If you’re in a difficult relationship and feeling torn about whether to gtfo or to keep trying to make it work, I can’t tell you what’s right for you. But I will tell you that if this is a pattern for you, leaving the person you’re with is unlikely to resolve the underlying problem.
How many times have you been in this same situation? With how many partners? Doesn’t it feel like you just keep finding yourself in the same relationship, over and over again?
Why you might consider staying
The thing is – there’s a lesson that’s trying to be learned by you, through your relationships. And it’s going to continue presenting itself until you see it for what it is, and learn what needs to be learned.
Another thing I can’t tell you is what it is that needs to be learned, or what will develop after you’ve learned it.
But I can tell you how to uncover the lesson.
Make a commitment to YOURSELF
The first step (assuming your physical or emotional well-being is not in danger) is shifting your perception of challenges from options to stay or go, to opportunities to grow.
Make a commitment to rise to every challenge by delving within. The answers lie within you, and this lesson is beckoning forth a strengthening in your relationship to yourself.
Our relationships with others mirror the relationship with ourselves. They are some of our greatest teachers, and they can be amazing tools for our personal healing and growth.
Although it’s often unpleasant, if we can ride out the storms that come up in our relationships (and in our emotional bodies), we can harvest a wealth of insights and learn how to properly love ourselves. From there, we can co-create more loving relationships.
Mind your attachment
Did you know that when you were a child, you developed an attachment style that was essentially either secure or insecure? And if insecure, either anxious or avoidant (or a combination)?
And did you know that anxiously attached folks and avoidantly attached folks tend to attract one another and then play out relentless cycles of push and pull? Perhaps you’ve experienced this…
People with insecure attachment styles have very challenging love-lives. They want very much to be loved but also distrust it when it’s presented.
Anxious partners get scared and move closer, while avoidants get scared and move away. Hence the merry-go-round.
Here’s what I’ve noticed though:
The prevailing advice basically encourages anxious types to leave their avoidant partners. They suggest that avoidants will never be consistent, that they will always perpetuate confusion, forever alternating between hot and cold.
It is also stated that the anxious types need to embrace their self-worth and go find the love they deserve with someone who deserves their love.
I have a slightly different perspective.
While I agree that anxious-attachment folks deserve the love they desire, I find that their anxiety generates interpretations of events that prevent them from experiencing the love that IS present.
I also believe that avoidants deserve the love they fear.
Become more secure
When a person with an insecure attachment style learns to embrace their worth and fortify their security from within, they can become strong enough to provide a stable base for their partner in a way that fosters a sense of trust and safety. (I have actually achieved this in a partnership of my own.)
By committing to rising to the challenges that relationships will always present, you will grow like a weed! (In the good way.) You will also transform a difficult relationship into a loving one.
Take leaving off the table. You may both choose to part ways amicably, but you will be well-served to refrain from leaving, or even threatening to leave, in reaction to your triggers.
This will instill trust, which will stabilize the relationship.
When you offer total acceptance to both of you – no longer seeking to change yourself or your partner, but creating a safe space for each of you to be who you truly are – you will foster true love.
Do the work – for YOU
If you’re in one of these unfulfilling cycles, with one difficult relationship after another, you’ve got a lot of inner-work to do. (I speak from experience.)
Now, I know I just encouraged you to stop trying to change yourself, but inner-work is not about changing who you are, it’s about learning to embrace who you are.
You CAN have the love you desire, and it is quite likely already closer than you think.
If you truly love your partner but are just frustrated by the confusion and inconsistency, try practicing the love you deserve – on both of you.
And stay focused on your own work, not on whether or how your partner is doing theirs.
When to part ways
“Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come” (Victor Hugo).
If it turns out that your partner does not grow with you, you will simply outgrow them. It will be tragic to observe, and it may trigger many difficult emotions and possibly even outbursts, but if you keep returning to your intention of focusing on loving them by loving you, you will empower your compassion.
As you strengthen your inner Security, you will discover your boundaries and master the art of honoring them without turning them into armored walls, which will reshape the nature of your relationship.
If painful patterns in your relationship persist without substantial improvement, there will come a time when parting ways is an organic progression. When you’re ready, you’ll know.
Again, though, if you are not unsafe, I encourage you to refrain from leaving in haste, or with bitterness in your heart or thoughts of blame. Every relationship takes two, and you are both perfectly flawed humans who deserve love and peace.
Nothing needs to be forced. Evolve your relationship to a functional state, even if that means shifting out of a Romantic dynamic. If they are deeply entrenched in all or nothing, then wish them all the best with every sincerity in your heart.
(Updated April 8, 2022)