Here's How Long You Should Try To Make Your Relationship Work Before Breaking Up
I’m someone who really struggles with big decisions. I weigh the pros and cons over and over, and when I think I’ve finally decided on the right path, that’s when the self-doubt goes into overdrive. That’s especially true when it comes to ending relationships and it's why I've stayed in some too long. Even when I keep finding myself wondering, should I give up on my relationship? It's hard to trust that instinct.
If that sounds familiar, I’m not surprised. We all want to love and be loved, but add to that the pressure of constantly being inundated with messages about relationships that reinforce the ideas that you're supposed to fight for love; that relationships are work; that love conquers all, and things get really murky, really quickly. While all those ideas may be true — to varying degrees — sometimes a relationship just stops being worth fighting for.
But how can you tell when to give up? To move on? To seek out new love? To trust your gut that it's over? To help wade through all this confusion, I reached out to relationship expert and bestselling author Susan Winter to help identify relationships that are worth fighting for and when to go ahead and break up. Here's what she had to say.
When You Should Fight For It
All relationships, even the very best and healthiest ones, have their ups and downs. When people talk about relationships being work, this is what they mean. It means compromising, fighting fair, keeping things fresh, and, above all, communicating. In the times that one or more of those things are lacking, you may start to wonder if the relationship is over.
But here's the difference: A relationship is worth fighting for when "there’s a clear chance for transformation. Not just hope or wishful thinking — but two willing and able partners who’re ready to do whatever is necessary to rekindle and stabilize their love," says Winter. In other words, you are both in the fight and equally willing to explore what has gone wrong and take the steps to correct it. "You should hold on if you see progress."
When It's Time To Let Go
In some cases, it can be painfully obvious that a relationship is over. For instance, never stay with someone who is abusive, cruel, or betrays your trust. However, where it gets less clear is when it’s more an issue of a smaller incompatibility or when the feelings begin to ebb. The question is, if it’s just incompatibility, are they issues you both are willing to work on and that feel like they are worth doing? Winter says that it’s time to move on if there are "irreconcilable differences which neither of you care to amend or correct."
How Long Is Long Enough To Try?
Is there a hard and fast rule about how long you have to work at the relationship before calling it quits? Winter says no. Like in all things related to relationships, you have to take it on a case-by-case basis. Nothing can ever be that easy, right?
The key to knowing you've tried your best to make things work and it’s time to move on is to take a look at how much each of you has tried. "Is your partner trying in earnest to correct their faults? Do they seem willing to take responsibility for fixing their side of the street? Are they motivated to amend and correct their behavior?” asks Winter. If the answer is no, then you've likely done everything you can to salvage the relationship and it’s time to let go.
But before you do, she suggests looking at your role, too. She asks, "What are you doing to correct your faults?” If you can honestly say that you have, or can admit to yourself that the emotional labor of doing so just isn't worth it, then it's time to go ahead and throw in the towel.
I think that at the end of the day, when you know, you know. But having these things to consider can help you eliminate the self-doubt. However, it can also show you what a relationship worth fighting for really looks like, and it’s one where both of you want it to work in equal measure. Settle for nothing less.
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