Two years ago, I left my husband. It wasn’t a decision that I had made lightly; in fact, it was a culmination of years of pent up frustration, aggression, and constant arguing. For me, the day I left had been a long time coming, but it was one that I had been afraid to make. As a couples therapist, I felt like I was supposed to have it all figured out when it came to my own relationships–but I didn’t.
Despite the fact that I knew deep down that our marriage was no longer healthy, I felt guilty and uncertain about the decision to leave. I had always been taught that divorce was a failure and that society would judge me for it. But the truth was, staying in an unhappy and sometimes dangerous relationship was not doing anyone any favors. It was time to move on.
Research shows that when it comes to women leaving their partners, they’ve often decided to do so up to two years before they actually take action. And while the signs may have been there for me all along, I was still afraid of making the leap into the unknown.
So when is it time to move on from a relationship? It’s an important question to ask and one that doesn’t necessarily have a clear-cut answer. Ultimately, the decision to end a relationship comes down to what kind of relationship you want to have and what you’re willing to put up with.
For instance, individuals in monogamous relationships may have different values than those in open relationships or solo-poly individuals. What’s important is identifying the signs that a relationship is no longer serving you or your partner in a healthy way.
Here are some of the tell-tale signs that it may be time to move on from a relationship:
1. Incompatible Temperament and Values
While it’s true that couples don’t have to agree on everything, there are certain temperaments and values that can be problematic in the long run. For example, a partner who hates physical activity may not be a good match for someone who loves to hike every weekend. While negotiation is important, sometimes fundamental differences make it difficult for couples to find common ground.
2. Aggression and/or Domestic Violence
Intimate partner aggression is a serious issue and a sign that it may be time to move on from a relationship. While some individuals may be willing to change, not everyone is able to, or will. If a partner admits to being aggressive and is both able and willing to seek help, then it’s possible that the relationship could be saved. But only if they are accountable and willing to seek help.
3. Lack of Communication, Negotiation, and Compromise
Effective communication is crucial for any healthy relationship. When one or both partners stop using manners, talk with a tone that speaks volume, or use body language that serves to intimidate, it can be a sign that the relationship is in trouble. Similarly, when partners are no longer willing to negotiate and compromise on important aspects of their relationship, it’s a red flag.
4. Lack of Common Goals
It’s important for couples to share a common direction. While they don’t have to share 100% of their goals, a couple that has no common goals is like a boat adrift at sea. It may be time to consider the direction your relationship is heading in, and whether or not it’s truly fulfilling your needs.
5. Lack of Equality in Chores, Work, and Decision Making
A relationship should be a partnership where both parties share in the responsibilities and decisions. If one partner is shouldering most of the burden, or if there is a lack of communication around decision-making, it’s time to address the issue.
6. Worshipping the Four Horsemen
The Four Horsemen – criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling – are toxic behaviors that can destroy even the strongest relationships. If your relationship is rife with these behaviors, it’s time to seek professional help or consider moving on to healthier relationships.
7. Unfulfilling or Non-Existent Sex Life
Physical intimacy is an important part of many relationships. If it’s non-existent or unfulfilling, it can be a sign that there are deeper issues at play.
In conclusion, relationships are complex and multifaceted. While there may be no clear answer as to whether or not to leave a relationship, it’s important to recognize the signs that it may be time to move on. By seeking help, communicating honestly with your partner, and prioritizing your needs, you can take steps towards moving on and finding the healthier, happier relationship that you deserve.