I’ve experienced some amazingly good, love supreme kind of loves in my lifetime. I’m grateful that my arms have been long enough to hold that kind of love and that my heart has been strong enough to return it. Still, sometimes even when there’s great love and great reasons to stay, there are even greater reasons to leave.
We rarely ever want to leave a love relationship, even if we know that leaving is the best thing. We hate leaving because it demands change; it necessitates starting over and removing ourselves from spaces that have become comfortable—even when that comfort is painful.
What I believe to be worse than starting over is starting over five, 10 or 20 years later while wishing I’d followed my first mind and intuition. Wishing that, although no time we spend loving is wasted, I would’ve spent those years doing other more joyful things—like loving myself more or writing that book whose spirit keeps haunting me
To ensure we don’t look back on those years we spent in a relationship with regrets, here are four signs that it’s time to leave now:
The relationship has become one long argument. Y’all can’t agree on sh*t. Like, you aren’t even arguing about what you think you’re arguing about at this point. The fact that he was 15 minutes late for your dinner date speaks squarely to the fact that he’s unable to fully commit to taking the relationship to the next level. You both behave ridiculously. In moments where one partner should yield (because yielding is absolutely required in a healthy relationship), you go at each other like you’re training for the UFC.
Regarding the art of yielding, writer Thomas Fiffer asserts, “There’s something to be said for the maxim of never going to bed angry. If neither partner can be the bigger person, give up the need to be right, and approach conflict in a conciliatory fashion, there’s no point in continuing.” Disagreements in relationships are necessary, healthy even; but if all you do is fight, it’s time to keep it moving.
The trust is gone. We lose trust in relationships for reasons too many to name. Often trust erodes because of infidelity or other serious betrayals. Sometimes it diminishes because of our partner’s inability to meet us “on the bridge” (as poet Nayyirah Waheed has written). Losing trust doesn’t have to mean the end of a relationship. With hard, dedicated, intentional work, we can learn to trust again. But sometimes trusting again just isn’t possible even if we desire to do so, and in those cases we have to let our partners go. If you can’t forgive and move forward with your significant other in joy, you aren’t behaving any better than he or she did when your trust was betrayed. Go.
The relationship is significantly less passionate. Every relationship has its honeymoon stage, which most often ends. When we become comfortable, and we begin to view our relationship as more permanent, we say goodbye to passion and focus on things we decide are more important.
Clinical psychologist and author Frances Cohen Praver believes in a theory that argues, “We unwittingly degrade romance and passionate sex, place it in the background, and bring security and safety into the foreground.” This is a common issue in relationships, but it doesn’t mean the end. It’s when we consciously reject and have lost desire for our partners—when we are closed sexually, romantically and emotionally to them—that we need to consider letting go. That loss of passion can be attributed to many things, but if it is lasting, we should free ourselves to find that thing (or person) that will set our soul on fire.
You look for comfort outside the relationship. When we begin to withdraw mentally and physically in a relationship, we often seek to fill that void. When speaking of affairs in relationships, we habitually discuss how awful physical infidelity is, but we rarely focus on its forerunner—emotional infidelity.
Psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Gail Saltz writes that few look to engage in emotional cheating, but succumb to it because they accept that what they’re missing in their relationship can’t be salvaged. “So while they aren’t consciously in the market, they are ripe for an affair of the heart: hungry for attention, craving excitement, and eager for someone to fill the emptiness they feel inside.”
When we start looking outside of our relationships for what we should be getting inside it, we set the stage for actually replacing our significant other. It’s best to end it before things get really ugly.
Sound off! What signs can you think of that mean a relationship needs to end?
Josie Pickens is an educator, cultural critic and solider of love. Follow her musings on Twitter @jonubian.