by: E.B. Johnson
It isn’t something we like to admit, but some relationships are simply doomed for failure. Not every person we choose to bring into our lives will be a good fit, and this includes the romantic and intimate partners we choose. Situations change, and so do people. We’re always growing and learning, and that learning can (and does include) harsh lessons in the realities of life and love.
When your partnership comes to its natural end, it’s up to you to find the courage it takes to safeguard your wellbeing and say “goodbye.” Holding on to something which is a bad fit will only leave you heartbroken and cradling resentment on both sides of the line. The higher path is to be honest with yourself and honest with your partner too. Has conflict escalated? Have you become different people? It may be time to put things to an end.
Saying goodbye is a part of the process.
Breaking up and ending relationships is as much a part of the process as falling or someone is. Finding the perfect relationship is a lot like interviewing someone for a new position. You’re going to have to get face-to-face, spend some time together — but this doesn’t mean the job is guaranteed. When our relationships fizzle out, or become more painful than they’re worth, it’s up to us to accept that saying goodbye is the necessary next step to take.
We have to end things with people who are a bad fit, so that we can find people who are the right fit for us. Our lives come with a limited amount of time, energy, focus, and space in them. In order to ensure that space is being filled with the right people, we have to show the wrong ones the door.
By taking some time to process your emotions and leaning into your personal space — you can reconnect with your support networks and get some perspective on your situation. Little-by-little, you’ll increase your courage and the clarity of vision you have when it comes to what you want in life and love. Stop holding on to something that makes you feel empty or unhappy. It’s time for you both to do the right thing and move toward more fulling futures.
Knowing when to call it quits.
When our relationships come to an end, it’s up to us to spot the signs and accept them with honesty and integrity. It’s okay if your partnership has changed, or you want to pursue a different future than the one you imagined before. In order to cultivate this acceptance, though, we need to understand why it’s time to bring things to a close.
Have you and your partner become completely isolated in your relationship? Perhaps your partner doesn’t like you spending time with anyone other than them. This extremely toxic (and abusive) tactic might manifest in conflict. Or perhaps you’re both just so obsessed with one another that you shut out the world and fester alone and isolated. Total isolation isn’t healthy. If that is the only way your relationship can thrive, then it’s time to reconsider.
We like to think that relationships will magically fix all of our personal problems, and that they will make us happy — but nothing could be further from the truth. The person you are when you come into a relationship is the person that you are, period. Your hurts and hangups follow you, and so do your partners. Sometimes, this can result in two toxic people who make one another worse for being together. Has the quality of your lives deteriorated because of proximity to one another? Love doesn’t equal health.
Inability to stay faithful
Have you or your partner started seeking fulfillment outside of your relationship? This is a major indicator that something is broken, and it can be an indicator that you two aren’t capable of meeting one another’s needs. It’s perfectly possible to love someone, and still be incompatible with them mentally, emotionally, and sexually. All of these things matter in their own time and in their own place within our journey as partners together.
Are you and your partner dealing with escalated conflict? Do you fight more often and more viciously? Are the fights getting more serious? Or are you having a hard time controlling yourselves around one another? This is a dangerous situation to be in, and can result in catastrophic heartbreak for you both. It’s never okay to hit or abuse one another, and this behavior is always cause to call things quits for good.
Sense of obligation
Obligation is a strange feeling, and it can drive us to make some strange (and unhealthy) decisions. If the only reason you’re still together is because you feel obligated to be together for the comfort of others, then it could be a sign that things are coming to an end. Likewise, sharing responsibilities like children and bills is no reason to stay around if things are toxic or bringing more suffering than stability.
Does your partner try to control you? Do you always try to change how they treat you, or what they think? When we try to control or change one another, we’re indicating that we’ve chosen a partner that isn’t what we need or want. When you truly love someone, you accept them for who they are. When you’ve found a partner with the same values and goals, you don’t need to change them because you’re in-sync and moving together in the same direction.
Failure to meet needs
We all have needs. We need to eat, drink, sleep. In our relationships, we also have needs that have to be met by ourselves, and by our partners too. These needs differ from person-to-person. They all range, however, across the mental, emotional, and physical planes. When we fail to meet those needs, and then our partners fail to meet their expectations, it can end in disjointed and corrupted relationships that are more work than they’re worth.
Finding the courage to say goodbye.
Though it may be painful, ending a relationship that’s become a burden is often the best choice to make. Then, we can move on as adults and find people who better suit our happiness. Before we can do that though, we have to process where we’re at and form a clear picture of where we want to go.
1. Process your feelings
Breaking things off with someone is an “iceberg process” meaning that a lot of what goes into it goes on beneath the surface, in personal preparation. You don’t just walk into a room and announce that you want an end. First, you have to form a very clear and honest picture of where you’re at. That involves processing your feelings and learning how to accept the impermanence of everything — our relationships included.
