4 Things To Do Before You Give Up On A Relationship
Linda Carroll, M.S., LMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist, psychotherapist, and board-certified life coach who has been working with couples and individuals for 35 years. She is the author of the highly acclaimed book 'Love Cycles: The Five Essential Stages of Lasting Love,' which has been translated into four languages.
Have you been struggling with disillusionment for a while?
If so, that means you're really stressed and the pain is deep. You're worn out and you feel like things will never change, right? You've reached that point where you think things just can't go on like this. And so your instinct is to get out, to leave.
Well, don't — decide, that is — not yet.
When you're at an ebb and feeling miserable is not the time to make a decision. Although this probably goes against our instincts, there is a good reason to wait: The problem may not be your relationship.
You may be thinking, "Huh?" I know. But I've seen so many people leave a relationship because they thought the relationship was causing their unhappiness, only to feel just the same alone or go and re-create a similar version of unhappiness with someone else.
So, I have some suggestions to help you face the big question: whether you want to create a new relationship with the person you're with — or whether it's time to move on.
Of course, if you are in any kind of danger, if you have worked on yourself so you understand your contribution to the incompatibilities, if your gut knows for sure you need to leave, those are all different matters. What I'm talking about here is the very human instinct to point to someone else and say "You are the problem" before we look in the most important direction: inside ourselves.
So, here are four things you should absolutely do before you leave a relationship:
1. Take care of yourself, more than usual, when you're in this fragile place.
Eat well. Exercise regularly. Even a short walk every day is beneficial. Do the things that make you feel good inside: Work out, do yoga, swim, meditate, pray, play or listen to music. Read a book that you can't put down or connect with friends you haven't see in a while.
Although each of these suggestions may feel like the last thing you want to do, they take you out of your current state and give you a much-needed respite from worry and pain. The endorphins released when you exercise, when you are with friends, or when you sit alone doing something you love, will be essential to you. This inner "work" you do will lead to a form of renewal. Little by little, you should begin to feel in touch again with your essential core.
2. Understand your role in the devolution of your relationship.
This is not about figuring out "whose fault" things are. We are all human and we all have unhealthy patterns and ways of protecting ourselves that do not encourage the flow of love! For example, when our partner says or does something that causes us to be protective, we react with fight, flight, or freeze. So, if your No. 1 vulnerability is feeling abandoned or disconnected, and your partner seems to be pulling away, you might become very critical without knowing it (which will cause them to pull away more … and then the "loop" begins). We can always work to change our part of the trouble, and sometimes that has an almost magical effect in changing the whole relationship.
Once you know how to manage your own patterns, even if you do decide to leave, you won't have to go through the same thing with someone else. Right?
3. Slow down. Don't let impulses and knee-jerk reactions rule you.
It's important to just be still and rest for a while. If you take it easy and go slow, your needs and desires will have time to register within you, and you will be in a better place to recognize and understand them.
For example, sometimes we think we want to leave a partner when what we really want is to escape from the pain in a stagnant relationship. If we can comfort and soothe ourselves long enough to regain some sense of calm, we can begin to assess whether there's something to salvage from the wreckage of what we've built together. Despite everything, there often remains inside us a desire to recapture the good thing we once had going and, in fact, many couples are able to create something new and better after they thought their relationship had fallen apart.
4. Don't try to save the relationship.
I don't believe we should ever try to "save" a relationship. Let it go, this one you find so damaged, so broken. Recognize those aspects of your partnership that you value most and dump the rest. Then you can consider whether you can build something new with the salvaged pieces of the old relationship that made you happy. Begin this process alone. Feel your way into it. Stay open to the possibilities that may surface from deep within.
Later on, you can reach out to your partner if it seems right to try. See if they're willing to join you in sifting through the layers of your history together and negotiating a path that leads to the creation of a new life together, one that's spacious and healthy enough to be good for you both. And don't be afraid to reach out for help! A good marriage counselor or love coach can guide you to possibilities you may not be able to discover on your own.
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