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Work It Out or Move on Out?

When is it time to call it quits in a faltering relationship?

Here are five questions to help you decide if relationship repair is needed.

Relationships are not always an easy institution to maintain. As much as you might love your partner, because you both are human, there may be times when you feel that your partner just doesn’t understand you or you are tired of trying to understand your partner. All individuals experience change, so it only makes sense that relationships will also change over time. This is why flexibility is so important a quality to possess. If we remain inflexible and brittle when a partner and the relationship change, the consequences will be a broken relationship.

When Does Change Become a Problem?

In counseling sessions, I often get asked by a client: “Is my anxiety/depression/whatever a problem?” My response is always the same: “It’s only a problem if you feel it’s a problem. And if you’re asking that question, I guess that it’s something that you’re ready to work on.”

There’s no real objective litmus test that can be used to assess if a relationship’s lows are too low or too frequent for a couple. However, some questions to ask yourself if you’re beginning to wonder about these things:

  1. Do we spend more time unhappy than we do happy?
  2. Do I dread coming home each night when I know my partner will be home that night, too?
  3. Do I ever find myself wishing that we’d never moved in together/married/met each other?
  4. If I had it to do over, would I choose this partner?
  5. Do I usually feel worse after spending time together or do I feel better?

Honestly, all relationships are going to need “tune-ups” along the way. Who we are the day we meet a partner is different than who we’ll be in one year, five years, or ten years. We are all experiencing personal development deep into older adulthood—if your relationship cannot flex and grow as you and your partner flex and grow, it’s going to crack open and you’ll be left to decide whether you want to pick up the pieces and rebuild or leave them behind and move on.

Growing Together and Growing Up, or Just Growing Apart?

The best way to determine if your relationship is flexing and growing as you and your partner undergo your own personal development is whether you are able to answer “Yes” to the self-directed question, “Do I feel that my partner supports me, values me, and still makes me glad to be in this relationship?”

Most of us move through life focused on where we’re going and how we’re going to get there. If we strongly believe that our partner is there for us as we make our journey, that’s a good sign that your relationship is growing.

One good way to get a feel for the resilience of your relationship is to ask yourself where you think you would be now if you and your partner had not met. How might your life be different today? Would you want it to be different today? How might your partner respond if you decided to explore a career path or educational path different than the one you’ve been on?

If your relationship leaves you feeling more as if you’re stuck in a rut versus moving forward via a comfortable vehicle, that’s a sign that you might want to explore your feelings a little more deeply.

When you feel something isn’t just right in your relationship, always trust your intuition—and give yourself permission to explore your feelings a little more closely, and, if you feel it’s warranted, open up a dialogue with your partner about your concerns. Our gut intuition is as reliable an emotional bellwether as we have. If you feel legitimately that something is amiss, don’t lose sleep over it; address it with your partner. Exploring your concerns is a good thing, unfairly accusing a partner of misbehavior is not.

More from Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D.
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More from Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D.
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