Recently I wrote a story all about how happy I was to find my current relationship. This particular post was built around all of the lessons my girlfriend has taught me, ranging from recognizing that I’m worthy of love to understanding that screaming and yelling isn’t a healthy, normal thing for a relationship. As happy as I am with my girlfriend, events that have occurred in recent weeks have left me wondering whether or not it’s the best decision to stay together (despite all of the love that I have for her).
“But Renee,” I hear you saying. “If you love her so much why have you been thinking about breaking up with her?”
Well, allow me to explain.
My girlfriend and I have been together for two glorious years. In the time that we’ve been together, I’ve learned more about myself, what I want, and the type of person I want to share those things with than ever before. Every minute that I’ve been able to be with her has been a treasure. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to have found her at all.
Unfortunately, it has come to our attention lately that we may want two very different things out of life.
I thought my girlfriend and I both wanted to travel the world over the course of our lives together, exploring the farthest regions of the earth, only to come back to our home in the United States together after our adventures. As it turns out, she has no plans to stay in the United States at all. Her dream is to live in as many different countries as humanly possible, moving around from place to place over the course of her life like the adventurous Sagittarius that she is.
Soon, I found myself asking some very important questions.
Could I see myself leaving the United States, possibly forever? How could I get a job in another country? Would I even want to live in another country? Was my girlfriend so set on this dream that it’d be worth ending our relationship to realize those dreams? Were we just too different to last?
My girlfriend and I have had a few tough conversations since we came to the realization that we may want two very different things out of our lives. Soon, I found myself struggling against my heart and my mind simultaneously. I started to wonder if this relationship was worth holding on to when it seemed it would be so destined to fail the moment she decided to flee the U.S. forever. I wondered if I could give up that closeness that I’ve held with my family for 25 years to follow her. I wondered if I could even follow her if I was willing to. Would she wait for me if I couldn’t just up and leave right away? Have I been holding her back this entire time?
These types of questions began to breed anxiety in me. Soon, I was losing sleep. I tossed and turned at night, sitting straight up in bed every hour or so to Google something like, “how to get a work visa in Paris” or “most gay-friendly countries in the world.” Sleepy-eyed, I read through countless different guides to moving across the world. I quickly became overwhelmed, slumping down in my bed, weary and broken.
With the stress of all the new questions that have been swirling around in my mind these past few days, the most stressful question I’ve had to ask myself is whether or not I can see this relationship surviving. No matter how much I love my girlfriend and want a long, happy future with her, some things just aren’t realistic. I’ve started to wonder whether leaving the United States for love is a realistic thing to do for myself.
I’ve started to wonder whether or not it would be better for us to just break up.
With a heavy heart, I tried to break up with my girlfriend two nights ago. I thought I had made my mind up. I figured that if we tried to make things work, it would end up being a matter of me begging her not to leave and that just wouldn’t be fair to her. No matter how much she loved me, realizing her dreams was something I wanted her to do. I felt like I was an obstacle standing in the way of that happening. I decided to release her.
The moment that “I think we should call things off” left my lips, it was met with an onslaught of “No, we can figure this out” and “Baby, I can’t let you go.” My heart was heavy. I loved this woman so much. How could I resist her begging me to stay when I didn’t want to leave in the first place? My eyes welled with tears and my heart stung. Every part of me felt as if it was splintering under the weight of my love for her.
As much as it doesn’t seem to make sense, as much as it pains you to do so, sometimes you have to think about breaking up with someone you’re still in love with. This is something that feels unnatural and for good reason. After all, we’re taught from childhood that if two people love each other, they stay together forevermore. Rewriting this sacred rule in our heads feels nearly impossible when it springs up.
The first time that you find yourself wondering whether a relationship should continue when you’re still madly in love with each other causes you to walk around in a zombie-like haze. It’s difficult to feel and nearly impossible to think clearly. When loving someone feels like it makes all the sense in the world, questioning whether or not you should be with them seems foreign and alien. You start to question your sanity. You start to wonder about everything you’d be giving up if you said goodbye.
It feels like self-sabotage. It feels like you’re not letting yourself realize happiness.
Romantic movies and books have taught us that when two people are in love, they rise above everything else, and they last because their love is true. No matter the obstacles in their way, they figure out a way to stay with each other. That’s what love is supposed to be, according to art and entertainment. In all actuality, love isn’t always enough to make a relationship last.
The feelings caused by romantic love, in reality, are so strong that sometimes they can convince people to stay in unhealthy, unfulfilling, and unhappy relationships whether they realize it or not. It can make people give up their dreams for their partner. It can make people quickly readjust their futures to stay with their partner. This is what I find myself doing right now for my girlfriend. Love is a hell of a drug.
