In my job, people have asked me when the right time is to leave a relationship. Of course, I never advise someone to stay in a relationship or leave it, but situations arise that may lead you to consider leaving and talking to a professional can help you reason it out for yourself.
First, if you or one of your children is being physically, sexually, or emotionally abused, you may want to consider leaving. No one deserves to be abused by someone they love. If you are being abused, get help. If your child is being abused, you must protect him or her and separate from the perpetrator.
Second, I encourage everyone to determine what their non-negotiable are. Prior to getting into a committed relationship, discuss these with your partner and see what his or her non-negotiables are. Your non-negotiables are the things you will not tolerate in your relationship. Some examples of non-negotiables are abuse, criminal activity, financial irresponsibility, infidelity, or addiction. If you are in a committed relationship and your partner violates one of your non-negotiables, it’s time to consider whether you can stay in that situation.
There are three choices in a relationship: You can change it, accept it, or leave it. Much of the misery within relationships comes from one person trying to change another. When people try to change their relationship in this way, it creates tension. The destructive relationship habits are complaining, blaming, criticizing, nagging, threatening, punishing and rewarding to control; these are the typical methods one would use when trying to change their partner.
Instead of trying to change your partner, you can change the relationship by changing yourself to better manage the situation. You can change your perception of the problem, change what you want from the situation, or change the behaviors you are using to solve the problem. Any of these alterations can potentially improve things to an acceptable level.
When you’ve tried all you can think of to change the relationship without success, you can try to accept the situation. Acceptance, in its truest form, will bring serenity. To truly accept your partner, you must relinquish your anger, frustration, and resentment. True acceptance means you love this person and have decided to stop trying to change the parts of him or her that you have allowed to frustrate you. Understand that changing one thing could result in something else that you would like even less.
If all your attempts have failed and you are still experiencing chronic unhappiness, then it is time to consider leaving the relationship. After failing to change things, and if accepting your partner as he or she is doesn’t improve the relationship, then leaving is your final option—or you always have the option to go to trying to change your partner, but I don’t recommend it. Those behaviors are almost always destructive to your relationship. Leaving isn’t always the physical act of separation or divorce; it’s possible for people to leave a relationship mentally by disconnecting emotionally from their spouse.
The decision to leave a relationship must be yours. No one can tell you should leave or you should stay, but it’s important to understand that, sometimes, at least considering the option and evaluating the possible outcomes can help you make the decision.