How do you know when It's time for a relationship to end?
In my experience, most people have an incredibly difficult time navigating this question when it counts - and for good reason. In my own past, I've been so attached to toxic relationships it has cost me dearly. Why did I stay? And why do we so often fail to recognize when a relationship has run its course?
Because we bring to our relationships all of past wounds, needs and relational patterns, and - if allowed to unconsciously run amok - these can either compel us to stay in the wrong relationships for the wrong reasons - or to jump ship the moment things get into emotional terrain we are uncomfortable with and don't know how to navigate.
As I have written in the past, I don't personally see the end of a relationship as a failure. I actually feel quite strongly that, when it is in alignment and approached consciously, the end of a relationship can and should be extremely beautiful - it is actually one of the most important, sacred parts of a relationship.
To be completely honest, I think that in general people need to get more comfortable with breaking up and letting go of relationships that do not actually feed them. I say this because we live in a world where outdated social norms mean people stay in stagnant, emotionally distant, spiritually disconnected relationships for decades - when it would maybe have been in truth for them to go on for a fraction of that time.
I know how incredibly challenging it can be to let go of a relationship - and as I mentioned already, my inability to do so in the past has cost me dearly. Today, however, things have thankfully changed in my world, and I would like to offer you a couple of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself if you are navigating this terrain. They can function as a kind of litmus test for any relationship, testing for: A) Is this relationship completely, irreparably out of alignment with my core needs, or B) Is there clearly room for this relationship to transform.
Let's begin with what is probably the most important question of all:
HAVE YOU SHOWN UP?
In any relationship, if you do not clearly state what your needs are, it can be very hard for those needs to get met.
Why is that?
Because you haven't owned who you are - you haven't brought your full self out into the open so that your partner can see and understand all of you. And until you've done that, you are the architect of your own suffering. If your partner isn't meeting needs that you have kept underground, the root of the problem is actually in your hands. You haven't shown up, and consequently you haven't even given them the chance to meet you, and fulfill you - you have set a limit on how deep, authentic and nourishing your connection can be.
An extreme analogy here would be someone that fakes an orgasm, or lies about having had one. By doing this they are literally training their partner to be a poor match for them, because they won't just be honest about how they actually feel. We generally do this in more subtle ways, throughout relationships.
How common is this type of behaviour? Extremely.
Why do we withhold our true needs? Because it's scary to be vulnerable. And we may not be used to admitting them even to ourselves, little own having them be accepted or met by another person.
There are many ways I could define showing up in a relationship, but to keep it simple today, I'm going to stick to this basic premise: You show up in a relationship by owning who you are - including your healthy, beautiful, sacred needs (and, of course, you can only really learn about what those needs are through being in relationships). You show up by being honest about all of your perceptions - about when things feel on and when things feel off. You show up BY NOT HIDING the things you like, the things you don't like, the things that feel bad for you and the things that feel good. By embracing such a high level of authenticity, you create the conditions where your partner can actually respond to your soul, because you aren't keeping it hidden.
So, if your relationship really isn't meeting your needs in some significant way, but you haven't been showing up and owning those very needs, it may not be time to jump ship. You haven't really done your work - and the thing about relationships is that unless we do our work and learn our lessons, the same lessons show up again and again.
And of course one of the biggest, most common lessons we have in relationship is that of feeling comfortable being our true selves - holding nothing back and claiming our feelings and perceptions.
Now, on the flip side - if you have shown up and claimed what to you is a very significant need (let's say, for example, you need to talk about your feelings more openly), but your partner simply can't or won't meet you, for whatever reason, you have discovered what may be a massive misalignment.
If your openness and vulnerability is met with rejection over and over, there will come a point when you must protect those vulnerable, pure parts of yourself by letting go, and validating yourself - or you will be the one rejecting your own soul. And that is not what we're here for - especially in an intimate relationship.
HAVE YOU LEARNED YOUR LESSON?
Every relationship brings with it specific lessons that meet us exactly where we are at in our development. They are beautifully, divinely synchronized to push us exactly where we need to be pushed in order to heal and grow.
Every relationship comes with lessons - the questions that we must ask ourselves are: Do we know what the lesson showing up for us right now is? And, are we ready to learn this lesson and move beyond it - or are we going to hang around and repeat the same lesson indefinitely?
