5 Things to Know Before You Leave a Relationship

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There are so many reasons why you care. Yet something keeps tugging at you, telling you this person isn't the right one for you. But then again, maybe you're wrong, and this person is right. So how do you decide? How do you know when it's really over?

The time will come when you'll know. You can't think your way to the decision, you will feel it somewhere in your belly. Your intuition and instinct will tell you, not your brain. Follow these five suggestions, while you wait for the   answer to become clear.

heartbreak1. All relationships, even good ones, have harsh seasons.

Take a moment to think about the arc of your own life. Have you always been happy and contented and known just what to do to succeed at work and in love? Not if you're like most of us, who have our peak moments, yes, but also our valleys of uncertainty and despair. And when two people get together, it means double the peaks and valleys.

2. Take care of yourself, more than usual; you're in a fragile place.

Eat well. Exercise regularly. Do the things that make you feel good inside: work out. Meditate. Play or listen to music. Paint or create art in some other form. Cook. Entertain. Read a book that you can't put down or watch an old, favorite movie. Even though it may feel totally strange to do things that seem beside the point, the things in life that make you happy will return you to yourself. They will get you out of your head into your core. As for the fate of your relationship, your answer will come from someplace quiet and deeper inside. Self-care will help you tap into that place.

3. Work on the friendship.

You may find that you have a lot to lose if you move apart. Rather than change partners, you may be able change your expectations. Although our culture often insists that the only relationship worth having is one full of connection and passion, some people are able to live together in kind and caring ways without a lot in common. To live as companions more than as lovers is an option. And sometimes when we renew the friendship, we do fall back in love. It's no secret. Research shows that friendship is deeply important in a long-term relationship; it's a form of stability that carries us through the harder times. I am not suggesting you DO this, just that you consider it while you are waiting for the "inner knowing" to show up.

4. Don't try and save it.

I don't believe we should ever try to "save" a relationship. Let the relationship go. Recognize those aspects of your partnership that you value most and dump the rest. Then you can see if you can build something new with the salvaged pieces that were so wonderful and made you happy. Begin this process alone. Feel your way into it. Stay open to the possibilities that may surface. Later on, you can reach out to your partner, if it seems right to try. See if they're willing to sift through your shared history and find a new path, one that's spacious and healthy enough to be good for you both.

5. Remember, if you don't understand how you got to this point, you will repeat it with someone else.

If you really want to "work on the relationship," work on yourself. Identify the patterns of behavior and attitude (your individual baggage) which are part of the relationship, too. Do you try to please too much? Do you need to have your own way all the time? Do you listen? Do you keep promises? Are you often jealous?

Through self-examination you can do a lot to clean up your own act even if the other person doesn't do a thing. And, if you do decide leave, you won't have to take that baggage with you.

These five suggestions may not bring quick relief. They are, however, the most helpful ones I've come across after decades of counseling couples, and in my own life when I had to make the choice to stay or go a time or two.

There's also some mystery in the decision. I've seen couples with so much going for them, who walked away without a second thought. I've seen others sit tight in the biggest messes you've ever seen and create a great new connection.

So when you don't know, when sometimes the answer is YES, and other times it's NO, you can take your time. If you stick around a little longer, you may learn things that will help you become wiser, stronger, and find the clarity you seek.

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About the author

Linda Carroll

Linda Carroll, MS, is a love/life coach and has worked as a couples therapist for over 35 years. She is also the author of Love Cycles: The Five Essential Stages of Lasting Love. She teaches workshops throughout the United States and also at Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico, several times a year. Linda lives in Corvallis, Oregon, with her veterinarian husband of 26 years and their Jack Russell terrier. Her websites are and