Relationships are complicated. Put 10 couples in a room and the chances of finding two couples who have exactly the same relationship are slim to none. Put the same person with two different partners and you’ll see two totally different relationships.
That can make it difficult to know when a relationship is just going through a rough patch or when it’s really over. People can suggest counseling, second honeymoons, and all kinds of other tips and tricks, but in the end, sometimes the signs pointing to things being over are subtle yet clear.
If these three signs are present, chances are it’s time to let go and move on.
We all get frustrated with others occasionally. Partners, kids, parents, co-workers — no one is immune from frustrating us from time to time.
But persistent frustration, frustration that is constant, is a serious sign of trouble.
If your partner’s every action frustrates you, it indicates that the two of you aren’t in alignment anymore. And if you’re not in alignment anymore, it’s difficult to have a healthy, happy relationship.
You might even wonder if they’re deliberately trying to frustrate you — and maybe they are. If you’re out of alignment with each other, you both may be feeling a little (or a lot) antagonistic toward each other and thus, engaging in actions that frustrate each other.
If you want to try to work on the relationship, you need to get back in alignment with each other. This starts with a heartfelt conversation where you both put all your cards on the table. You talk about what you both want from each other and the relationship, what you aren’t currently getting, and how you can come together to get things back on track.
But if the other signs are present, or you feel the relationship has run its course, you should gently end things and move on.
I dated a man who, in the early days of our relationship, seemed like Prince Charming. Romantic dates, romantic words, lots of fun, generous, kind. He could do no wrong.
Until he did.
I don’t remember the first time he did something that frustrated me, but I know I shrugged it off. Frustration is normal to a point and I was willing to assume that instance was within that normal range.
But over the next weeks and months, my frustration grew. I began to feel frustrated by everything he did or didn’t do.
I was frustrated when he’d be late for a date. When he wouldn’t plan a date until the last second. When he ignored my text or call. When he would text or call. When he wouldn’t hold my hand. When he would kiss me.
By the time I finally stopped hoping that things would get better and ended the relationship, I was frustrated by literally everything he did. Even the sound of his breathing.
Trust is broken
Many people make the mistake of thinking that love is the foundation of any good romantic relationship, but it’s actually trust. Without trust, love struggles to survive. Without trust, you can’t allow yourself to be vulnerable and open.
When trust is broken, most relationships struggle to survive, and many don’t.
If trust has been broken, whether by you or your partner, the first thing to consider is whether remorse is present. Has there been an admission of guilt and a sincere apology made? Has behavior been changed to show that the offender won’t break trust again if it’s given again?
Without those things being done, the relationship is unlikely to recover. When someone’s trust has been betrayed, and they don’t see and hear the signs that the person who broke their trust feels bad and intends to prove their trustworthiness again, the victim will always wonder if they are being betrayed again.
If those things are done, then it’s up to the person whose trust was betrayed to decide whether they can forgive and work through what happened. Sometimes they can and do.
Even when they can forgive and move on the first time, if trust is broken again, it becomes harder to forgive with each subsequent experience. It’s also important to realize if someone is continually breaking your trust, remorse and apologies don’t matter. If they’re repeatedly breaking your trust, for your own mental health, you need to move on to someone who understands how important being trustworthy is.
My ex-husband cheated on me multiple times. I forgave him the first time and tried to move on. The problem was that he even though he apologized, it wasn’t sincere. It came with no changed behavior, just an empty promise not to do it again.
So when he did it again, it was harder to forgive. With each instance, I tried to forgive but the trust was so broken that I was always waiting for the next instance. Ultimately, it only took 3 or so times before I stopped believing him when he apologized. It became a farce, where he would apologize and I would say I forgave him, but neither of us meant what we said.
And that set us up for years of misery. Misery that could have been avoided if I had realized much sooner that I simply couldn’t trust him and moved on.
Paths are changing
A guy I dated in high school reached out to me on Facebook recently. While I dated that guy, I thought he was incredible. I imagined us getting married and having kids one day, growing old together and having this great life and relationship.
More than 20 years later, he’s no different than he was in high school. He’s been married five times, has multiple kids from various relationships, drinks too much and uses a variety of drugs that have him constantly changing jobs.
The thought that came to mind when I read his message and checked out his profile?
“I really dodged a bullet!”
Some relationships aren’t meant to last. That guy was a fun high school boyfriend but he was clearly not meant for a long-term relationship. And clinging to that relationship would have meant unhappiness for both of us.
It was clear when we were breaking up way back then that our paths were not the same, or even side-by-side. I wanted marriage and kids and a stable home. He wanted to explore polyamory, party every night, and just go with the flow for everything.
While that was a high school relationship, it happens in plenty of others: you’re on the same path for a while but then your paths diverge, and the relationship isn’t sustainable. Not every relationship is meant to last a lifetime.
These differing paths can look like a lot of different things: living in different places, different ideas about children or marriage, differing views on religion or politics. It can even be as simple as different views on how to eat or workout.
Some differences are necessary for a healthy relationship, of course. But when you’re on different paths, these differences are big. They aren’t little things that you’re willing and able to agree to disagree on. They’re things that one or both of you feel so passionately about that you simply can’t envision being with someone who feels the opposite of how you do.
This person might have meant the world to you. Maybe they still do. But if it’s clear that your paths have begun to separate and that you each can’t follow your paths while in this relationship, it’s better to acknowledge that and let go of the relationship. You might even be able to remain friends.
But trying to force yourselves to stay in the relationship when you’re moving in different directions will only make you both miserable. Trying to persuade someone to change their mind and see things your way will destroy the romantic relationship and probably any chance of staying friends.
When you know you’re starting down different paths, it’s best to acknowledge this, let go gracefully, and move on.
See it as a learning experience
With each of these signs, the end of the relationship gives you a second chance. It gives you the opportunity to learn from what happened.
You can learn more about yourself, what you want from relationships, and what kind of partner you want. And this allows you to grow and live a happier, healthier life filled with successful, beautiful relationships.
Letting go of people and relationships that no longer work for you allows you to take that next step toward that beautiful life. It creates room for the people who can help you create and enjoy that life.
And once you find those people, you’ll be glad you let go of the others.
Wendy Miller is a freelance relationship 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 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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