Relationships, as much as they can be the most beautiful and moving experiences in our lives, can also be the toughest.
I don’t think anyone can argue with that. A lot of times, however, we get so stuck inside of our own self-constructed worlds that it becomes difficult to know when it could be time to throw in the towel—and when small children are involved, the idea of ending things becomes even more daunting.
I don’t live in a bubble. Actually, I might have more advisors than most people. I have an older mentor who writes for a popular psychology journal and a close friend who is a psychiatrist. I don’t mention this to impress anyone; I merely bring it up because I need to make the point that even with all of this professional insight into my personal life, the decision to finally leave my relationship was a long time coming, to put it gently.
Thinking back, I can remember my partner and I having discussions about trying to repair certain broken parts of our union years before I gave up. This, I believe, is perfectly natural. When you are faced with the upbringing of little toddlers, a person has a tendency to want to make sure every avenue has been explored before giving in to the inevitable.
Truth be told, even after I secured a new apartment on the other side of town and started my new life, I had reservations. It’s perfectly natural. With the combination of the challenges I faced being out in the dating world again, the thought of my children with a new male figure in their lives, and my ex dating someone new, there were definitely days when I questioned the wisdom of my decision. Luckily, I keep very detailed journals, and these alone prevented me from flying off on some fictional and exaggerated memory of how good things used to be.
So how do we know when a partnership is beyond salvation?
1. Communication is off the table. There comes a time in almost every relationship when it almost seems as if you and your lover are trying to speak in two different languages that neither of you understand. It’s typically easy to know you’ve reached this point by the stomachaches you seem to always get whenever you try to “discuss” something. It’s awful, and it’s frustrating—and even more than that it’s a great sign you’ve reached the last stop.
2. You don’t want to go home. Don’t laugh at how obvious this sounds. I know for myself, I was in denial about this for a long time. I’d reach that point in my workday when I would visualize, “Well I just need to do this, this, and that, and then I can head home…” And the visual at the end of that thought brought me a lot of discomfort. As I mentioned earlier, when you love your children, things can get really confusing in a failing love relationship. Inevitably, after some really hard soul searching, I came to accept that it was time to go.
3. Sex…ugh! This area looks different for everyone, but in my unenviable case, I was backed into the very uncomfortable position of playing the lead role in “Everybody Loves Raymond” on a constant basis. I’m not intimating that I was a stud in my younger days, but I was very used to sex being the only thing that worked in a lot of my earlier relationships. Being faced with a partner that seemed like she would almost rather do anything than have sex with me was one of the most difficult situations I have ever faced, and it took an incredible amount of energy to work through for months after I left. If I’m being perfectly honest, I still believe that a lot of my poor choices—even recent ones—are still rooted in the angst that this reality brought on.
4. Those little quirky things you loved—you don’t anymore. This is a big one. When a relationship is new, we are swept up in this cloud of hormones and dopamine, and a mispronounced word here and there, a frivolous belief, a bad singing voice—these things all seem so cute. But man, when the relationship jumps the shark, these things are unbearable. When you begin to think about how much you can’t stand this stuff, you’re in the end zone. When it transitions into resentments, stick a fork in it, baby.
5. You don’t see them in your future. This is a very interesting aspect of the whole thing. If you find yourself fantasizing about some foreseeable future that includes you being alone or with someone else, it is time to jet yourself into the “future.” Procrastinating on your own happiness and well-being is—well, inexcusable. To put it bluntly, tomorrow is never guaranteed. Yes, it’s difficult to leave children or strike out on your own—but remind yourself as often as possible that there is no dress rehearsal in life. This is it. The show is on! Honor yourself, love yourself, and get moving.
It’s never fun to go through a breakup. In fact, not many of the things in life that net us the best possible results are “fun.” They are, however, necessary and really not as bad as they may seem in your head. That first day when you’re getting ready to leave work and you realize you are heading to a place where you get to set the mood, you get to put the music on, and you are totally in charge—well, you might be really glad you took the plunge.