Diagnosing A Dead-End Relationship Is Relatively Simple

You can't save your relationship this time.

Last updated on Mar 11, 2024

Unhappy Couple at dinner Africa images | Canva 

I have a lot of friends and readers who ask me about dead-end relationships. They know they're in them but they're not sure how or if they even want to get out of them. It seems like spring is the perfect time to look at the makeup of the breakup. Here's the short version. If you know it's done, get out. I know, I know. There are all sorts of considerations — housing, pets, kids, years of history together, familial relationships, fear of being alone. But, if you don't want to be there if you can no longer remember why you're there in the first place, if it's just plum not working, how can you stay together? Truly. How?


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Someone does not have to be abusing you or neglecting you or doing or not doing anything in particular for that matter. Relationships end. I realize this isn't romantic or fun or loaded down with the beloved Puritanical angst that emphasizes the importance of "sticking it out" because relationships are hard work first and foremost. Baloney. I don't buy it. Despite the romantic comedies, the self-help books, and the talk shows — relationships end. And when they do, you are wasting yourself and your time, not to mention your partner and his or her time and selfhood when you stick around instead of exposing it for what it is.


The thing that interests me about all of this, the thing that led me to this essay is the issue of what it means that so many people choose to stay in relationships that are, for all intents and purposes over, or, at the very least, unhappy. What does it say about us that we'd rather be miserable than alone? We like to be secure. That's the biggest thing, I think. We like to know where our next meal will come from and that someone will be at home when we get there. But although that meal is necessary for survival, that relationship is not, especially when it's one that is no longer working. That relationship that you are clinging to for security is likely doing you more harm than good.



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It's sucking up your time and energy. It is, right? You're thinking about breaking up. You're thinking about other people. You're thinking about how being apart will work. You're thinking about where you'd live, who'd get the dogs, and who would take care of you when you have the flu. That kind of thinking does nothing but sap you of energy. But once you are free from that relationship, you are also free to become the person you have always wanted to be. Move. Get a new job. Date someone different from anyone you've ever dated before. Adopt a goldfish. Do anything other than wonder, what if?




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Okay, you might have to sleep on a friend's couch for a while. You might not get to see your partner's mom (who you like more than your partner these days) anymore. You might not know what next month will look like. But who cares? What's the big deal with knowing? It's a false sense of security anyway. Just because you're not making the move to leave doesn't mean that your partner won't. There is always a surprise around the corner. Sometimes good. Sometimes bad. But always a surprise. So, if it's done, be done.

The clichés have it when it comes to why. You owe it to yourself. You deserve better. It's for the best. If it was meant to be, you'll get back together. Blah, blah, blah. Those expressions are cliché because, for better or for worse, they're true. Here's another one for you — life's too short. If you were going to die in a week, is this who you'd want to spend your remaining time with…


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Jenny Block writes for several regional and national publications, including the Dallas Morning News and American Way. She's the author of Open.