According to a study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience in 2015, when people look at photographs of their romantic partners, a chemical called dopamine (a chemical associated with making people feel good) is released in their brains. All of the goodness that this chemical makes us feel makes it hard for us to think rationally, makes carefully weighing life decisions more difficult, and can even convince us to stay in otherwise unfulfilling relationships. And yes, it can even make us willing to give up our lives as we know it (I’m talking to myself here) in an effort to keep that person around.
While being in love feels good, these feelings are not synonymous with spurring solid, everlasting relationships. There are many signs that we can notice (if able to overcome the rose-colored glasses on our eyes) that indicated that it may be time to let go of someone- even when we love them with all of our hearts.
Your Needs Aren’t Being Met
One of the biggest indicators that it may be time to break up with your partner despite how much you love them is the realization that your needs aren’t being met. Every single person in a relationship has different “requirements” that need to be met in order to be in a healthy relationship. Some people have a more emotional need in their relationships, needing as much quality time with their partner as possible, while others have a need for physical intimacy.
When one partner begins to feel as though their partner isn’t meeting their needs within the relationship, it’s really important that this is communicated. If your partner isn’t willing to try harder to fulfill that need in your life, it’s probably a good time to start thinking about moving on.
So why do so many people stay in a relationship when their needs aren’t being met?
Well, think about the way we view being single in our society. Being single is often associated with loneliness and the inability to find a partner. When faced with diving back into singledom again, many of us tend to become overcome with fear. I know I do. Just the other night, as I cried about my girlfriend to my mother, I remember saying, “I’m going to be single forever, aren’t I?” We have a fear of giving things up for the unknown. In some ways, it sometimes seems as though it would be easier to continue on than to set out into the darkness alone. For this reason, we stay in relationships that have cracks in the foundation even when all of the signs of trouble are evident.
You’re Scared to Ask For What You Need From Your Partner
When we realize that there are things we aren’t receiving from our romantic partners that we feel like we need, it can be understandably difficult to bring this to their attention. When it comes to a relationship that can really make it through the storm of life, however, an open line of communication is essential. If you don’t feel like you can reasonably communicate your feelings to your partner, this may be a huge red flag that it is time to get out.
It could be that you’re afraid of sounding needy or emotional when asking your partner for what you need. Rather than speaking up for yourself and putting your needs and desires first, you may find yourself shrinking down under the weight of everything that you feel you do not deserve. This leads to you suppressing how you feel, covering it up underneath a facade at a weak attempt to simply keep the peace between you and your partner. You may feel as though you are a burden (something I struggle with myself) and that it would be better for your partner if you said nothing at all about how you are feeling.
Unfortunately, if you continue in this way, things will come to a head sooner rather than later. You can only get by for so long denying yourself what you need. That’s why it’s called “a need” after all! You may find yourself lashing out in anger because of everything you feel that your partner has denied you (despite them possibly not knowing you felt neglected in any way) and the argument that ensues can wind up damaging the relationship more than it would have if you had simply addressed the issue when it was first recognized. In the end, hiding your feelings only prolongs an unfulfilling relationship. If you find yourself unable to talk to your partner about how you’re feeling, it’s probably time to end the relationship for good.
You Feel An Obligation to Stay With Your Partner
When we love someone, we tend to feel as though we have invested a lot of time and energy into building the relationship into what it is. With so much time and energy spent, it seems like all of it would have been for nothing at all if we choose to end the relationship. After all, we still love them!
According to a 2016 study published in Current Psychology, people are much more likely to stay in a relationship when they’ve already invested time and effort into it- especially when it’s been for a number of years. This can lead you to feeling as though your prior “investment” is worthy of a continuous “investment”- there’s no option to simply give up on something that you’ve spent so much time building up, even if the relationship no longer makes you happy.
Despite this thought, simply investing additional time and effort into something that isn’t working is one of the worst possible things you can do for yourself. While the idea of getting back into the dating game only to start from the beginning all over again, continuously investing time and effort in getting to know someone else (especially when you’re still in love with your current partner) is something that seems impossible. That being said, if you recognize that you feel as though you have an obligation to stay with your partner despite your unhappiness, that’s a huge red flag that something is off.
I love my girlfriend to the ends of the earth. A part of me always will, as I’ve told her many times. I’ve dedicated so much time and effort to our relationship and I’ve done so happily. That being said, I feel no obligation to stay with her. If I’m unhappy, I won’t stay. If I feel as though she feels obligated to stay with me in spite of her dreams, I won’t allow her to. It isn’t healthy and it doesn’t work.
