Are you staying together for wrong reasons?
People used to stay together for the sake of the kids. Now they stay together for the sake of the Christmas. Or the mutual friends, or the mortgage.
Relationships aren’t easy. Making them work in the long term requires emotional stamina, compromise and a lot of patience. Every serious relationship goes through good times and bad times, and the emotional rewards of sticking around through the tricky times can be huge.
However, in many cases a relationship may simply be wrong for you. If you are doing all the giving and none of the getting, or if you no longer enjoy your partner’s company and you’re always craving time alone, you may be better off alone. Life is too short to waste on an unhappy union, just because you fear the alternative.
If you’re staying in a relationship for one of the following reasons, it may be time to move on and start looking after number one.
1. It’s not a good time
Ending a relationship is like starting a diet. Now is never the right time. There’s Christmas to get out of the way first, or New Year, or Valentine’s Day, or their birthday, or your birthday, or that holiday you booked ages ago. Suddenly you’re another year down the line and you’re still in a relationship that you should have left ages ago. Oh, and you haven’t started your diet, either.
2. You can’t afford to break up
The prospect of shared rent or mortgage can make it very tempting to move in with someone before you’re ready. Before you know it, you’re trapped in a relationship that’s going nowhere – and neither are you, because you can’t afford to. Throw in a recession and you’ve got a widespread problem for couples who’d readily break up if only they could afford to. If money really is the only thing keeping you together, get a flatmate instead. And don’t sleep with them.
3. You’re part of the same group of friends
If you met through friends, or you’ve been together for a while, you’ll inevitably have lots of friends in common. They may feel forced to take sides when your relationship gets rocky, but true friends won’t ostracise you for wanting to be happy. Be honest with them, accept that some will feel more loyal to your partner, and don’t be emotionally manipulated.
4. Your family likes your partner
We’ve all got an ex who was Mum or Dad’s favourite. Tough luck. Mum or Dad didn’t have to go out with them. Again, don’t be emotionally manipulated. You are an adult and you should be allowed to make your own choices without unfair pressure from your parents or other family members. If you meet someone new who isn’t quite as much to Mum or Dad’s liking, be patient. Respect their advice, and gradually let them see how much happier you are with your new partner (or without a partner at all) than you were in your unhappy relationship.
5. You’ve got kids together
There are many of us whose parents waited to break up as soon as we went to university. Looking back on those long frosty years, most of us wish they’d ended it far sooner – not least because we feel guilty about keeping them together when they so obviously wished to break free. Remember that parents do not have to be married to be good role models. Every situation is different and there are many factors to consider, but if you’re staying together purely to make your kids think that you’re happy, you’re fooling no-one.
6. You don’t want to hurt them
Most break-ups involve two people who still care about each other, but whose relationship is no longer working for one or both of them. Breaking up may well hurt your partner a great deal, but they will get over it. You’re wasting your time and theirs if you hang around for fear of hurting them. If you really can’t bear the thought of them being unhappy at all, ever, maybe you shouldn’t be breaking up.
7. You’re scared of regretting it
Well, chances are you will go through moments of regret. That’s perfectly normal – the grass is always greener on the other side. But in time you will realise that you left because you were unhappy, and that’s a positive move. If you both strongly and quickly regret the break-up, give things another shot by all means – but you may find that the same problems rear their head again.
8. You don’t want to be alone
Singlehood can seem a lonely prospect after you’ve been used to constant company, but there’s nothing more lonely than a loveless relationship. Being single for a while is your chance to get to know yourself again, and to answer to no-one but yourself. You can flirt with whomever you like, and you may meet someone who makes you feel the way you’ve always wished to feel in a relationship.
9. You don’t think you can do any better
Staying with someone because they’re the only person who’ll have you is not only a sign of extreme self-esteem issues, it’s also rather insulting to your other half. Set them free to be with someone who truly values them.
10. You don’t want to fail
The end of a relationship, even a rotten one, can feel like a failure. It can also be embarrassing to admit that you got it wrong when you thought that this person was The One. But we’re all serial monogamists (except for the truly lucky or over-romantic), and the huge majority of relationships have a beginning, a middle and an end. You’ve learned from each other, you’ve shared some fantastic memories and maybe you’ll be friends one day. Rather than seeing this end as a failure, try to see it as a new beginning.