My last relationship started out like a fairy tale romance and by the end, it was a miserable prison. My partner was a narcissist, he was lying and cheating, and while I didn’t have proof, I knew what he was doing and stayed.
The thing is, staying in that relationship didn’t just mean I was in a miserable relationship. That bad relationship had an impact on every aspect of my life. Despite what we might think, the effects of a bad or broken relationship spread far beyond the relationship itself.
And that’s why it’s so important that we work on our relationships or leave them if they can’t be fixed.
The quality of your life depends on your relationships
When you’re in a strong, healthy, happy relationship, you’ll feel peaceful, empowered, and enjoy life. Knowing you have a solid relationship to retreat to makes a bad day bearable. Bad jobs, irritating relatives, and whatever other problems you face feel tolerable when you know you have a loving and supportive partner to help you through it.
But when your relationship is bad, broken, or toxic, it bleeds into every other aspect of your life. It draws your energy and attention away from everything else. The negativity and frustration build until they explode, usually in situations where they’re unexpected and unwarranted.
When I was still with my former boyfriend, the proof was in all other parts of my life. My kids and I didn’t get along as well because I was so annoyed by my partner that any little thing my kids did annoyed me. My business suffered because I had no desire to focus on it and no energy to work on it. In many ways, my life was on hold as I waited for the relationship to improve.
And that meant more frustration, which meant more of the same problems. It became a never-ending cycle.
When you have a job you hate, it’s quite easy to compartmentalize it and leave what happens at work at work. When you have a disagreement with a friend or relative, you can avoid them until things cool down or even cut ties completely if needed. Most other problems are easily ignored or compartmentalized until we can find a solution.
But a bad romantic relationship is a different situation. Our romantic relationships are our most intimate relationships. They are the ones in which we are most vulnerable, most open, and often spend most of our time. Whether we live with our partner or not, they are often the most important person in our life and that status makes it hard to separate them and the relationship we have with them from the rest of our lives.
Why we don’t try to fix or end bad relationships
There are plenty of reasons why we stay in bad relationships. But in the end, it often boils down to one reason that we leave the status quo alone in a bad relationship: we think it will hurt too much.
The truth is, we’re already in as much pain as we can be in this unhappy relationship. We’re miserable, perhaps lonely, and we might feel ignored, discarded, or mistreated (please note: I am not talking about abusive relationships here; those are a different situation).
But trying to fix a bad or broken relationship is a lot like fixing a broken arm: it hurts like hell, and setting it hurts too, but once you do, the pain starts to get better and we start to heal.
We might know things can get better, but we don’t want that extra pain of setting the broken bone of our relationship. So it’s easier, or so we think, to just live with the pain of it being broken.
We think it will hurt more to try to fix the relationship or to leave it. But the reality is the pain of a torn or unstable relationship is already pure agony and whatever additional pain that comes from fixing or leaving it will lead to sweet relief.
It’s not just the pain that holds us back, though. It’s also fear or worry over the unknowns. Can we fix it? Will it end? What will it look like if we fix it? What will we do if the relationship ends? Who are we outside of this relationship?
Will we survive and find love again if it ends?
Pain and fear are perhaps the two biggest things that prevent us from doing anything in life. And we have to find a way to push through them if we want a better life.
You can’t just stick with the same old, same old
If your relationship is bad, broken, or even just weak, you can’t ignore it and hope for the best. It won’t get better from being ignored. And it will begin to bleed over into business, parenting, friendships, hobbies, and every other aspect of your life. You might not think it will, but it will.
Everything will suffer. And it will all feel like it’s just piling on top of the misery that is your bad relationship. It can even lead to, among other things, depression.
At some point, you just have to take the leap and start doing something to change the relationship. Whether it’s taking steps to fix it, such as counseling, or taking steps to end it, you have to accept that there will be some pain, some uncertainty, and maybe even a little more misery.
But on the other side of that pain, uncertainty, and misery is a happier, better life. Whether you and your partner work things out and have a stronger relationship or you end the relationship, life is better when you get rid of the instability and confusion of a bad relationship.
When you’re no longer trying to manage a miserable relationship, the rest of your life bounces back too. You’re better able to focus on work, family, children, and perhaps most important, yourself. You’re no longer giving energy and attention to the negativity, letting it infect and feed on the rest of your life.
It won’t give you instant happiness. It won’t mean you’ll never be sad or heartbroken or feel another negative emotion again. But it will rid you of the thick layer of misery, disappointment, frustration, and doubt that you live with in an unhappy relationship.
It will allow you to start to feel happiness, excitement, joy, enthusiasm, and other good feelings again. It will allow you to start dreaming again, to imagine a future that feels good and full and rich instead of bleak.
No relationship is perfect, but it doesn’t have to be miserable
There is no such thing as a perfect relationship. You’ll always have some differences, some problems, some imperfections.
But there’s a huge difference between a healthy, happy relationship that experiences the usual bumps along the path of a happy life and one that’s toxic, miserable, and not good for either of the people in it.
If you’ve been living in the second kind of relationship, then it’s time to make a decision. It might not be an easy decision. It might not even be a clear one — you may not know if your relationship can be fixed or if it needs to be ended.
But you can make the decision to figure it out. You can make the decision to talk to your partner. To ask questions. To go through the process and find out whether you can make things better or need to part ways.
Whichever one it turns out to be, you’ll get the same result: a happier life.
Wendy Miller is a Certified Happiness Coach, freelance writer & meditation teacher. After years of settling for abusive and otherwise toxic relationships, she got fed up. Using meditation and other tools, she got to work on healing herself, setting boundaries, and only engaging in relationships (romantic and otherwise) that bring her joy. She wants to help other single parents find the love & happiness they seek, including and going beyond romantic love. She lives in Florida with her two sons, where she homeschools while solo parenting, while surrounded by what feels like a zooful of animals.
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