This prompted me to think about when is it the right time to walk away versus when should you stay and fight?
Thinking about my own personal experiences with dating I can see the utility in both. I was in an abusive relationship for YEARS (read my story here) that I decided to stay and fight for way too long. Despite all of the physical, verbal and emotional abuse, I really loved this person and felt that I wanted us to work through whatever we were going through. At that time I didn’t realize that all the work I was doing to convince myself to stay was rooted in my FEAR of walking away. Also due to my partner’s constant attention to my appearance, I began to believe that no one else wanted me and that I should just settle.
On the other hand, I’ve walked away from a relationship when it no longer became easy. This was a decision that I regretted for YEARS. This man loved me dearly, supported me in every way possible and we had a lot of fun together. Y’all this man knew that as a grad student my life was crazy so he would cook, clean and drive me to and from work when he could. Now that’s love right there. However, this relationship came on the heels of my abusive relationship ending. When our first disagreement happened I was ready to bolt because I strongly believed that he wanted to control me too. My inclination to flee ultimately contributed to the demise of our relationship.
So how do you decide if you should go or stay?
Gain an understanding of how you deal with discomfort.
In my work with clients, the first thing that I name is that discomfort is not synonymous with lack of safety. Uncomfortable situations can activate our “fight or flight” senses. Thus, we are ready to go into a defensive mode or immediately flee from the situation to avoid any negative feelings that may arise. Neither of these responses inherently mean that you are in danger.
This discomfort may be due to
- being in an unfamiliar/new situation
- recognizing that having difficult conversations while necessary don’t always feel good
- recognizing that God isn’t through with you yet and that you have some more personal work to do
All of these situations are uncomfortable BUT not dangerous.
Recognize when you are actually in a harmful situation.
Once you are able to assess how you deal with discomfort, it should become easier to identify harmful situations. For instance, if every time you get into an argument your partner threatens to leave that is uncomfortable AND harmful to the relationship. A constant “threat” to leave can introduce distance in the relationship as you may now start to prepare for the time that this threat will become a reality. Also, this can be very triggering for a person, who has abandonment issues.
Identify the difference between ongoing difficult conversations and a constant state of conflict.
If every time a difficult conversation arises and the approach you all take is high emotions and defending one’s case then that is unhealthy. Healthy communication is the key to strong and healthy relationships. All conversations may not be easy; however, how you discuss these difficult topics is what matters.
If you and your partner recognize that you are in a constant state of conflict then you must decide can WE change – not can THAT PERSON change or can I change. It is critical to focus on both parties communication patterns because the breakdown in communication isn’t nor should ever be given to a sole person. Thus, both parties must be committed to change. If there is strong resistance on either side to make changes in communication patterns then it’s critical to consider ending the relationship. Continued unhealthy conflict isn’t helpful for anyone.
Recognize when you are driven by selfish reasons.
Are you choosing to stay and fight because you don’t want to be alone? Better yet are you scared of being alone? If so, those are not good reasons to remain in any relationship. If your relationship is genuinely adding value to your life and it’s a relationship worth nurturing then you should remain in the relationship.
Most importantly, don’t lose sight of why you entered into the relationship in the first place.
I don’t care what the movies or social media may try to get us to believe but every day in relationships isn’t sunshine and rainbows. Some days may be like World War III; however, are there more sunny days than rainy days? What are the things that you value most about your partner? What do you value about your relationship? Do those outweigh the flaws?
If the good outweighs the bad, stay and fight. When the lust fades and you still like that person, stay and fight. If y’all are operating on the same team and not as opponents, stay and fight. Most importantly, stay and fight because you WANT to and not just because you feel like you NEED to in order to save face.