I'll never forget a few years ago, I was sitting on my bedroom floor, scanning blogs, when I saw a post from Liz Denfeld that was a response to a Q&A asking how to know if you should break up with someone. She said (I'm paraphrasing) that if you find yourself constantly wondering whether or not you should be with someone, then you probably shouldn't be.
I remember her words carefully unfolding before my eyes - I was drinking them in in long, slow gulps that I didn't want to swallow. As I finished the post, I began to cry. I didn't want her words to resonate with me, but I couldn't ignore them. I felt trapped - too afraid to admit to my friends or family that I had major doubts. Too afraid of being unloyal to him and the relationship we'd built to even begin tugging at that thread. But I couldn't ignore how deeply her words resonated with me. I have doubts, I kept thinking over and over.
My boyfriend at the time was someone I had once felt so sure of, but I could feel the relationship falling apart. It was dying a very slow death and we were both holding onto the memories we'd shared, hoping for the little spark that was left to reignite.
I didn't want to hear the words in her post, because the very last thing I wanted was for it to be over. Someone very wise once told me that in bad relationships, women tend to lie down and take the bad or stand up and fight for the good. Very rarely do women walk away.
Something my 20s has taught me, though, is that sometimes the best thing you can do is walk away.
But how do you know when?
I believe deeply that every relationship is different and there generally aren't rules everyone can follow. But, during my 28-years on this earth, there are a few rules I've grown to believe are pretty hard and fast.
When do you walk away from a relationship?
1. If you find yourself constantly questioning the relationship, it probably isn't right. For me, stress manifests itself two ways: through my stomach and through my sleep. I would lie awake every night worrying about any issue - from how he treated me to our future and everything in between. I never felt peace. That kind of stress means something and if I'd tapped into it sooner, I could have saved myself from a world of hurt.
2. If you want the wedding more than the marriage. Something I've used as a mental checkpoint in dating is asking myself this question: if I woke up tomorrow and was married - no wedding or ring or gifts - how would I feel? The dating and courting and engagement periods of life are really exciting. But what happens when it's over? Do you still want this marriage?
3. If you constantly fight. I once read that couples that have the same arguing style do better in marriage. So if you're a silent stewer and he is too, or you're a screamer and he is, too, it can be healthy because you understand how one another expresses emotions. I tell you this because I want to normalize the fact that couples have arguments. You are two humans with different thoughts, feelings, emotions and histories. It's understandable that you won't agree on everything. But if you're constantly fighting over little things and big things and nothings, it's worth paying attention to.
4. If you don't find the other person attractive. My mom always says that if you don't find someone attractive when the relationship is just starting, you probably won't a few months in either. Do you want to kiss him? I remember her asking me in college. And if I'd say, no, but he's really nice... she'd kindly remind me that you gotta kiss your husband. That chemistry feeling - when your hands accidentally touch and your heart flips - will fade. As you grow old with someone, attraction will change - it will be less about the hand touching and more about an emotional connection. But, in the beginning, you have to want to kiss him. Physical attraction isn't the only thing, but it's something.
5. If you don't respect one another's feelings. Chris and I have been talking a lot lately about the idea that, sometimes, I might feel hurt or sadness that he can't see or understand. But even though he can't see it, it still matters. And it's important that he tries to meet me in it. And vice versa. Because there are a lot of inputs in this world and the way something may hurt us won't always make sense to one another. But we have to respect each other's deepest, most vulnerable feelings. And if someone doesn't respect the way you feel, they aren't respecting you.
I know this topic is deeply emotional and can feel really confusing when you're in the thick of it. If you'd ever like to discuss further, please feel free to email me.