Contrary to popular belief, love does not always conquer all; choosing to leave a partner we are deeply in love with can be the hardest decision we ever have to make.
Yet, when a relationship causes us more hurt than joy, it is a decision that ultimately serves us well and the pain of leaving a partner must be seen as a price worth paying for the freedom to be truly happy in the future.
Even the happiest couple will, at times, have to deal with conflict and upset; times when there is a need for negotiation and compromise in order to find a better way forward together. These issues, though hard, can be an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of one another’s wishes and needs.
Problems occur, however, if the conflict and upset are over fundamental, recurring issues around which no way forward can be found. In particular, if our partner is unable or unwilling to have open and constructive discussion around the issues, or is unable to think about our needs, it can become ever more painful for us. If this pain begins to cause us insecurity and self doubt we need to find the strength to walk away.
These fundamental issues vary hugely from one couple to another but they tend to fall into one of three main categories:
1. A lack of respect for your boundaries
Whether we have consciously thought about them or not, we all have certain behaviours that we find unacceptable in a relationship. These behaviours vary widely from one person to another and each of us must take responsibility for communicating our boundaries to our partner. If our partner behaves in a way that causes us upset or pain, we need to let them know exactly how that behaviour made us feel and why that behaviour is unacceptable to us.
Should our partner then continually go through that boundary it is important to recognise that the person we are with either does not have the same values as us or simply does not respect us enough to modify their behaviour.
2. A reluctance (or inability) to commit
In every relationship there comes a time when it is relevant to talk of the future hopes and dreams that both parties hold. Sadly, when one person in the couple is reluctant to enter into any real discussion about what the future might hold for the couple, it can erode the other person’s confidence in the relationship and, very often, in themselves.
When one partner is consciously or unconsciously unwilling to commit to the other, there tend to be clear signs, silences or comments that reveal their reluctance; we must simply be willing to open our eyes and see them. The longer we spend with someone who has no real desire to commit to us, the more pain we feel when we finally leave. Denial here never serves us well.
3. A different vision of your joint future
When two people hold different visions of what they both wish to have in their future (which is not, of course, uncommon) it is crucially important to be able to agree on how each person’s needs can be met within the couple. These differences may relate to the couple’s financial plans, their ideas about where and how they want to live, whether or not they wish to have children or ways of parenting any existing children who come into the relationship.
It is when these issues cannot be discussed openly and honestly that problems will arise; if your partner is unwilling or unable to discuss specific, important topics it is impossible to create a coherent and shared future vision to work towards together. It may also be because your partner simply does not have a real vision of a joint future to work on.
How you know it’s time to go
When we have these types of difficulties it is, perhaps, inevitable that, over time, we will start to question not only our partner’s love, but also our self worth. We can convince ourselves that their love, even if it is not as strong as ours, is enough. Instead of recognising what is fundamentally wrong with the relationship, we focus on the moments of tenderness, the tokens of love and the reassurances given to placate us. Interestingly, in a relationship such as this, the reassurances tend to be given only at times of crisis to avert (or simply delay) the inevitable split.
These reassurances simply allow us cling to the hope that love will win through, rather than seeing the signs we really need to see.
The key signs
There are some key indicators that it is time to seriously question your relationship:
- If you feel you spend more days feeling upset about your relationship than you do simply enjoying it.
- If you are normally a secure person but are starting to question whether you are ‘good’ enough for your partner; doubting your desirability or your partner’s ability to stay faithful to you.
- If you ever feel you are ‘walking on eggshells’ around certain topics which you fear may result in hearing something you do not want to hear.
- If you feel you are living for the ‘highs’ of the relationship to get you through the ‘lows’.
- If you feel your partner consistently puts their needs above yours and (as long as it makes them happy) you do not question it.
If you recognise any of the above, you may well be letting your partner have a negative affect on your belief in yourself and on your enjoyment of life; this person may care about you, they may even really love you, but the simple and undeniable truth is that they do not love you enough.
Put bluntly, they love themselves far more than they are able to love you and will, forever, prioritise their needs over yours.
Recovery from the heartbreak
Leaving someone you love takes strength, determination and an absolute understanding that you will, eventually, recover and re-build your life and your happiness. Recovery from losing someone we feel so strongly about does take time.
There are some important ways we can aid our recovery and help ourselves to move forward:
- We need to allow ourselves time to go through the grieving process; when we love someone, it does hurt and we do need to nurture ourselves until we are strong again.
- We need to avoid reminders of that person (such as songs and places) until we know we are strong enough to cope with them.
- When we find ourselves remembering the good times we need to balance our thoughts by remembering the times when we felt hurt and let down.
- We need, as much as possible, to limit the amount of time we allow ourselves to spend thinking about the relationship.
- We need to beware of holding the relationship up as the ‘perfect’ love to ourselves and others and remind ourselves that this relationship was fundamentally flawed or we would still be together
- As you go through this difficult period it is important to be kind to yourself; it is helpful to focus on getting as much rest and exercise as possible, so that, as you become stronger emotionally, you will also feel stronger physically. It is also important to recognise that, should you choose to be with someone in the future, you deserve someone who will love you as much as you love them; someone who respects that your needs are as important as theirs. Over time the feeling of longing and sadness will pass and be replaced by a sense of clarity and peace.
One of the most important things for any of us to take from any relationship is what we have learnt from it; about ourselves, about our partner and about what we want from an intimate relationship. Recognising what we loved so much about the person and the relationship helps us to ensure we prioritise these things in our next.
Equally important is recognising what was hard, the parts of the relationship that we do not miss and do not want to experience again.
A mistake we can all make is in thinking that someone may change their way of loving us, and that, over time, they may learn how to love us in the way we wish (and deserve) to be loved. This can result in a misplaced desire to try to reconnect with someone who will, in all probability (and if given the chance) simply cause us more of the same pain and heartache.
When we leave someone because they couldn’t, or wouldn’t, give us the love we needed, we really have to set them, and ourselves, free.
One day, you suddenly realise that the person you once loved so deeply is no longer the first person you think about when you wake in the morning, nor are they the last person you think about when you fall asleep at night. The songs, events and places stop being painful reminders of what you once had and become enjoyable reminders of fun, but past, experiences.