This guest article from Psych Central was written by Nathan Feiles, LMSW
Many of us have been there at one time or another — in a relationship that is causing us stress, maybe too much stress. There is potential for the relationship to fulfill our ideal, but something keeps it from getting there. We end up battling, at times to our own emotional detriment, to keep the relationship going even through a steady lack of fulfillment.
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Sometimes we break up, get back together, frustratingly chase and fight for our partner to do better, change, etc. But the question keeps coming up — when is it time to end the relationship and begin the process of moving forward?
Nobody really wants to end a relationship. We put so much emotion, time and energy into building and growing as couples. But sometimes, in order to realize our own potential and also to satisfy our core needs and goals in life — as well as for our emotional health — ending a relationship becomes the healthier decision.
In an unstable relationship, our hurt emotions and the desire for emotional stability with our partner often clouds the bigger picture. We lose sight of long term emotional health and at times battle for a relationship that brings us more hurt than partnership. If you’re concerned about the future of your relationship, consider asking yourself the following questions (and even better, discussing these questions with your partner). View each question not only in terms of concrete answers, but also in terms of emotional priorities:
1. What are your values?
Start by knowing what’s important in your life. What are the principles you abide by in your life? What do you prioritize – family, work, travel, children, spontaneity, security, organization, emotional calm, an on-the-go lifestyle? Where do you and your partner stand in terms of each other’s values? This may include how you are treated by your partner. Even if your values don’t necessarily line up, the more important question is if there is room in the relationship for each other’s values, including room for some compromise?
2. What are your goals?
How do you see your life in the future and what are the milestones you want to accomplish along the way (children, career, house, hobbies, etc.)? Where are you flexible and able to compromise, and what is non-negotiable? Can you and your partner jointly reach your goals together, even if your goals aren’t identical?
3. What is non-negotiable (deal-breakers)?
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There are areas of our lives where we can compromise for the sake of the relationship, and there are areas that aren’t negotiable. Figuring out which of our values, goals, and ideals (including emotional goals — affection, support, listening, sex, etc.) are flexible or non-negotiable will help you to see if and where there is room for work with your partner.
4. Are you aligned with each other?