It took me four years to leave a relationship I knew wasn't right for me. I spent my time hoping things would get better, and that my partner would finally recognize my pain and change his ways.
But this thought process was naïve. I believed my partner was responsible for my sadness — and, in turn, that only he could make me happy by changing himself. In hindsight, I now know that I was the one that needed to make a change: I needed to end my relationship.
What kept me from realizing this for so long was my fear about making such a huge life decision. Was I ready to leave my partner, my husband, my child's father? I felt paralyzed. I knew I was unhappy — but was that a good enough reason to leave?
In my case, the answer was yes. While it's natural to experience doubt in relationships, severe unhappiness can be a wakeup call to examine our present situations— and the changes we must make to carve out space for happiness.
If you're considering ending your relationship, don't let yourself be paralyzed by fear about making the wrong decision. Ask yourself these powerful questions, and turn your reservations into reassurance.
1. If my partner never changes, will I be satisfied?
Many people enter into relationships, or stay in them, assuming that they can change the other person. But people will only change if and when they want to change.
If you're hanging onto a relationship with the hope of your partner changing, and assuming that their changes will be the eventual resolution to your suffering, take a step back. Ask yourself if you love your partner for who they are now. If you can't focus on your relationship in the present moment, you're setting yourself up for disappointment.
2. Am I making this decision for myself — or for someone else?
If you're considering ending your relationship, you may be pitying your partner preemptively, or wondering what your parents, friends or colleagues might say. Will they judge me? Will they think I am selfish?
While these questions are totally natural, it's important to honor your feelings above all. So take everyone else out of the equation, and focus on what the decision will mean for you, and you alone.
3. Who or what is really causing my unhappiness?
I blamed my unhappiness on my partner. Why? Because it was convenient. Ultimately, ending the relationship was a catalyst for further personal growth. It was the first step in making me realize that I could change my life.
Unsuccessful relationships can actually help steer us toward realizing what we want from relationships, and how to make them succeed. So try to probe reasons why you are unhappy and what choices you can make to be proactive about changing your life.
4. How long am I willing to suffer?
Once you pin point particular reasons that you're unhappy, try to determine how long you've been unhappy — and how much longer are you willing to let it persist.
It's important to be honest with yourself here; this question can lead to a lot of excuses. Is it really that bad? Am I selfish? Maybe my unhappiness is melodramatic?
Even if you often put yourself last to please others, recognize that it's okay to put yourself first. Being authentic and transparent about your needs will not only make you happier, but will positively impact those around you.
5. Can I be 100% honest in this relationship?
The first person you should be going to with problems inside the relationship is your partner. TYou should be able to be truthful with your partner without the fear or being judged or chastised for expressing yourself.
Solid relationships are not built on sublimated emotions — love, trust and communication. Without those three fundamental elements, the relationship won't be sustainable.
Now that you've asked yourself these questions, reflect on your answers to make an informed decision based on your needs. You can turn your life and relationships around by recognizing that you are in full control of who you are and of who you allow to remain in your life.