I love working with couples. More dating couples than ever are coming into the HWP office for counseling. As a couples counselor, this gets me excited! I love that couples are identifying issues and committing to making their relationship the best it can be before getting engaged or married. Learning how to communicate effectively, resolve problems easily, and learn to forgive the mistakes we inevitably make are excellent skills that dating couples can learn in therapy.
The downside to working with dating couples is when I sense toxicity, incompatibility, or realize that they view their futures completely differently. This is when a trained counselor can help couples have a more realistic awareness and perspective on the relationship. If you’re struggling to identify if the person you’re with is the best fit for you and your future, be patient with yourself. In the meantime, here’s a list of questions to ask yourself if you’re deciding whether to walk away.
Are you crying more than smiling?
Are you questioning the relationship more often than you’re feeling confident about it?
Do you see affection and intimacy as a chore now?
Do your family and friends disapprove of the relationship?
Are you tolerating or compromising more often than not?
Are you hoping your partner will change?
Can you be your true self with your partner?
Do you trust your partner? Has there already been a history of infidelity?
Have there been a lot of crises in your relationship?
Do you yearn for more?
Are there differences that will never change, that you cannot get past or compromise on?
If you have decided that you are ready to end your relationship, here is some helpful advice on how you can effectively break from this relationship and walk away with confidence. If you have experienced for yourself, or seen someone else that has had the back and forth, break up and get back together pattern, you know how toxic it can be. These six tips can ensure that you have a clean, healthy break.
1. Don’t mistake addiction, lust, or the feeling of need for actual love.
Bad habits are hard to break. A bad relationship can feel like a bad habit you just can’t break. You get comfortable. You get into a routine. You lie to yourself about needing the person just because they’ve been in your day-to-day life for a while. Or, there’s great chemistry, but chemistry doesn’t necessarily mean respect or love. Ask yourself why you are staying in the relationship. What need is it filling? Is it the need to have a body/partner?
2. Realize that the only person you can change is yourself.
Staying in a bad relationship because you think that the person is going to change over time, or better yet, change for you, is wishful thinking. You may as well think you can win the lottery, too. Accept that the only person you can change is yourself and start working on you. Otherwise, you are just setting yourself up for a lot of unmet expectations, settling, and disappointment.
3. Make a plan. And stick to it.
Decide how, when, where, and why you are ending the relationship and do it. Don’t look back, don’t give in (to your own desires and feelings, or theirs), and trust that you are doing the right thing. Write yourself notes about why you are doing it to remind yourself. Reward yourself for not going back.
Everybody has bad relationships,
and at the end of the day,
they are just a great way to set yourself up for a good relationship.
4. Get support.
You’re going to need some support with this. Reach out to close friends or family members who can hold you accountable, provide support, and remind you of why you are walking away. Do not think that you can do this all by yourself. If you’re unsure of who to go to for support, a trusted counselor is a great alternative.
5. Honor your own dreams and desires.
What kind of relationship do you want? What kind of person do you envision spending your life with? Do you want constant drama in your life? Do you want to be with someone who isn’t sure of you? You deserve the best. Don’t settle for someone who treats you ok or well some of the time.
6. Take a small step every day towards the life you want to live.
Celebrate the small wins. Do something to enjoy your new life without that bad relationship yucking it up all the time. Enjoy peace, freedom, and respect for yourself.
Kristi Schwegman is a psychotherapist specializing in helping couples develop healthy relationships, whether dating, engaged, or married. She also draws from her Christian-based approach to lead individuals in becoming aware of the limiting beliefs that can get them stuck.
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