A great relationship is built on a foundation of friendship, respect, passion and love. But sometimes, you may find yourself attracted to someone you know will not be good for you. They may be attractive and charming, but are also selfish and manipulative or chronically unfaithful or controlling. Or perhaps some of your needs are met but you find yourself being sapped emotionally or financially. Perhaps your partner has a personality disorder or has addictions and they are either unable or unwilling to change in order to have a healthy life and relationship. In more extreme cases, there can even be physical or psychological abuse.
The problem with unhealthy relationships is that they distract us from our true values, hopes and real wants and needs in life. They may temporarily scratch the surface of our needs, but as time goes by, they take away far more from our lives than they add. Some remain due to optimism or a desire to “fix” the relationship or even their partner. Some feel that any relationship is better than none, yet this is certainly not true.
The truth is, the longer we stay in a unfulfilling or unhealthy relationship, the harder it is to face the facts and make a change. Most of us wonder why we feel this way, but as psychologists explain, cognitive dissonance can create a vicious cycle that keeps us stuck. In simple terms, when we make a decision to do something (in this case date or marry someone) we look for positive “proof” to justify our decision as a good one, otherwise we begin to feel uncomfortable. When it becomes clear that a mistake was made or that so many things have changed that our earlier decision no longer fits our needs, values or life, we become dissatisfied or unfulfilled–and its time for a change. Keep in mind you can love someone (even in an unhealthy relationship), but still know it’s best to leave. The sooner you become clear with what you truly want and need for a healthy relationship, and honestly evaluate your current relationship instead of making excuses, the sooner you can free yourself for good.
Whenever a reasonable period of time passes in a relationship (good or bad) we develop psychological attachments. The longer we stay, the harder these attachments are to break. This is another reason it’s hard to break-up even when you know you want to leave. You may have some good times together, or great sex, or someone to take care of you or distract you from loneliness, but deep down you know the relationship is unfulfilling, unbalanced, unhealthy or even abusive. It is important to remember, there are many people in unsatisfying or unhealthy relationships that surprisingly never leave. They allow their attachments and fears to keep them stuck. But, people who remain in these relationships are not noble, they are robbing themselves and their partner of a healthier, happier, more fulfilling relationship.
Perhaps you have tried (more than once?) to end your relationship only to find that your ex will not respect your wishes. Break-ups are rarely easy for either party, but necessary to finalize for both people to move forward. If you are in an on-again/off-again relationship, but ready to go, it is best to make a clean break. Know ahead of time your partner will likely have an entirely different agenda. Let your partner know you have given this considerable thought. Be very clear that the relationship is over and you will not change your mind. Be kind, but firm. It is always best to take the high road. A clean break is much easier on both parties in the long run and speeds healing time.
If you have communicated you desire a clean break, yet your former partner stalks you, continues to get in touch (when you have asked for no contact), maligns you or threatens you in an effort to provoke contact, you will have to remain firm and in extreme cases (when in danger) take legal action. That said, you will need to fulfill your legal and ethical obligations (as would be the case after divorce). If any items of your ex remain, have them mailed or delivered to your ex. Minimize your contact our use passive communication such as email only when required. It may be advisable in some cases to block and delete your ex’s phone number (write it down and file it, so it is not easily accessible in a moment of weakness or a drunk dial). If you run into each other unexpectedly, say hello, but move on. Even if your ex has some “emergency” or any other need that pulls at your emotions, express your sorrow for their unfortunate circumstances, but stay firm. They must stand on their own two feet. Don’t fall into the trap of being their convenient problem solver (even if you enjoy saving the day). They got along before they met you and they’ll use all those same skills to keep on keeping on.
It takes time to grieve a relationship, even if you are the one to cut ties. Be good to yourself. Stay social. Spend time with family and friends. Go to an event or game you will enjoy. And know that once you finally achieve your goal of moving on, you will meet others that appreciate your unique charms, good looks, intelligence and sense of humor.
We wish you the best in your future and support your decision to pursue healthy, fulfilling relationships. Please share your experiences with unhealthy relationships in our comments section and let us know how you are doing post break-up.