

Do you wish to have someone who is going to be at your beck and call, anticipating and responding to your needs and following any orders you may bestow upon then? If the answer is “yes”, I’m afraid that a partner is not going to cut it – a personal assistant may be a better option. When you’re in a truly equal, committed and loving relationship, you can certainly expect of your lover to be supportive, helpful and encouraging. However, you must learn to respect their individuality as well. Yes, you are a team, but you shouldn’t entice them to neglect their own needs and turn you into their full-time job. (I am generally speaking here – if you and your partner have made an agreement whereby they accept to be a certain way for the benefit of the relationship, then so be it. You do what works best for you).

Are you secretly hoping that your significant other might change? Perhaps there are certain behaviours that you just wish they’d dump in favour of ways eerily similar to yours. Before dismissing your partner for gross misconduct, consider that relationships are about compromise as well as respecting each other’s differences. It is extremely important to find a middle ground, without losing parts of yourself in the process.

Are you wanting to be with an individual who respects your needs and strives to meet them as often as they can? I believe that in order to have a healthy, functioning partnership void of resentment, a conversation about needs must take place. What is non-negotiable to you? For your partner to be more empathetic perhaps? Financially stable? A good listener? For them to share the same interests as you? How can you best ensure that you and your partner are satisfied with one another and that you both feel happy and fulfilled with the development of the relationship? It’s simple – communicate.

Are you looking for your partner to commit to you and make your relationship “official”? Or perhaps you’re wanting to get married? There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of this, in fact it may add a much-needed layer of security to your relationship. However, after consulting multiple sources, I realised that a lot of us are quick to buy into the rhetoric of “if someone truly likes you, they’ll move mountains, wrestle tigers and dump their baggage without hesitation”. If only it were that simple. Yes, there are those who are simply time wasters, and unfortunately don’t like you enough to make a commitment – in other words, they’re the infamous “players”. (These individuals are well adept in the art of love bombing and will carefully entice you with breadcrumbs leading you down a path of fleeting romance, confusion and deception). But there are others who have good intentions, yet still struggle with commitment. For example, it is entirely possible to love someone and still be petrified of settling down. Question is, are you willing to wait for them to take that step?

Why am I struggling with the idea of leaving?

Why is it that some of us would rather resign ourselves to a life in prison, wishing and praying that our cellmate will turn into our soulmate? Well, for some, letting go represents the end of a dream or fantasy. Starting over again with someone new can be extremely frightening. Others may be reluctant to leave, as they are worried about dishonouring the history they share with their partner. Then there are the individuals who, unfortunately, are afflicted and paralysed by this rather sad sentiment: “What if they find someone else and give them what they could never give me?”.

Is it time for you to leave?

Here are some tips for you to follow, should you feel stuck and unhappy with your relationship:

  • Identify what is lacking. What could your partner do differently? (e.g. if you argue constantly, is there a particular theme that keeps coming up?) Keep a journal if it might help you.
  • Set some time aside to have a conversation about how to best tackle the issue at hand.
  • Do some self-reflection. We don’t attract people at random. Your partner will often hold up a mirror, reflecting issues that you may not be confronting within yourself. These are some questions you could pose to yourself:
    1. Is it possible that you are consciously or unconsciously trying to prove to yourself that you can make them commit and that therefore you are lovable/likeable?
    2. Or are you scared of commitment, deep down?
    3. Do they remind you of anyone? Do they treat you the same way that your mother/father/friend did?
    4. Are they reaffirming insecurities that you already held about yourself?
    5. Could it be that you consciously or unconsciously believe that you’re not good enough to be happy in a relationship?
  • Be honest with yourself and your partner. If you are unhappy, then reflect on whether you’d want to be in the same position in 5 years’ time.  Are you prepared to be in a relationship where you’re not completely satisfied?
  • Speak to a therapist.

Relationships are not always going to be easy, however we shouldn’t resign ourselves to a lifetime of unhappiness. Take a stand! Remember – you cannot change anyone, but you can take control of your life.

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