So, you and your boyfriend have been fighting a lot. Like, ALL the time. And it's usually about the same thing.
He drinks too much. Or maybe, he cheated on you once, and you just can't seem to get over it. Or maybe, he has some unresolved issues that he's taking out on you. Whatever the case, you guys just literally can't stop fighting.
This isn't to say you don't still love him. You love him to death, and that's what motivates you to keep fighting. There's something about this relationship that you deem worth fighting for.
But at what point do you just call it quits and give up?
I asked relationship expert Dr. Jenn Mann, author of "The Relationship Fix: Dr. Jenn's 6-Step Guide to Improving Communication, Connection & Intimacy" and therapist on VH1's "Couples Therapy," to tell us how to know when it's time to call it quits on your relationship.
There are certain things that can be deal-breakers for anyone.
First and foremost, Dr. Mann gives us a concrete list of things that should be a deal-breaker for anyone.
Here they are:
- A relationship in which there is physical violence.
- A relationship in which there is emotional abuse.
- A relationship with someone who is a compulsive cheater and refuses to undergo intensive therapy.
- A relationship in which there is substance abuse, and the person is unwilling to get help.
- A relationship in which the person has a mental illness and is unwilling to get help.
As far as the people who are unwilling to get help go, Dr. Mann says,
You can have a wonderful relationship with someone who has been diagnosed with anything from depression to bipolar disorder if they're getting treatment and are compliant to treatment. But when you have someone who is unwilling to have treatment, then nothing is going to change in your relationship, and it's going to be a torturous experience.
If there is cheating involved...
Cheating is one of the most horrific and unforgivable acts of betrayal against your partner, no doubt about it.
But Dr. Mann reassures us it does not necessarily have to be the be–all and end–all. She has worked with plenty of couples in her private practice who let the act of adultery serve as a turning point in their relationship.
"After the enormous pain, their relationship ultimately becomes stronger because it highlights what needs to be worked on in the relationship," she explains.
That being said, it's important to make sure your partner is devoted to making concrete change. Just saying sorry isn't enough, especially if your partner is a consistent cheater.
What you have to realize is that people have patterns. When they aren't doing therapy and they're not working on themselves, they are going to continue on them. If you have a partner who has a history of this pattern, there's no reason to think it's gonna be any different unless they present you with concrete information that shows you why it's different this time.
Here's the right way to go about fixing your relationship, if you want to fix it.
There is a right way when it comes to mending your broken relationship.
Dr. Mann warns us against making a common mistake she notices in her own patients. A patient will come in saying an act has been committed against her (ex: he cheated), and she'll come into her office saying, "He cheated, and I took him back. He said he was sorry, and now he's cheating again."
What's the problem with that? Well, aside from the fact that you're dating a jerk, the order in which you went about fixing your relationship is wrong.
I don't believe in taking the person back until they've proven it. People often do this in the wrong order. [Y]ou don't take someone back because they say they're going to change; you take someone back because you've seen them change and you've observed that change over time. For example, someone who has a substance abuse problem will check themselves into rehab or do 90 meetings in 90 days or attend regular AA meetings and work with a sponsor and get actively involved with the program. Or, someone who has a history of cheating will go to therapy and figure out why they have such a need for validation and why they're self-sabotaging. There are always things that people can do that are very concrete that show you they are serious about changing.
When patients come in and say their partner repeated the same problem, she always asks them, "What made you think it was going to be different? What did he do to show you that this wasn't going to happen again?"
Inevitably, the answer is always the same: "Nothing. he said he was sorry. He cried and said he didn't want to lose me."
That is not enough.
Dr. Mann urges us, "Ultimately, seeing changed behavior over time [is] what you want to look for."