You can love someone and still choose to say goodbye to them.”—Tara Westover

Unhealthy Relationship: Do you stay or go? One of the hardest things to do is end an unhealthy relationship with someone you love—but why would you do that? In every relationship, you have to love yourself most, and sometimes your need for love can make that difficult.

Loving someone means you care for them and want what’s best for them. You want them to be all they can be. You love being around them and you feel privileged to have them in your life. When both people feel that same way, they can build a beautiful relationship. Of course, it helps when you both want the same thing and can see each other in your future plans in a positive way.

It is common to find yourself in a relationship with someone that doesn’t love you in the same way you love. Gary Chapman’s, The 5 Love Languages, taught us that it’s challenging to love someone exactly the same way at the same time. You are a quality time person; your guy is an acts of service person. You are a gift-giver and your guy is a physical-touch person. It can be difficult to overcome these language barriers, but when you believe the relationship is worth it, you make the attempt. If you are committed and you learn to speak each other’s love language, you may be able to express your love in a way your partner can feel it. This is a tremendous help to a relationship.

Sometimes the timing isn’t right in a relationship. You are in love and ready for a commitment but your partner isn’t. Is this a case of just having to hang in there until the “right” time happens for your significant other, or is your partner just isn’t that into you? You need to ask yourself some hard questions first. What if it is never the right time and you commit your life to this person who never becomes ready to fully commit to you—could you live with that? If the answer is yes, then stay. If the answer is no—having a commitment from someone is more important than being with the person—the best thing is to say goodbye. You have to love yourself more than your partner. If commitment is what you want, decide how long you are willing to wait for him or her to get ready, and then leave if they are saying the time isn’t right for them. You can decide to stay if being with him or her without the commitment makes more sense to you than trying over with someone else.

What if you want different things? Have you talked about the future? Of course, people can change their minds, but, generally, when people tell you what they want, you can believe them. You want six kids; he only wants two. It may be better to end the unhealthy relationship than stay, especially if you believe you have the power to change his mind. Once he has two, you tell yourself, he’ll be willing to have more. What if he never changes? Will you be able to be happy with just two? If so, stay; if not, go.

What if you can’t agree on how to spend your time? He has an important job, is constantly investing in work and expends most of his best energy there. When he has some free time, he likes to unwind with his guy friends without you. You also work hard at your job and occasionally go out with your colleagues from work, but what you really want is to spend time with him. Whenever you say so, he accuses you of nagging. Maybe you have completely different pictures about what a relationship looks like. You may want to leave before you become a person you don’t recognize—complaining, blaming and criticizing him into doing what you want.

Basically, if you are involved in a relationship with a person and you believe that for you to be satisfied in the relationship, your significant other needs to change, you may want to consider ending the unhealthy relationship. Ask yourself, how long have you been waiting for him or her to change? How much longer are you willing to wait?

I know men and women who stay in unhealthy relationships that disappoint them daily, believing it is as good as it is going yet. People stay because they don’t have the energy to start over again with someone else. People stay because they think if they leave and get involved with someone else, there is no guarantee the new relationship will be an improvement. People stay because they think it might be any time now when their partner “gets with their program.”

It is a difficult balance to ascertain whether you are giving up too soon or staying too long. You often look for the answer in the other person when you should be looking in the mirror and asking yourself these tough questions:

  1. Do I love him or her?
  2. Does he love me?
  3. Do we love each other in a way that feels like love to each other?
  4. Are we able to prioritize what’s best for the relationship over our individual needs?
  5. Do we have similar plans for the future?
  6. Am I happy and satisfied in this relationship?
  7. Is my partner?
  8. Can I make a list of things I love about this person that’s at least as long as the list of the things I don’t like?
  9. Are the things I don’t like things I can live with?
  10. If I could see the future and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that things will never change, would I want to stay or go?

The decision will ultimately boil down to what you want and what you are willing to accept. You can still love someone and walk away. It’s painful, but it really comes down to loving yourself more than the person you are with. When you value yourself, you know you deserve to be happy. Besides, being alone might be preferable to staying in an unhealthy relationship with the constant reminder that the other person doesn’t love you the way you want to be loved.

When you leave, you still have some choices:

  • Will you make a clean break?
  • Will you stay until the pain gets so bad it will motivate you into a change?
  • Will you ease yourself out by remaining friends?
  • Will you keep loving the person from a distance?
  • Will you get into a new relationship right away?
  • Will you never date again?

It’s all up to you. Make the decision you can live with when you lay down your head at night.

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