Some people spend time and attention getting to know the signs that it is time to start a relationship: There is mutual interest and attraction; you are feeling a connection to the person; you would like to get to know that person more; you have the energy and time to enter into a relationship. As relationships progress, though, there may start to be some indicators that this may not be the relationship for us. How do we determine that? Here are some indicators that it may be time to leave the relationship. Many of you will be reading this thinking that I am only talking about romantic relationships, but keep in mind this can apply to friendships and family relationships too.
- You cannot be yourself. All relationships promote a certain degree of adaptability. We may try activities we would not normally because the other person is interested in them, but this can go too far. If you are feeling like you have radically changed your opinions, communication style, activities, lifestyle, routine, and even physical look and mannerisms to suit a relationship, this is a sign that the relationship may not be a healthy one. Healthy relationships allow us to feel unconditionally loved, supported, and accepted for who we are. There is no need to be anyone but you.
- You are unhappy more often then usual. Feeling low, listless, unmotivated, depressed are indicators that you are not living the life you would want to live. This may be connected to other factors in your life, but it is important to look at the relationships in your life too. There is a newer theory that depression and PTSD are more connected to the situations and circumstances in our lives then an underlying mental disorder, so it might just be the factors in your life promoting those low feelings rather than anything inherent to you.
- You do not feel heard, appreciated, or validated. During conversations, do you feel like your thoughts, feelings, and opinions matter? Is the other person taking time to understand and appreciate your perspective? A healthy relationship involves empathy, compassion, and understanding. They do not necessarily have to agree with you or like your perspective, but they care enough about you to get to know where you are at.
- You are doubting yourself. If a relationship is toxic, there may be elements of gaslighting in the communication dynamic. When a person is gaslighting, they are using words and action to create doubt and uncertainty in the other, which fosters dependence and an overreliance on the relationship. The person who is being gaslit cannot imagine that they would be okay without that other person and that they need them for a sense of safety and security.
- The relationship has become abuse-physically, sexually, financially, emotionally. Some may think when these lines get crossed that this is an obvious deal breaker for people; however, being in an abusive relationship may not be that clear to the individual involved in it. If you are feeling unhappy, self-doubting, and/or confused, you might benefit from meeting with a healthcare professional to talk through what is happening in the relationships in your life to get some outside feedback.
All relationships require effort and work, whether this be with colleagues, friends, family, or a significant other. There will inevitably be bumps in the road and times where you do not feel completely satisfied, but what you must look at are the day-to-day patterns and experience. If there is consistently more challenge then benefit or low days then good, then this might be a time to explore taking some space from that relationship to see if things change. If they do, this is likely an indication that the relationship is contributing to those daily experiences and sensations. If not, then there might be other factors internally or in situations happening that you will need to explore and make some changes around.
It is never an easy or comfortable decision to exit a relationship. I have chosen to leave relationship with past romantic partners, specific family members, and work relationships because it got to the point where the benefits and joy coming out of being in that relationship were being overshadowed by the pain and consequence to staying. It is scary to make changes and step away and sometimes that fear will keep you in the relationship for longer then you would like and that is okay. Remember, it is your life and no one needs to wake up behind your eyes except you, so you might as well make your life what you would like to experience.
By Paige Abbott
Paige Abbott is a Registered Psychologist in Calgary, AB and works with individuals exploring Addiction recovery, mental health and wellness, and relationships. She is a coauthor of ‘Love, the Drug’ which contains some valuable information about relationships.