Breakups suck. Sure, there are times when two people mutually decide to end their romantic relationship and the split is amicable. But for the rest of us normal folks, breakups are just the worst.
That doesn’t mean they should be avoided, though. Some of the most formative experiences of my life were the result of feeling sad and alone, but knowing I couldn’t spend every day on the couch, moping with Ben and Jerry. Running a 10K and traveling across the country by myself were two goals I didn’t have on my radar until I finally left my ex-boyfriend of four years. The journey led to my becoming a licensed social worker and eventually, a professional breakup coach.
I've worked with women who've contemplated the pros and cons of their relationships so many times that they feel absolutely confused about what to do. I’ve been there, and chances are, if you’re reading this, you have too. But sometimes, whether or not you should break up is much clearer — especially if a relationship is toxic or potentially abusive.
As we're wrapping up Domestic Violence Awareness Month this week, here are a few signs it might be time to call it quits on your toxic relationship. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but if this sounds like your relationship, you might want to speak with a counselor about taking the steps to call it quits.
YOU'RE CONSTANTLY FEELING STRESSED OUT, EXHAUSTED, OR BAD ABOUT YOURSELF
Our happiness can't depend solely on our love lives, but stressful relationships can zap us of all our energy and distract us from creating our own version of happiness. Sure, there are times when romantic relationships require a lot of effort in order to keep things on track, but these times should be balanced by seasons of ease, comfort, and fun. If tending to your relationship is continually getting in the way of you tending to yourself, consider whether you need to leave so you can give yourself the attention you deserve.
FEW, IF ANY, OF YOUR LOVED ONES LIKE YOUR PARTNER
Sometimes personalities clash — that’s to be expected. If, on the other hand, most of your friends and family members share the same negative opinions about your partner, that's a huge red-flag.
It's not fun when the people closest to us don't get along, but those who love you most probably have the purest intentions. They don’t want to see you in a crummy relationship, and can you blame them? You’re wonderful!
At the end of the day, your love life is your business. But if you're the only one who sees the good qualities in your partner, don't be surprised when other people speak up (or give up, if it seems like you're unwilling to let your relationship go).
YOU AVOID TELLING YOUR LOVED ONES WHAT'S GOING ON IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP
When really intense things go down between you and your partner, it’s normal to want to keep those things to yourself. When the same really intense things go down between you and your partner over and over and over again, you might start to feel alone and unhappy. In those cases, find a safe, nonjudgmental friend you can vent to. Secrecy breeds shame — and shame is the last thing you need when you’re dealing with a stressful relationship.
I’m not saying you need to spill your guts to the world, but if you fear judgment from your closest friends, it might be because deep down you know they wouldn’t approve of how you’re being treated, or the relationship.
YOU'RE BEING HELD BACK
Relationships require sacrifice, but when you’re in the right relationship, you shouldn’t be experiencing a major case of FOMO (fear of missing out). There will always be things you have to do in order to keep the peace within your relationship, but a supportive partner won’t stop you from pursuing your dreams or having adventures.
A good relationship will encourage you towards your potential, not away from it. A good relationship won't be threatened by you becoming a better you either. If your partner gets threatened by signs of your growth, that is sign that the dynamic is not healthy.
YOUR INTUITION SAYS SO
Your intuition is probably a lot more trust-worthy than you think it is. The problem is that so many of us are more comfortable with listening to other people than listening to ourselves. Regardless of how many or how few of these signs are present within your relationship, if your intuition is nudging you in a certain direction, don’t ignore it. Sometimes, fear can sound louder than your inner voice, and that’s all the more reason to listen closely.
Some people need to stay in toxic relationships for a long time before they finally learn the lessons they need to learn (like I did). Other folks may be in the “perfect” relationship, but feel like they’re dying inside because it just doesn’t feel right. In either situation, what matters is learning to trust your intuition. If it seems like your intuition is leading you towards a breakup, don’t let fear get in the way. Your intuition trumps all.
Finally, if your relationship is unsafe due to physical violence, emotional abuse, or continuous infidelity, a side note: There are numerous reasons why people stay in abusive relationships, safety usually topping the list. As a social worker, safety is a top priority, and I trust my clients when they express concerns about abruptly leaving their relationships. Therefore, rather than telling you to leave if someone is hurting you, I find it much more helpful to encourage you to seek help (calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline might be a good place to start).
Above all, remember: You deserve a healthy and happy relationship, but at the very least, you deserve to feel safe.
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