In today’s advice piece, Dr. Jim answers, “When is it time to give up on a relationship?“.
A significant number of emails are received from single adults sharing details of broken trust, disrespect, and outright negligence in their current relationship. The writer’s question to me often is centered on whether they should stay or end a relationship. How does one know if it is time to move on or to stay and work on the relationship? (These are relationships that are between single adults and not a married couple.)
I believe that there are some things that one should consider when they arrive at this point in the relationship:
Step back and analyze: List the good and bad
If you have reached such a point, the first thing that I recommend is to step back from the relationship and analyze what is taking place. Take out a sheet of paper and divide it into two parts. On one side make a listing of all the good things that you know and enjoy about the relationship. On the other side list the concerns and challenge areas of the relationship.
Ask for guidance
When you have completed the listings, read through them one time. Take time to seek the Spirit of God by inviting Him to fill you with wisdom and discernment. Ask Him to guide you to an understanding of what is His will for you in this relationship. The first step to end a relationship.
Consider your behavior
The next step is a challenging one but one that you must do with complete honesty. Take a few minutes to think about what part you have played that contributes to the challenges in this relationship. While you may not be a significant part of the challenge, it is more often than not that we contribute to some of the causes for the challenge(s).
Make changes and be held accountable
Accept your responsibility for anything that is due to your actions. Purpose to make changes that will turn this from a negative into a positive. It begins with a ‘purpose’ but it takes more than the thought. Share this with a trusted Christian friend of your own gender and ask them to hold you accountable for the steps that need to be taken. Blog post about How To Change in 11 steps.
Consider the behavior of your partner
After the self-analysis, consider what actions/behavior is taking place by your partner in the relationship. Is he or she being reactive to something you are doing, or something from their past? Or, is this a character flaw on their part? Whatever the reason, this area needs to be discussed with them and processed through to a healthy conclusion if the relationship is to be successful.
Before you discuss this area with them, ask God’s Spirit to prepare you and them for the discussion. Then consider how to approach this topic in a way that affirms the relationship but does clearly shares that it is a detriment to the end of a relationship.
Note: You are not responsible for how the other person receives what you share. Your part is to bring this to them with a loving heart, honestly, and yet with sensitivity. I say sensitivity because this discussion may lead you to see things from their perspective in a way that you had not considered before.
With your partner, identify the major challenge areas
Identify the major areas of challenge with your partner. They may not be ready to tackle the area as you are and need time to process as you have done. Set a mutually agreed time frame in which you will come back and discuss how to work through this challenge.
After sharing your concerns and identifying the challenges, hopefully you will come to mutual agreement as to the source of the challenge. If you can only identify the challenge and not the cause, then I suggest that you seek the services of a trained counsellor to help you sort through to an understanding is found. The counsellor can serve you well to help you develop a process to this to a healthy conclusion.
No acceptance? Give reasonable time for a change of mind
If the other person does not want to work on the challenge and is not willing to accept their responsibility, I would encourage you to give it some reasonable time for them to change their mind.
Every relationship has things that they need to address and this is an on-going process in each one. However, if the challenges are in the areas of character (trust, honesty, faithfulness, honor, etc.) are not addressed and corrected, they seldom change after a marriage. In fact, the probability that it will get worse is more likely. It is time for you to determine whether or not to end the relationship.
If necessary, seek outside help
When you reach this point, I strongly encourage you to use the guidance of a trained counsellor. An objective, third party, trained in this area is a valuable resource to help you arrive at a wise and healthy decision.
Have faith and confidence in God to lead and provide
There is a very common thought process that negatively influences too many single adults when they arrive at a point of knowing that they should bring the relationship to an end. The thought is that if I do not ‘make’ this relationship work, I likely will not find another relationship at my age, etc.
This is NOT a good reason to stay in a relationship. Have faith and confidence in God to lead and provide for you.
If you have received objective counsel from a wise person (counsellor or pastor trained in counselling) and have arrived at the point of knowing that you need to end the relationship, do so with sensitivity and Christian love – but with finality. Trust God to provide for you and the other person in this situation.
Openly share with friends
You are human and like the rest of us just because you know that you need to end the relationship does not mean that you will not grieve the loss.
If you do not already have them, set out to find one or two Christians of your own gender to develop a buddy system. The goal is to develop a trust to the level that you can openly share and care for one another. Have fun together as well as spend times discussing what each of you are going through and praying and encouraging one another. A buddy is one of life’s greatest jewels.
God wants us to be busy in building relationships – with Him, with one another, and with potential mates as they develop. However, He does not want us to be led into a life of misery and heartache. The building of a relationship cannot be rushed if it is to be successful. Take your time and spend enough time with one another and each other’s family and friends so that the true character has a chance to surface.
You will develop challenges and these should serve to build a strong foundation as you process through them in a healthy way. If you are not able to do this process in a healthy and mutually beneficial way, then it is time to consider ending the relationship.