I frequently hear the question, “When do I know I should leave my relationship?” I used to joke that I could get rich devising a questionnaire that could tell people exactly when their relationship is no longer worth working on. (“75-100 points: This is just a blip! You’re fine! 50-74 points: You definitely need couples’s therapy. 25-49 points: Uh-oh, ship’s sinking; get your life jackets out. 10–24 points: Time for an attorney. 0-9 points: This patient is DOA.”)
So, how do you know when it’s actually time to throw in the towel, either in an intimate relationship or a friendship? Here are the questions I find useful to ask yourself:
1) Am I in Reactive Brain? If you’re “below the line,” that is, feeling angry, sad, scared, desperate, contracted in your body, this is not a good time to make a major decision. Take time and space to move, breathe, play, express, until you notice that you’re back “above the line,” in an expanded place.
2) Am I still learning? Is your relationship giving you the opportunity to notice and work on your unconscious patterns? If so, you are in the perfect place to see how you are creating the issues, and so to take the actions to dig in and shift what you’ve been carrying around with you through your life. The discomfort of being in a relationship that is in turmoil can often be the richest time to learn what you most need to learn about yourself.
3) Are things still moving? If there has been a long period of stuckness, where neither one of you seems to be changing or shifting, that’s a clue that you’ve run aground. But if the conflict is producing movement and growth, you’re still in the flow of the river–why not keep going and see what is around the next bend?
4) Are you done? Your body will tell you.