The question of when to leave a relationship is a difficult one, and there’s no solid, clear formula for whether or when you should leave. Not every relationship is built for being long-term, particularly if you are not compatible, but it’s important to know that doesn’t mean it was a failure.
Some people run when things get difficult, and they never learn how to stay, work things through and be in a true committed relationship.
Mental health is affected by your relationship’s health. It’s a feedback loop. We are relational beings and grow the most when we are in various diverse relationships — sexual, romantic and social.
Leaving relationships when work needs to be done is sometimes a way to bypass growth. Relationships help show us where our work is. And while relationships aren’t always easy, they aren’t meant to be. They are a people-growing process, punctuated with the beauty of love.
Here are 7 things to consider when you seem not compatible and are deciding whether to stay or go:
1. Conflict is normal.
A couple that never fights sounds like a sweet arrangement, but clinically as a therapist it tells me that most likely one partner isn’t being authentic or honest, and the couple isn’t yet in a true relationship.
Trust and intimacy are best built during and after times of conflict, because that’s when we see who our partner is when upset and how well they resolve after a conflict. Good times are great, and definitely needed, but it’s the tough times where we can bond the most, and learn that our relationship can withstand inevitable difficult periods.
2. There is always “a thing.”
When two people come together there will always be moments of misalignment, disconnection and being ‘not compatible.’ Some of these issues will go away and get resolved completely, some will improve and some will always exist and stay the same. This is “the rule of relational 3s,” and all issues fall into one of those categories, so expect this and don’t panic.
3. Fighting all the time isn’t good.
Conflict is expected and healthy, but constant fighting is not. Are you holding on to things you need to let go of and accept? Are you working on your triggers so as to respond lovingly instead of with anger? Are you being honest with your needs and desires, or keeping quiet and acting out resentment?
You have to make yourself responsible for doing the repair work after fighting. I say that to each person sitting in front of me who asks about how to deal with constant fighting. Commit to being part of changing your relationship. This isn’t saying to allow your partner to do no work. This is about empowering yourself to grow and lead the charge toward healing.
4. When in doubt, stay in it longer.
Love is worth it, and your partner may be too. If you aren’t certain, stay longer and commit to being your best and doing the work it truly takes, and then assess again at a predetermined time down the road. A lot of relationships just need more time, care and actual work. Remember, relationships are where we grow the most. You will gain a lot from staying, as its a way for you to grow and transform.
5. Is it your partner, or is it the relationship?
It’s possible the issue isn’t you or your partner but how you structure your relationship that is creating all the conflict. Think about being more honest about who you are and what you desire. Unless your sharing is making you feel anxious and vulnerable, then you still aren’t being open enough.
Do you need non-monogamy? More attention or changes in your sex life? More or less time together? Do you need new relational rules and expectations? It may also be time for couples or sex therapy.
6. You need a willingness to go to therapy.
Seeing a couples or sex therapist is a great solution for those who have access and can afford it. Willingness to go to therapy is a sign of care and investment in you and your relationship. Going to therapy is not a sign of failure; it’s a sign of health.
All relationships can benefit from therapy, especially those with a lot of conflict. If your partner is unwilling to go, it may be a sign of a lack of investment, a reluctance to do any work towards healing or a narcissism that leads to them blaming you for all the problems.
7. Stop blaming.
The success of a relationship is not its length of time; it’s how good of a partner you were and the quality of the relationship.
Work to be your best, and then reflect on what has improved. You cannot blame your partner until you have fully done your best and removed your own “stuff” from the equation. Again, it’s a feedback loop, and your partner is responding to what you put into the relationship. You being better helps them be better and make improvements.
Have you ever dealt with being not compatible with your partner?
Dr. Chris Donaghue is a lecturer, therapist and host of the LoveLine podcast, a weekly expert on The Amber Rose Show, and a frequent co-host on TV series The Doctors. He authored Sex Outside the Lines and has been published in various journals and magazines, including The New York Times, Newsweek and National Geographic. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
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