To walk away from what we hoped — and promised — would last forever is one of the most heart-wrenching breaks we can make. It feels as though we’re cutting off a piece of ourselves … and we struggle desperately to decide if it’s right and if it’s necessary.
How do we know?
Ask yourself: What would I do if I weren’t afraid? Will I be better off next week, next month and next year if I stay?
Don’t kid yourself. You don’t really want to feed your fear. And if staying doesn’t serve you, it doesn’t serve your partner either. It’s arrogant to think that a partner needs your pity. He needs love; he doesn’t have to get it from you.
Don’t give up on yourself and don’t give up on your partner, either. If you’re both better off without each other, then give up on the relationship and save yourselves.
Your dreams are a reflection of who you are, or at least they should be. If they’re obsolete, change them. Base them on what you want — not on what somebody else wants for you or what society expects. Dream what you can do with your whole heart, and you will do it well.
When you know what you truly want and you’re not getting it in your relationship, it’s not necessarily time to leave. It is time to talk about it. And don’t just talk about what’s not working; talk about what is working.
You can always find things to appreciate … and it’s a good idea to start the conversation with those. Be kind, but be honest and straightforward. You want to work together toward what serves both of your highest goods. You want to express love for both yourself and your partner.
Remember what love is. In “The Art of Loving,” Erich Fromm explains that the four elements common to all types of love, including self-love, are:
Care: Active concern or nurturing
Responsibility: Voluntary response to needs (not to denote duty imposed on by the outside)
Respect: Ability to see a person as he is, concern that he unfold as he is (not as somebody else would have him be)
Knowledge: Knowing that penetrates to the core
If you learn to love yourself and your partner well and your relationship still doesn’t work, you can walk away without regrets. Otherwise, you’re apt to find yourself running from your own insecurities — those things that make you feel unlovable. And eventually you’ll run into them again in your next relationship — or a whole string of relationships — until you face them.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that all of your problems are your partner’s fault. They’re not. One person is never to blame for all of the conflict in a relationship.
It’s easy to make somebody else the bad guy, especially when he’s abusive or unfaithful; but when you do that, you ignore your role. You don’t learn how you could have done better … and you don’t forgive yourself for not doing better.
You can’t change somebody else’s behavior; you can change your own. And as it turns out, that’s enough.
Ending a relationship comes with its own set of challenges. If you’ve learned to love well, you’re better prepared to meet them. So before you give up on a relationship, give it your very best shot.
Staying in a relationship can be giving up on your dream; walking away can also be giving up on your dream. Learn to love well … and the dream is yours!