It might be one of the hardest and most important questions of a lifetime. When is it time to call it quits on a relationship? I get asked that question regularly and most of the time, by the time that question is on the table, a break up is imminent. However, with break ups and in life, timing is everything and getting that timing right is the difference between feeling good about what you did or lamenting the “could have beens” for years to come. The answer is unique to every situation, however, I have three guidelines to at least start to evaluate your options or lack there of.
So, you know it might be time for a break up when...
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1. Only one person is still working on the relationship. We have all heard the stories of miracle relationships that came back from the brink where the love of one partner was enough to rekindle the flame after the other partner had checked out. We’ve heard those stories because they are the thing good movies and TV are made of. However, in reality, when one partner goes emotionally MIA and isn’t willing to become present in the relationship again, chances are very high, it’s over, or at least it should be.
Lots of things keep a person in a relationship physically, when they aren’t there in their heart or head. Often times those things are kids or money. However, if only one person is carrying the weight of trying to keep the relationship alive, eventually that weight becomes too much or the efforts just flat out fail.
I was once in a two year relationship that literally would not end. We were living together and to be quite honest, he wouldn’t leave. I realize how bizarre that sounds, however, it was the truth of the moment. To say the least, I’d checked out, and no amount of counseling or talking was going to get me back in the game. He tried. Therapists tried. I didn’t. When I talk about that break up, in my mind it happened a year before we really physically separated. In his mind, it was weeks after he finally moved out.
2. You can’t let go of the resentment. Being in relationship when resentment is running is like being broken down someplace between the corner of purgatory and hell. It’s painful because it singes you constantly. However, it’s often a bit like the old adage of the frog boiling in the pot, slowly. You don’t realize you’re getting cooked until it’s too late.
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I always tell people if you’re going to stay you have to forgive and forget EVERYTHING. However, sometimes you can and sometimes you can’t. When you can’t that doesn’t mean you’ve failed, it just means, the relationship is probably over or at least it should be.
My ex-husband had multiple affairs. Honestly, I didn’t fully forgive the first one, but by the sixth or seventh resentment was the primary operating system in our relationship. Nothing he could say or do was going to change that. I simply could not let it go - nor should I have. So, the relationship was over. Staying in it would have been punishing for both of us.