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When is it time to say goodbye?

How many of us have held on to a relationship that we have outgrown or that has outgrown us? How many of us have held on to something or someone who no longer wants to be held on to?

One of my clients recalled her relationship going from smiling and skipping through dandelions with her then spouse to screaming and running through hell with gasoline drawls on trying to escape the heat. It was only a matter of time before things could no longer be tolerated. When asked what she thought the ultimate reason for their relationship demise she simply stated, “the pandemic.” You think you know someone until you are stuck in the same house with that person for almost a year.

When I got married the first time (it’s only been twice, stop judging), I knew it was forever. The butterflies, the laughs, the “you hang up no you hang up” like we were kids in high school lasted a really long time. It was safe to say the woman I was marrying was my best friend. But life sometimes has other plans. Small things turned into bigger things, communication stopped, I still had healing to do from childhood trauma that I’d carried into my relationship, money was an issue. There were lots of little things that built up and seemed colossal. By the time we started therapy the relationship was already over.

It’s been 10 years since we officially ended our marriage and I believe we have one of the best divorces I’ve ever seen. We are now very close friends. We were both mature and we each continued counseling. We vowed to always put the kids first. I never bad mouth her and I’d like to think I know her well enough that she does the same. When you prioritize the most important things and people in a relationship’s demise, then the hurt can stop with the people in the relationship instead of allowing it to spread to the innocent bystanders.

To me there is absolutely nothing worse than when I hear someone say they are staying in an unhealthy relationship for the kids. Let me be very clear… you are NOT staying in an abusive, toxic, unhealthy relationship because of your kids. Stop it! Is fighting, yelling, ignoring, sleeping in separate rooms, saying nasty things about each other to the kids, snapping at each other and, God forbid, physical abuse something you want to teach your kids? Do you really want to teach them to not get help, suck it up for 15 years, and not communicate with their partner just so they can say “we stuck it out till y’all got out of high school. Sorry we messed y’all up so bad that now you need therapy for the rest of your lives because we didn’t demonstrate what a healthy relationship looks like.” Absolutely not! You are showing your kids how to put up with disrespect, not value themselves. You are not demonstrating the confidence to do what’s best for themselves and the people they love. And you are showing them that dysfunction, no matter how bad, is OK. You’ve developed a pattern or cycle that your kids have to work their way out of. All of this is wrong on so many levels.

I’m so happy that my ex and I agreed this was not what we wanted to show our girls. Instead, we showed them to first try and work it out and that if you’ve tried therapy, counseling, church, and it still doesn’t work it might be best to cut ties while you still like each other.

Walking away takes courage, knowing that you deserve better, strength, rediscovery of who you are and a plan. Staying together takes commitment, communication, self work, dedication, understanding, forgiveness of self and the other person involved.

So is it time to say goodbye or is it time to put in the work? Doing either one is hard and especially doing it on your own. The one thing both decisions take.... confidence. That's where I come in.

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