When And How Is It Time To Call It Quits In A RelationshipSunday, June 14, 2009 12:00
Post written by Rick Doyle
When and How Is It Time To Call It Quits In A Relationship, The Divorce Option
It is another one of those clichés that is better off dead, “We’re staying together for the kid’s sake”. No, you’re not! When and how is it time to call it quits in a relationship? When is it time to exercise the divorce option? When you think that two angry people together is better than one on their own you are sadly mistaken. Do yourself and your kids a favor for their sake, get a divorce. When I was in practice I must have heard it a thousand times and every time I had to ask, do you really think that two very angry, unhappy, distrustful, frustrated adults are making a fine example of a relationship? Do you not teach by example? Do you wonder what kind of incredibly loving and happy person your children are going to look for or attract as a result of growing up year in and year out with your unhappy relationship as the role model that they can work out their unresolved issues from? Maybe you “think” that a mother and a father are necessary to raise your kid or children but not two unhappy adults making the best of a bad relationship. One happy parent IS better than two unhappy parents. One happy parent at least has a chance of finding love or a good role model but two unhappy parents together is just double agony for the relationship and what it demonstrates to the child or children. I am not advocating divorce, I am advocating against voluntary and involuntary misery.
When is it time to call it quits, with or without kids? When have you had enough of being sick and tired? When the pain of change outweighs the pain that you are in. Here is a simple test that I used with people when couples who came to counseling wanted to work on their relationship or marriage. It goes like this:
Take out a coin from your pocket or purse. Heads, you love the person next to you and will continue to work on your issues. Tails, you are done and call it quits. I would tell people that there are two kinds of family therapists, relationship therapists or marriage counselors. Those that want to get all the money that they can from you and your insurance company and those that have your best interests at heart. The latter will tell you that nine out of ten relationships that walk into their office are DONE. One out of ten couples have what it takes to work thru the issues but almost all usually exhaust the relationship before they make it to a therapist. The damage to their relationship due to problems such as money, infidelity, compulsive disorders, addictions, abuse, etc. are so devastating that the door to recovery was closed a long time ago. A good therapist will tell you that dragging both people thru a lot of time and expense of therapy or counseling on a lost cause or when one person is done is not only a waste of time and money but is avoidable. The simple test above done on session number one will allow one or both people to say admit on day one that they are finished. If an honest therapist gives the opportunity to let one and or both declare that they are through with the relationship, no longer in love but just don’t know how to end it, close it or are too afraid of the other person or don’t want to hurt their feelings it can be a huge move forward for everyone. It gives PERMISSION for the relationship to fail, end and close. Before you flip the coin and call it in the air the therapist also explains the possible outcomes. If they both call heads great, lots to do to get the relationship back on track. If one calls tails then it’s over and any future sessions are spent either on closing the relationship in a safe environment or either party can work on their issues one on one. The important thing to remember is that you are NOT kicking a dead horse and all parties know it and CAN move on. The third outcome is both call tails, closing is inevitable and may not even need more than that one session. Take out the coin. Flip it in the air and CALL what you feel. Heads you’re in, tails you’re out.
Divorce at this point and resolution are an option and entrapment is off the table. No matter how miserable you choose to make your children by staying month in and month out due to living with your indecision they will finally be free. Many excuses exist for staying in a bad relationship and that’s what a therapist is for, to discover how you got into it, why you stayed too long, the logistics and support for how to get out but when you boil it down to when it’s time to call it quits is usually as quick and easy as a coin flip. In my experience most people have wanted to end a situation for a very long time and continue riding the rails because they either hate confrontation, don’t want to hurt the other person or have some belief that they HAVE TO STAY in the unhealthy relationship for reasons of religion, family, condemnation, societal pressure or they simply lack the tools to admit it’s over.
I have to give a word of warning though. Please read this next paragraph very carefully. Just because you had a bad day, bad week, bad month or even a traumatic event does not mean that I said go home flip a coin call it in the air and divorce your spouse. What it means is that depending on what and how long things have been troubled, what traumas may have occurred and whether or not any help for their problems have addressed must all be considered BEFORE you flip the coin. Examples: 15 years of hard drinking or drug abuse with no attempts at sobriety of any kind might deserve at least one chance to get sober first. Everyone has their limits and what they can forgive considering extramarital affairs, physical abuse, verbal abuse, etc. When the behavior is chronic and continuously painful then that coin should already be in the air. On a side note, when I was in practice 9 out of 10 men called it quits in a relationship where the woman sought recovery for addiction within the first year. 9 out of 10 women choose to stay where the man sought recovery within the first year. For those of you just dating or early off in a relationship that is causing pain due to infidelity, habitual lying or abuse of any kind please be aware that the longer you stay hoping it will get better the more you are simply cosigning the pain and (Codependency and Shame these articles will help) will prevent you from leaving. Red flags are red flags and those signs are warning that it was or is time to call it quits sooner than later. If you aren’t sure then ask your friends or family members that don’t judge you or favor staying in a relationship no matter what. Those that know you’re unhappy or in pain will be the first to endorse you leaving or calling the relationship quits as a divorce or ending of the relationship with support could mean a new beginning and getting the old you back. Sick and tired is sick and tired. Be careful when choosing a therapist (good article on this here also) as they sometimes have their own agendas and beliefs which are not always what is good for you or your wallet. Trust your gut. Your head will rationalize, deny and manipulate almost anything. Your heart is emotional and illogical at best and can be even less reliable than your head which might not be screwed on straight under such stress. But your gut never lies! It knows that when the coin is in the air what it SHOULD call. The longest journey a client of mine ever had to make was the 18 inches from the head to the gut. Those red flags I mentioned are your gut talking to you. Your children who are too young to voice what they need often SHOW what they want, so when it’s time to call it quits in a relationship might be the unheard voice from the child who avoids, hides or cries when that person enters the room so call tails for them, if not for yourself. When is the dead horse dead enough? How long is too long? When do you call it quits in a relationship? At what point did you know you needed a divorce? When does the pain of staying outweigh the pain of change? What were your red flags?