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Is it Time to Let Go of your Relationship?

By Barrie Davenport on Saturday July 30th, 2016

Breaking up is painful, but sometimes it's just what we need

I am a relationship person.

My relationships with my family and friends are the most meaningful, important parts of my life.

In fact, I’d say having high quality, intimate, authentic, healthy, and emotionally mature relationships is my top life value. I proactively work at my relationships — on communicating openly, on listening actively, and on devoting quality time with the people I care about.

healthy relationships with family and friendsThe importance of healthy relationships with family and friends

When conflicts happen in a relationship, 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.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, acted immaturely, had knee-jerk, ego-driven reactions, and gotten angry enough to slam doors and stomp my feet. You wouldn’t have to dig around far to find people who would testify to my relationship mishaps. But in general, I have a pretty solid emotional intelligence score when it comes to nurturing happy, healthy connections, and I take pride in my relating skills.

Unhealthy conflictUnhealthy conflict

Personality Types and Relationships

A description I discovered of my personality type (INFJ) articulates precisely how I feel about relationships:

“In general, the INFJ is a deeply warm and caring person who is highly invested in the health of their close relationships, and puts forth a lot of effort to make them positive. They are valued by those close to them for these special qualities. They seek long-term, lifelong relationships, although they don’t always find them.” (Source: Personality Page.com)

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, “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.

ISFJ relationshipsSeeking long-term, lifelong relationships

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.”

Yes, Letting go is Painful

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, 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.

Letting go is painfulLetting go is painful

The decision threshold is different for every individual. And certainly the type of relationship can set the threshold. It is usually 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…

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.

Saying No to verbal abuseSaying No to verbal abuse

Consistent dishonesty, 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.

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.

Core valuesAre you core values aligned?

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.

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.

Toxic relationshipToxic relationships are full of fingerpointing

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 their 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.

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.

Refusal to communicateRefusing to communnicate can lead to the downfall of any 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.

So is is Time to Let Go?

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 do you feel about this article? Join the conversation.

 

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17 Responses to Is it Time to Let Go of your Relationship?

  1. “Verbal abuse” is a catch-all phrase that means nothing. If you act entirely selfishly and the other person starts calling you “egotistical”, is that “verbal abuse” or simply honesty? The people I know who complained about being reproached DESERVED being reproached and never took the time to question their own behaviour. The sense of entitlement was so great that as soon as someone told them off the reaction was “How dare they?” without ever asking themselves “is it true?”

    • you can communicate in a way that clearly lets the other person know how you feel without finger pointing or blaming. If you stay with yourself and your own experience… not using the word ‘you’ at all… you are in your own business and taking care of yourself while clearly making your needs and preferences known. The other person is actually under no obligation to meet your expectations nor are they going to be receptive to you passing judgement on them, which is in itself, egotistical.

  2. As Life Coach I can suggest several books, each shed light on un-healthy relationships and the only option is to get away, let go as the article suggest. One is The Sociopath Next Door and the other is Psychopath Free, these are clear behaviors that result in destruction of personal self worth and manipulation at all costs. These books also reflect that it is the same destructive outcome in Narcissists and Borderline Personality Disorder. Both are must reads if you are stuck in a destructive relationship or worked with abused people.

  3. Emotional abuse is draining on self esteem and self worth as is refusal to communicate, but I think is so hard to let go when you love that person…you just have to decide to love yourself for a change.

  4. Could change have as much to do with self reflection as self protection?

    Deflection can be the safe behavior to defend our self deception.

    What if the other person is me?
    Not from a schizoid personality perspective but from a self-worth, strongly defensed psychological profile borne of long time habits, long term maturation social interactions?
    Have we met the enemy, the one in the mirror?
    Without the possibility of a break-up, how do we face our Selves to overcome the inevitability that we may be the reason for the unhealthy connections we leverage to defy our true identity?
    The dialogues of conflict may in fact be only a monologue.

    I’ve re-read this article with this concept in view. I find that doing so offers a counterbalance to exorcising a certain smugness I give to my incompatibility with others. I borrow someone else’s need to hold on. I own mine.

    • Can you make it more clear? Do you mean, when someone is mad and is calling you names, they are reflecting you? Maybe something what is inside you or?

