Relationships move through patches. Sometimes they coast along beautifully. Sometimes they splutter. Sometimes they gasp for breath on a cold stone floor. And sometimes they couldn’t even be bothered doing that.
So how do you know whether it’s time to leave or time to fight harder to hold on? How do you know the difference between a bad patch and a permanent stagnation?
Knowing whether or not to call it quits isn’t always easy but if you pay attention the clues will be there. There are plenty. Here are 12:
You’re getting the ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ chat.
This can be heartbreaking, I know, but don’t fight it. The reality is that it doesn’t matter if it’s you or your partner. If this is what you’re hearing, it means the combination of both of you just doesn’t work anymore. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with either of you. What it means is that he or she can’t – or won’t – love you the way you deserve to be loved. Hanging on to that sort of relationship is such a waste of you. And as for that one-way love thing – you’re just too good for it. Let it go so something better can find you.
Oh the disappointment.
When you come home to be surprised by a candlelit room, a dozen roses and him or her preparing your favourite meal, you’re disappointed because you have your favourite mag in one hand, your favourite ‘takeaway for one’ in the other and, well, when you imagined tonight – it didn’t look like candles and roses and favourite home-made dinners. Nup. Nothing like that at all.
When there’s no ‘us’ in future.
When you think of your future, it doesn’t involve a picture of you-know-who at all. Instead, you’re jumping out of parachutes on your own and planning a trip to Italy with friends to learn how to cook pizza and how to say, ‘Buongiorno’ the way the locals do.
The perfect Saturday night. It just looks different.
Your perfect Saturday night is snuggling up on the couch, eating takeaway and watch a movie. By yourself.
What would you do if …
If this was the last day of your life, who would you want to be spending it with? Okay. Time’s up. The answer’s ‘him’ or ‘her’. If you’re still wondering whether or not your partner makes it on to your top five list of ‘maybes’, it’s probably time to move on.
Two types of days. Or not.
There used to be two types of days – days with your partner and days without. Days ‘with’ were the very best days of all. Not anymore.
Talk about the future – holidays, Christmas, having kids, growing old together – leaves you cold, though probably not as cold as the tumbleweeds that roll past in the silent void that follow every time there’s talk about the future – ‘Babe I’ve been thinking – you love kids, I love kids – do you think six would be too many? (At which point you’re wondering if by ‘kids’, he means with someone other than you – to which you would give your greatest blessing and, when the time came, an appropriate gift of a stuffed dog or a little yellow onesie.)
What if …
If something happened like, say, a nuclear holocaust, and every man or woman on the planet except yours was taken out, how would you feel about spending the rest of your life together? Relieved? Grateful? Devastated? Do you weep quietly? Howl like a fisherman’s widow/er at how damn unlucky you turned out to be? Feel too distressed at the end of online shopping to feel else anything at all? Pay attention.
You’re not ‘you’ anymore.
Are people telling you that you’ve changed? Lost your spark? Don’t seem happy any more? What’s telling is that you secretly know exactly what they mean because you’ve been thinking the same thing for a while.
You might be working hard to ignore the problem but your body won’t lie. It’s an annoying fact of being human that your body knows what’s going on often before the rest of you is ready to wise up. Are you having more than your usual share of headaches, muscle aches, back aches? Has your appetite changed? Is your sleep disturbed? They can all be signs that you’re off balance, and not just because of a dodgy pair of heels. What’s going on?
You make two lists: ‘Reasons to Stay’ and ‘Reasons to Leave’. When the ‘Reasons to Stay’ list ends up longer you’re disappointed, until you quickly decide that ‘our eyes aren’t the same colour’ is a completely legit reason to leave.
The things you used to love about your partner have become annoying, or nothing to you at all.
Ending a relationship is hard, even if you’re the one ending it. Listen to the clues. Giving up is very different to knowing when to walk away. Relationships are never a smooth road and periodically will require a fight of warrior daring to keep it together – even the good ones.
The most important thing is knowing the difference between having a relationship that’s worth fighting for, even if you get tired of the fight for a while, and knowing when there’s nothing left to fight for at all. There will always be a corner of you that will know the answer.