It can be a very difficult decision to leave a relationship.

You may be afraid you won’t meet anyone else, or you may feel that starting a new relationship will be too difficult. The uncertainty of the unknown may be preventing you from leaving.

But you should not stay in a relationship simply because you are afraid of what might happen if you leave. If you are no longer interested in your relationship continuing, and you have no intention to try and rekindle the romance — you will not feel comfortable staying.

Some people stay in a relationship solely to please others. They may believe, for example, their partner needs them too much. Or they may not want to disappoint the family or upset the children.

This kind of thinking can be based on noble sentiments, but staying in a relationship against your will, purely for the sake of others, can be very self-destructive. And modelling an unstable relationship to your children can have consequences.

There are many different reasons for a relationship to fall apart. But most commonly, breakups occur due to the accumulation of unresolved negative emotions. Particularly, resentments.

Without acceptance, forgiveness, empathy, and a willingness to fully resolve conflict — a relationship will be prone to problems.

Here are some common issues that unless resolved could lead to your relationship breaking up:

  • You don’t feel loved. Your relationship lacks empathy and meaningful connection.
  • You don’t trust your partner because they have been unfaithful or have deceived and lied to you on many occasions.
  • You don’t feel respected and valued. Your partner dominates your decisions, and has too much control over your life.
  • You don’t feel you can be authentic around your partner, and you feel like you have to play a role all the time.
  • You don’t feel you can express yourself freely without being undermined, ridiculed or criticised. You’re gaslighted, for example, by being repeatedly told you’re ‘overly sensitive’ or ‘wrong’.
  • You feel like you’ve lost your sense of self because you’re constantly thinking about ways to please your partner or look after them. You feel guilty doing anything for yourself. You constantly give more than you receive, and have pretty much become a servant.
  • You don’t feel accepted because of high demands and unreasonable expectations from your partner. You feel unworthy, guilty and anxious because you constantly feel pressured to change, yet you do not feel supported by your partner.
  • You don’t feel safe due to your partner’s behaviour.

You may hope and imagine things will get better. You may think of practical and logical reasons to stay in the relationship. But ultimately, you have to recognise your inner feelings. If you are unhappy, and your attempts to rectify the relationship have repeatedly failed, then the relationship isn’t working.

But I understand that it can still be confusing.

Maybe there are aspects of the relationship you deeply appreciate, yet there are other aspects you struggle to reconcile and accept.

For example, you may receive love from your partner, you may feel supported by them, you may get on reasonably well much of the time. However, you don’t fully trust them, and you know they’ve lied to you about many things.

Can you accept what happened and let go of the grievance? And can you work with your partner to re-establish trust?

In many situations where a relationship is falling apart, it is possible to work things through, stay together, and be happy. You will need to establish empathic connection, agree to make changes, and honour your commitments. You have to feel aligned with each other’s values, and be willing to make peace.

But even if you can accept what happened, forgive your partner, and work together to make progress — will you be able to feel fully at ease? For example, if your partner had an affair, will you be triggered every time their phone receives a message? You have to assess whether you can fully move beyond the pain whilst remaining in the relationship. Many people cannot, and are usually better off leaving.

And let’s say, you were making progress, but something similar happens again. Where do you draw the line? How many times can you go through this? How much pain and distress are you willing to endure?

If your partner repeatedly does not honour their commitments, are they ever going to change?

Some people become so accustomed to the negative treatment they receive from their partner; they begin to believe it is their own fault, and that they deserve it. You deserve a relationship where there is mutual respect, honour and trust. Never allow anyone to convince you of anything less.

It can be daunting to leave a relationship. You may want to avoid the pain and the upset. You may be afraid to admit it has failed. And you may not want to lose the redeeming aspects of the relationship.

But you have to prioritise your wellbeing. You have to honour your feelings, your values, and your boundaries. Don’t allow yourself to keep going around in circles. Don’t allow your mind to convince you to stay if deep down you’re in agony, and you feel it is hopeless.

Six Weeks Apart

If you are really not sure whether to leave or stay in a relationship, consider negotiating a six-week break from each other. Ideally, during this break, you are completely apart, living separately without any communication for six weeks. No text messaging, no contact at all.