You Feel Yourself Starting to Resent Your Partner For Something
When I first tried to break up with my girlfriend over these recent realizations between the two of us, she begged me not to. In her desperation to get me to stay, she said, “Look, just forget about all of it. I don’t have to live outside the country. I just need you.”
This was worrisome to me. At that moment, she was willing to give up all of her dreams just to stay with me. I knew that wasn’t right. Further, I knew that she’d only come to resent me in time for having given up those dreams if I let her. That’s the last thing I want. If my girlfriend wants to be with me, I want it to be because she loves me and is truly happy with me. Nothing less than that.
If you feel yourself starting to resent your partner, I’d ask you to look deep within yourself and ask why that is. Have you given up your dreams for them, perhaps? Do you currently find yourself living a life that isn’t at all what you had imagined for yourself? Is it because you gave it up to be with them? No wonder you’re feeling some resentment!
While it may sound counterintuitive, you can actually be in love with someone who you don’t like. If this is the case, you may find yourself getting by in day to day life with them but you should know that a raging fire is building under the surface. Yes, you may get by with them day to day but you’re unlikely to make it through difficult times with them.
Still, even when the relationship isn’t working and you feel a sense of resentment toward your partner, it isn’t easy to walk away from someone you’re in love with. At the same time, it’s completely natural and okay to think about it and I’d encourage you to think about it deeply. It’s never okay to give up your dreams, goals, and sense of self for another person. No matter how much you love them.
You’ve Been “Working On Things” For More Than a Year
Difficult times should always be worked through within a relationship. When people have been together for years, it is especially likely that they have a stronger incentive to work through the problems. If you and your partner have found yourself undergoing some difficult times in your relationship as of late, it’s important that you set a timer on how long you have to iron out the problems. Experts recommend taking no longer than one year.
See, when we spend too much time in moments of indecision regarding the future of our relationships, the foundation of the relationship will begin to erode to the point where it can never be recovered. If you find yourself “working on things” for over a year and still haven’t been able to come to a solution, the best (yet most difficult) decision is likely to break up. Yes, even though you love them.
You’ve Started Trying to Convince Yourself To Do Things You Don’t Want To Do For Your Partner
Lately, I’ve been asking myself some very big questions surrounding whether or not I can see myself leaving the country to stay with my girlfriend. As I’ve asked myself these questions, there has been an ongoing war between two sides of myself. On one hand, part of me is intensely fighting for myself. It screams things like, “You know you don’t want that. Don’t give up everything for someone else!” while the other side shouts back, “You love her and you know you’re not completely opposed to the idea! You can make it work!”.
I don’t know which side to listen to. What I have noticed is that I find myself convincing myself to listen intently to what the side arguing in favor of my girlfriend has to say. I’ve been subconsciously convincing myself to give up things that are important to me so that I can stay with her. I know this isn’t something that I should be doing.
When you find yourself trying to sweet-talk yourself into giving up things that are valuable to you in order to please your partner or keep them with you, this is a pretty big indicator of trouble. Much as I said I wouldn’t want my girlfriend to give up her dreams for me, I know that deep down I shouldn’t be willing to do that either. As much as I love her, I should never tell myself that I can’t have the life I have dreamed of in order to give her the life she has dreamed of. In the end, it may just be that the dreams we have for ourselves are too different to jive with one another. We may just be incompatible. In love, yes. Deeply. But that doesn’t mean we’re meant to work this particular issue out. That’s a hard truth that I’m coming to accept.
Sometimes “Goodbye” Is The Most Loving Thing You Can Say
As much as you can love someone with every fiber of your soul, sometimes that love isn’t meant to last. In this story, we’ve talked about some of the various signs that you may want to consider calling it quits even as you love your partner. That isn’t easy to do. In fact, it’s the hardest. As I sit here by myself in the dark typing this, I’m still not prepared to give up completely. I just can’t do it yet. That being said, I feel like I’m a step closer to realizing some important truths that will guide my actions going forward. It’s important to do that so that I make the right decision not only for myself but for my girlfriend.
In the end, sometimes the most loving thing you can say is “goodbye.” No, it isn’t easy. But sometimes it’s best. Loving someone doesn’t necessarily mean containing their spirit. You should want their happiness more than you want them. They should want that for you too. That’s the magical stuff that lasting relationships are made of. Don’t deny yourself the ability to find that in life. Know when to let go, even if you love them. I sincerely hope I can make the right decision for myself, no matter what that final decision is.