One of the most common questions people in troubled relationships ask is “When is the right time to break up?”
Perhaps you’ve asked this about your relationship? How do you know if the relationship is over or is worth salvaging?
Personally and professionally, I approach relationships as an opportunity for mutual self-discovery and growth. Inside that context, I’m biased towards staying together and growing together. So, if you’re looking for relationship advice that will justify your desire to leave your relationship, you should probably stop reading here. I’m not that guy.
RULES OF THUMB FOR
HOW TO KNOW WHEN TO BREAK UP…
- If you’re in a physically abusive relationship, your physical self is at risk. It’s time to break up and leave… immediately.
- If you’re in relationship with an active addict/substance abuser, chances are the relationship will be riddled with behavior that sabotages emotional safety, so best to move on and find someone more stable.
- If you’re in a relationship where one of your non negotiable relationship requirements is not being met (e.g. he wants kids and you don’t or you want to get married and he doesn’t), then you may never be happy. Either it’s time to authentically let go of your requirement or go find a relationship where that requirement is met (my preference). TIP: You need to know what your relationship requirements are before choosing to break up or stay.
- If there’s no sexual chemistry between you both and there never has been, it’s probably time to learn to create it or go find someone who you do feel sexual chemistry with.
- If you’re dating and you just know this is not the one, why settle… next!
From here on out, when to break up differs from person to person. If you read popular relationship advice blogs, you’ll hear this gem over and over: “If you’re not happy in your relationship, you should break up and seek a more suitable partner.”
This attitude boils my blood. Being happy in a relationship is not just a function of your choice of partner, but also a function of
- how well you’re able to stay emotionally connected
- being able to communicate in a way that increases intimacy
- being able to understand and accept each other’s differences
- your ability to fight in a way that resolves conflicts permanently
Leaving prematurely, could rob you of the most life expanding growth experience and the most soul satisfying relationship with your current partner.
WHEN IT’S NOT YET TIME TO BREAK UP:
If you’re beginning to argue or fight, this alone is NOT a good enough reason to break up in my books. What is more likely happening is that you are leaving the Romance Stage of your relationship – and now is a good time to learn how to fight fair and turn arguments into opportunities for intimacy.
If one of you is becoming more demanding and the other is withdrawing, it’s likely that your relationship is stuck in the Power Struggle stage, and this is the time to get professional relationship support or relationship coaching to help you end this recurring relationship pattern.
If you feel like you have to stay or have to go – you’re most likely leaving prematurely. When you HAVE to do something, you’re usually reacting unconsciously (rather than consciously responding). A reaction is a sign that you still have work to do i.e. unconscious parts of your psyche to accept and heal. Running away before you’ve done “your inner work” will only delay the inevitable – attracting the same situation in your next relationship… and your next relationship… until you do the work. If you work through with your triggers now, you’ll probably save your relationship or and save yourself a lot of pain in future ones.
So, before you leave your relationship, assuming you love your partner and your relationship is not physically abusive, my advice is this:
- First identify your relationship needs and requirements.
- Then figure out if you have a non-negotiable relationship requirement that is not being met e.g. one of you wants kids and the other does not. If you do, this is often a sign that it’s time to move on.
- Assuming you don’t have any non-negotiable relationship requirements that are not being met, identify your relationship needs and which ones are not being met. Most relationship issues come from needs not being met, not from incompatibility.
- Now, figure out how to meet each other’s unmet needs. Being in a relationship which meets your emotional and functional needs is one of the greatest joys know available to us in this life.
- Get professional relationship help. Our unconscious triggers live in our blind spot, which makes them really difficult to address alone. You may want to check out the 7 week online relationship coaching program designed to fix your relationship. In week 4 we deal with healing your unconscious baggage that may be sabotaging your relationship – once and for all.
2 RULES OF THUMB FOR BREAKING UP
Here are my two favorite guidelines for when to end your committed relationship (biased towards encouraging your personal growth).
1) ONLY BREAK UP ONCE YOU’VE SOUGHT PROFESSIONAL HELP, TRIED EVERYTHING AND ARE NO LONGER COMMITTED TO SERVING YOUR PARTNER’S GROWTH**
The relationship is only over when one or both of you are no longer committed to serving each other’s growth.
2) ONLY BREAK UP IN LOVE***
If you break up out of love (i.e. in conflict and anger), you are only running from yourself and still have growing to do. Ideally, only break up when you’ve done your inner work and in a state of love and gratitude for each other.
As lofty as this may sound, I have personally been privileged to experience two breakups which ended in with both of us being in love with each other, but one of us no longer committed to serving the other.
During the breakup, we shared our feelings, cried together, made love, gave thanks and then parted ways with deep gratitude for the gifts we received in the relationship.
If you choose to break up, I can help you both navigate through this potentially tricky and painful time, so that you part ways as lovingly as possible. Get in touch with me if you’d like my support.
** Credit for this idea goes to David Deida
*** Credit for this idea goes to my friend, Annie Lalla, who taught me this one.