Change is a fact of life. Mistakes and failure also come with the gig of being human. No one is capable of getting everything right all the time. That’s because there is no such thing as “perfect”. This includes our romantic partnerships. They grow, they change, we choose the wrong partners, and we make mistakes.
Spend some time cultivating acceptance. Force yourself to look at your reality over and over until it’s no longer uncomfortable for you to embrace. Once you accept where you and your partner are, you can process your emotions honestly and with a new clarity. It’s critical that you know how you feel and why before you approach your partner or spouse. Journaling is a great way to get started. You can write candidly about who you’re feeling without judgement or outside influence.
2. Reach out for perspective
Perspective is a powerful thing. While we think of reality as one concrete thing, we all actually perceive reality differently. This includes the reality of our relationships. We can be stuck in something completely toxic and not realize it because we don’t have the ability to step outside of our feelings (and ego) to see what’s really going on. That’s where our support networks come into play.
Reach out to loved ones and trusted friends. Let them know where you’re at and what’s going on. Explain how you’re feeling and the thoughts you’re having around your relationship and partner. Allow them to give you some feedback, but know that you don’t have to take it as gospel.
You have a right to make whatever decision feels best for you, but our friends and family provide an important outside perspective that can give us a bigger glimpse at reality. Likewise, you can reach out to a relationship professional who has an even greater deal of insight and perspective on what you’re going through. These experts can help you do everything from processing your feelings to confronting your partner for the final discussion.
3. Find confidence in space
Once we realize things have come to an end, many of us rush to finalize the deal (something which is inspired by our complicated and uncomfortable emotions). This results in calamitous confrontations, however, and disastrous confrontations that do more to hurt all involved. We don’t have to end things in a show of sparks. We can end our partnerships with time, grace, and dignity by slowly finding our feet and confidence in personal space.
Re-discover your sense of independence. Lean into your friendships, your work. Register for an art or pottery class. Build new social circles and get out to experience what it means to live life again. Odds are, you have both lost your sense of individuality. Find it again in your own spaces.
Become who you are again. Touch base with your passions and get back into the flow of who you were then, and who you want to be now. You can find an incredible renewal of self-confidence by getting back into your personal space. Likewise, your partner can find joy by being pushed back into their own independence. You both deserve to be happy, but that happiness may not be together and that’s okay.
4. Know your next steps
Eventually, you’re going to have to do the hard work and open honestly to your partner. Before you can do that, though, you need to know what your next steps are. You’re going to have to explain how you feel to your spouse or loved one, but you’re also going to need to help decide what comes next. This requires having an action plan for you, with clear indications for your partner in no uncertain terms.
If you’ve decided things have to end, that’s okay. But what are you going to do next? Do you and your partner live together? Do you share custody, bills, or even transportation to and from work? These are all important things that simply must be considered before walking out or cutting contact.
Figure out what you’re going to do next. Set time limits and schedules for yourself and communicate those with our partner once you’ve talked things through and had some time to process your emotions. Create a clear vision for yourself, and within that vision ensure that you’re giving yourself something to look forward to. It will help you stay courageous and inspired for what comes next.
5. Open the door one last time
The very top of the iceberg, there’s one final step when it comes to saying goodbye to someone who we still love very much: telling them. You have to communicate your new desire with your partner, and you have to sell it to them like it’s the best choice for everyone (because it is). If your heart isn’t in it anymore, they deserve the right to find someone who will put their heart into it. To tell them, though, you’re going to have to communicate.
Sit your partner down and open up to them honestly and with kindness and compassion. Questions can be powerful here, so make sure you don’t just point the finger and cast blame on them. Ask how they feel about your connections recently, and if they’ve noticed that things are “off.”
Express your worries, your hangups, and your needs. Explain to them why it’s no longer a good fit for you and then share your ideas on how you think you could both benefit by moving forward apart. Leave out the blame. If things are truly over, there’s no use fighting over who got what wrong. Say what you need to say and then let them do the same. Understand that this conversation won’t be easy, and that it may take several attempts.
Putting it all together…
Not all relationships are guaranteed a happy ending. Sometimes, the people we fall in love with change. We change too, and can find that what we once needed or wanted is no longer the same. This is the nature of life. As humans, we are always growing and changing. This includes our intimate relationships, which can come to an end for a number of reasons. No matter the cause, though, it’s up to both partners to be honest and mature when it comes to saying goodbye to the life you’ve built together.
Give yourself some time to process your emotions and how you’re feeling. Work backward. Is your relationship causing you more pain than joy? Accept that and accept change as a part of life too. Reach out to your friends and family, and re-establish those support networks which bring you courage and confidence. Our friends and family offer us a valuable perspective when it comes to our relationships. Don’t be afraid to use that. Lean into your personal space and slowly rebuild your self-esteem by touching base with your individuality once more. Find your feet on your own again and then make a plan of how you want to move forward. When you’re ready, sit down with your partner and open up about how you feel. Be honest and stay focused on the future. Sometimes, the best thing for both partners is to walk away.