  5. Hi my partner and i of six years recently seperated I stayed he left only upon leaving he said if I made these changes he would come back. Well i have enjoyed making the changes where as I could not get motivated to do by him when he was here but I miss his presense dearly. I fear the dark and coldness of him being gone. After some change he said it’s my attitude now that I should change but he has moved in with a women. All I can do is think of our intimate daily moments and feel that he now shares with her and i get angry. He tried to avoid the subject of communication between us about it I left and he didn’t know where I was. When I returned he said I threatened him. Why does it affect him when I leave but he doesn’t think it affects me because he left or why he thinks I should change to get him to vome back but he won’t listen to me about why he moved out in the first place. Is he just dragging me along for his own selfish needs and why am I willing to change things for him.

    • Sorry to say it sounds like a toxic relationship It’s not you! best thing you can do is educate yourself about gaslighting,narcissistic personality disorder:-NPD. Im no expert just married to one for along time, there were several red flags in what you described best of luck

  6. I’ve got toxic relationship recently and we broke up painfully. I did everything for her, and I think she was very egoistic, as she didn’t pay attention to my problems and didn’t support me either. The reason was that I had several potency problems due to stress. It was a low blow, so I think if you’ve got arguments about that kind of problems, it’s better to break up.

  7. Amazing description of my curent situation. I had to let go even if it hurts so bad. Now that I read the article I feel that I did the right thing. Well written, thank you !

  8. I have for a few years now been stagnating in a 20 year relationship
    I am not in my youth but still feel I have enough life left that I should make the most of it. My husband is happy with the status quo and whilst I love him enough to care about him and his future I am not In love with him and no longer want to sacrifice mine. But I am trying to come to a decision from a place of love. I do not want to hurt him and so I continue to take the easier option of putting myself and my desires on the back burner. How do I face the heartache and continual brick wall that I come up against trying to gently and amicably make the break?

    • You are exactly where I am. Your comments could be mine. The only difference is I’ve been married 52 years. However, I’m so unhappy and he’s not going to change. He is a narcissistic psychopath. He always says he’ll make changes but he never does. What I need is courage.

  9. What do you think about someone that has a disease like bi-polar and that they have no control sometimes with what they are saying or what they are doing and always apologizing to you for there actions afterwards.

  10. Actually relationship is too complicated to give opinion in…every individual and every circumstances is different…we never know as third party…so no one solve all solution can be found period.

  11. This article was so spot on, and I found myself battling the same thing in every issue- from the verbal abuse, to the irresponsible behavior, to the failure to communicate. Just as the article mentioned, I’ve had my share of mistakes that I’ve made. Things I shouldn’t have said or done, but I’ve tried to grow. My spouse and I were in counseling and I should’ve paid attention to the fact that he constantly had to be coaxed to apologize or to admit fault for things he has done, but yet he would bring up my flaws. You cannot move forward with a person who never chooses to admit fault, but would rather deflect blame. Our therapist mentioned this. She noted that when my spouse feels stuck in a corner that he deflects blame instead of owning it. He’s stolen money from me, stolen my identity, attacked my parenting, and blamed me for his unhappiness. He’s said that I’m verbally abusive because I’ve told him my truth; I think he’s a coward for hiding everytime we have an issue. I think he’s irresponsible and it makes me uncomfortable with his decisions because we have kids. I’ve told him that its hard to respect someone who says one thing and does another. I do think there is a borderline mental illness present. To me, he struggles with depression or maybe is bipolar. He’s up and down with his moods. I’ve asked him to seek help, but then I’m accused of gaslighting and trying to trick him into thinking he is crazy. It’s been alot. As a Christian, I take my vows seriously, but its been challenging. I’m at a place where I’m ready to take my kids and start fresh. I don’t want to hurt them, but I already fear that this dysfunction of sleeping separate and barely talking has shown them what a marriage shouldn’t be. Again, thank you for sharing. It was almost like confirmation for me.

  12. For sure emotional investment is deep and painful to let go because it creates uncertainty and fear of starting over again. Remaining in an abusive relationship is worse .
    What happens when one party wishes to let go but already kid(s) are binding you together?
    Thanks for this article..

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