Let's use the example I brought up earlier, of a relationship where someone feels the need to communicate their feelings openly, and they bring that need to their partner. And, just to be crazy, let's say that this is a heterosexual relationship where the woman wants to talk more openly about what's going on for her emotionally, and the man wants nothing to do with it. It's pretty far fetched, I know, but bear with me...
What's the lesson here?
Well, there could be several lessons: Owning the true need for emotional intimacy is an obvious one. Then, if that need is not validated - if it is rejected or dismissed - the next lesson would be validating it further by making it clear that it is a non negotiable necessity (a nutrient that you cannot thrive without). If that does not create action and radical change within the relationship, then the lesson may become letting go of something that simply does not work for you - instead of begging to get your needs met from someone who actually can't do that. This of course allows you to grow and become fully available to a relationship that truly meets you.
There is no formula to determining what your lesson is and where you are at within it - although it is as simple as being completely honest with yourself, validating your heart, and knowing the wounds that would compel you to look away from such guidance. The more we know the self - by having going into our personal history, relational patterns and core wounds - the better equipped we will be to recognize lessons when they emerge (or re-emerge, as is often the case).
Of course no matter what relationship we are in, we are learning lessons. I could date someone who lied, cheated on, and stole from me, and I would still be learning - it would just be a terrible lesson for me to choose. That's the nature of life - we grow no matter what. We can choose, however, if we want to push ourselves and learn new lessons, or if we want to hang around in the same old terrain we have come to know.
There comes a point, for most of us, where those old lessons actually become stagnant, toxic and oppressive - and we are ready to step beyond, validate ourselves, and experience something more.
Which brings us to the final point for today:
LEVELS OF TRUTH
I haven't framed this point as a question - but to do so, the questions would be:
What level of truth are you choosing? What level of alignment are you choosing? How high (or low) are you holding the bar for your relationships?
To return to the example from above: Some people might choose to stay in a relationship where their partner refuses to open up to them (or make space for them to open up) emotionally. Perhaps they will get this partner to acknowledge their own emotional unavailability, and that alone will feel like a massive step forward.
There is nothing wrong with this type of relationship - it is simply a level of truth or alignment that one chooses.
For another person with different standards and boundaries, staying in that type of relationship would be absolutely unthinkable. Why? Because they hold the bar in a different place for their relationships. They choose a different level of alignment - one that fulfills their basic, fundamental need for emotional intimacy.
When we are in a relationship that is not working - once we have fully shown up, done our work, and owned our lessons - the final question is really this: What level of alignment will you choose? Because however high (or low) you hold the bar for your relationships, determines the upper limits of what you get to experience.
There are lessons to be learned in every relationship - the question, is do you want to learn lessons that push you into the cutting edge of your own evolution? Or do you want to hang around in familiar territory indefinitely, playing old lessons on repeat, waiting for someone else to change?
As a facilitator, I personally am committed to helping my clients step into their power and potential - to live the most aligned, beautiful life possible - so I help them create relationships at a certain level of alignment, and transform or step away from ones that don't meet their core needs.
Again, there is no wrong choice to be made here. The decision is simply this: what level of truth (depth, intimacy, and soul nourishment) are you going to choose?
Then, you show up and hold that. If your partner does not choose to meet you, your trajectory may necessitate letting go.
And that is not a failure, it is a blessing.
These three questions are just entry points into a highly personal process. I hope they can provide some direction or motivation in exploring such a challenging matter.
I also must emphasize again that, when we have shown up, done our work, and let go of a relationship in a way that validates our heart and soul, it is an extraordinarily beautiful thing. Even more so when all parties involved are conscious, humble people who really care for one another - there is no reason for the end of relationship to be anything other than a sacred, loving transition where everyone feels held, loved and validated in an extraordinary way.
These are fine arts - both the art of showing up, and the art of letting go - and I have only touched on them it in this post. Having said that, I hope that what I have shared can help you understand where you are at in your own process, whether you are currently navigating this area, or simply reflecting on it.
Here is to you owning who you truly are, what you truly need, and creating relationships that nurture you to the core and bring your whole being alive.
If you liked this article - grab a copy of my free Conscious Relationship Wake Up Call - it's a short and sweet call to action and reminder of a few of the most fundamental truths that have transformed my own life and relationships.
About The Author:
Hi, my name is Miles. I am a writer & facilitator that helps people step into an aligned, beautiful and empowered life through conscious relationship work, emotional work, shadow integration and much more.
I am passionate about this work because when we step into alignment with our souls, pure magic happens - and I know of nothing more healing or sacred.