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When to Walk Away From a Relationship

by Danielle Wright & Lisa K. Stephenson, Relationship Coach & Author | Download the Branndet App this Fall

“I love you, but I love me more.” - Samantha Jones, SATC

It may come as no surprise, but many of us tend to remain in relationships that have long since reached their expiration date.

The truth is, “comfort zones may be nice places. But they are wastelands where nothing grows.”

I want to touch on some really important terms to help better bring this article across to our readers: abandonment issues, low self-esteem, and Stockholm Syndrome. So, what are these things and how can each of them play a role in your sticking around in a relationship that is no longer serving you?

The first is fear of abandonment. This involves a deep fear of being hurt, rejected, or abandoned by someone we love. It is a form of anxiety that often develops in response to specific painful or traumatic experiences, like childhood abuse, neglect, or the loss of a loved one. This can play a crucial role in our inability to let go of someone who is not the right person for us. It’s no doubt time to move on from your relationship when:

  • You’re spending more time living in the past rather than the present. Do you find yourself asking your partner, “Why can’t you treat me the way you did when we first met?” The truth is, sometimes when we first meet someone, they present the best version of themselves – this happens often with narcissists during the love bombing stage. But the more you live in the past is a good indicator that it is time to let them go. Your relationship with the person exists in the current moment, not in the past. Your decision on whether to stay or go should be based on your current feelings for him/her.

  • Are you happier or feeling sadder lately? Your relationship should bring you peace and joy. It is not the source of your happiness, but one of the components to help you feel safe and in good spirits. If you’re sad a lot or constantly feeling let down by him/her, it is time to call it quits.

During this time, you could be wondering if you’ll find someone new. The answer is yes. Having grown comfortable in a relationship can create an unsafe environment for you to thrive emotionally and mentally. In other words, you’re punishing yourself. “We rather stick with suffering that is familiar than the pain that we do not know.” - Thích Nhất Hạn

Second, low self-esteem. Maybe you have a lack of confidence and you take your partner’s mixed signals as validation that they still want to be with you and so, you stay, you fight. I am speaking from experience. In cases like this, it is always time to leave. People with low self-esteem are hypervigilant and hyperalert to signs of rejection, inadequacy, and rebuff.

To overcome low self-esteem, you must challenge these negative thoughts and stand up to your inner critic. As long as you give in to the negative thoughts you will be blinded by what true love feels like. You will begin to feel like if your relationship is not tumultuous or if your partner is not “keeping you on your toes” then maybe they don’t love you. Love does not equal pain and you are not deserving of bad treatment. It is not your job to fix or change anyone.

You should walk away from a relationship when you find yourself justifying your partner's hurtful actions toward you. Whenever we experience a situation we’re uncomfortable with, we experience cognitive dissonance – this is when your beliefs run counter to your behaviors and/or new information that is presented to you. In some cases, this can be your boundaries. Maybe you like your partner to be consistent and call if they are going to be late, after a while, your partner stops doing this. They begin to disrespect you and rather than leaving or sticking to your boundaries you find an excuse for them to allow the behavior to continue.

According to Author Sophia Demas, “A one-sided relationship is not healthy, and being disrespected is a form of abuse. Most women who move the goalpost of their boundaries to stay in an unbalanced relationship have low self-esteem. Conduct an honest probe of your feelings—what do you love about this man? Ask yourself, what is the line he will have to cross to make you leave the relationship.”

Most women will adjust their boundaries depending on the man they are with. Do not set boundaries according to society, set boundaries according to you and you will then find them easier to implement. A replay of actions that your partner knows are hurtful to you is also abuse. Once might be a coincidence, twice, you might want to give it another chance, but three times is a clear sign something is wrong. At this point, you can expect your partner to put little to no effort into the relationship, therefore, almost forcing you to leave.

How do you make him pay attention? “Asserting yourself and letting him face the consequences of his actions is one of the best ways to make him respect you again.” Emily Dean says. The best consequence is your absence.

Lastly, Stockholm Syndrome. This is a condition in which hostages develop a psychological bond with their captors during captivity. Yes, this can happen in romantic relationships, but it is better known as trauma bonding. At this point, you could be experiencing emotional, verbal, and even physical hurt. Of course, one can spot physical abuse, but emotional abuse is a bit harder to detect. Is your partner stonewalling you when you have an issue and want to talk about it? Does your partner gaslight you? Do you often question your reality and end up apologizing to him/her even if you know you did nothing wrong? Do you have an increased amount of anxiety whenever they are around? Trouble sleeping? These are signs you could be experiencing extreme emotional abuse.

Related articles: What is a Relationship Coach?

Leaving a trauma bond can be challenging, but it is not impossible. You can seek therapy – this is highly recommended. Engage in new activities and nurture your healthy relationships as you ease your way out of your abusive relationship. Whatever you do, don’t go at it alone. Call on your support system and lean on them. Tell them what you’re experiencing and that you need help leaving. Breaking a trauma bond requires time. Shifting actions to take time for personal hobbies or spending more time with friends and family members who are not toxic is essential for rebuilding self-esteem and feeling supported.

Please see below for some additional resources:


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