Sometimes, it takes time and space apart to have understandings that were not possible in close company. Temporary separation helps you both to detach from emotions such as resentment, anger and sadness.

And then you can think more clearly and rationally. You can process things on a personal level; without being pulled back into conflict by emotional triggers that could be caused by interacting with each other.

This time apart can serve to encourage reconciliation and a willingness for a fresh start. You may have realisations about your behaviours, and clarity about what you need, and about how things could be resolved. But it can also lead to the realisation that the relationship has to end.

Breaking Up

If you do decide you want to break off a relationship; be clear about the reasons, acknowledge the pain you have caused, be calm and compassionate, but also maintain your stance, and be decisive.

It’s best to talk about your own feelings, and to not cast blame. Try to be succinct and explain your reasons in a few sentences. Explain what will happen next, for example, you are moving out and want a divorce. You may have to involve a solicitor to deal with mortgages and other paperwork, and it can be a good idea to have already researched this.

If children are involved, you have to explain to them what changes will happen in their world. But don’t concern them with all the details about why you are leaving. Assure them they will be looked after and that you intend to remain very much in their life in a positive way.

Dealing with the pain of a breakup

You should never view a relationship as a waste of time. You will have learnt about yourself, about your values, your needs, and your boundaries — and you will have learnt about these aspects through your former partner and your relationship with them.

It is always worth putting things into perspective. Focus on what you have learned from your experiences, and try to appreciate the understandings you have gained. Even if your former partner was a nightmare — you learnt what you don’t want in a relationship.

You will likely go through a period of grief, even if you were the one who ended the relationship. This is normal. You may experience sadness and sorrow as you mourn your loss. This is normal. And I don’t recommend you try to suppress these emotions and shrug off the relationship.

Keep yourself calm and have compassion for yourself. Listen to the messages in your emotions and learn about yourself. What is it that you mourn for? What is it that you yearn for? With dignity and self-respect; feel your emotions through, and take solace from the wisdom you glean on the way. The silver lining is found in your realisations about what you truly value in a partner and a relationship.

But try not to overthink the past because if you become too preoccupied with figuring out what went wrong, or how to let go of your pain; you can get stuck in a state of melancholy.

People often tend to idealise or disparage a relationship that has ended. But it’s better to take a balanced view, whereby you look back at the positive aspects, as well as the negative.

So, don’t keep replaying memories of the good times because you can end up deluding yourself, and you’ll find it harder to let go of the relationship. Appreciate what was positive, but be realistic, and remind yourself of the reasons why it didn’t work. You had some good times, but that doesn’t mean the relationship was right for you.

Furthermore, don’t keep replaying memories of the bad times because you can end up driving yourself into depression and despair. And this might lead you to irrationally believe there is no hope for future relationships. You can find romance and love again, don’t worry.

As you work through the emotional pain of a breakup, it is important to not become overly self-critical. Keep in mind all of your positive traits and what you have to offer, and don’t get stuck blaming yourself with self-loathing. Remember your own value.

Think about what you would say to a friend if they were in your situation. Are you being too hard on yourself? Perhaps you did make some mistakes, but you can learn from these experiences, and make commitments to do things differently in the future.

Maybe you think of ways you could make reparations in order to get back together with your ex. But if you are consistently rejected, it is best to step back and to let go of your yearning. So, that would mean — stop grovelling, stop texting, stop tracking your ex on social media, stop longing for them.

Being overly needy or controlling will not do your chances any good. Focus on regaining your composure as a singleton. Prove to yourself that you are strong enough to stand on your own feet without anyone else’s support.

If you were the one who ended the relationship, it is usually best to limit contact and set boundaries on communication for at least a few months. It is possible to remain friends after a breakup, but you have to be mindful of allowing space for the changes to settle. You don’t want to create any confusion via communication or behaviour that could be interpreted as signs you want to get back together.

If you find yourself being harassed by your ex, you may have to take actions such as getting a new phone number and blocking them on social media. And you may even have to leave your job or move out of town if the situation is dire. Prioritise your wellbeing.

If you are holding on to any grievances about your ex, make an effort to let them go. By letting go of negative thoughts and emotions; you disentangle yourself — you cut the cords and set yourself free. It can also help to get rid of reminders of them, such as gifts they gave you.

New beginnings are on the horizon. Keep the faith.