It may happen sooner or later that you have to experience the end of a love relationship. Of course, a love affair does not end overnight. Doubts and conflicting feelings have to be heard, metabolised, put to rest and then reconsidered. Until a day comes when all uncertainties take a definitive shape, a sort of point of no return where one finds courage and says enough is enough. But before then, especially in a long and important relationship, limbo can be wearisome and deciding is not always so easy.
Ending a relationship causes considerable emotional and physical distress
The most common reaction when a long-term relationship ends is uncertainty about the future: the break-up catapults us into a completely new situation, into uncharted territory, that of singlehood.
Everything is disrupted: routines change, so do our household responsibilities, relationships with family and friends are different and so is our very identity. The questions that often arise are: What will my life be like without him/her? Will I ever find another person with whom I can connect, whom I can trust? Will I be alone, lonely? These unknowns seem worse than continuing to live in an unhappy and/or conflictual relationship.
Why do we suffer at the end of a love affair?
It is quite natural to suffer the loss of a significant love.
And it does not mean that we are not independent, not very autonomous, emotionally immature, it just means that we are human and as humans we need others, privileged relationships, attachments.
A matter of attachment and trust
From birth, our behaviour is guided by an indispensable need: that of having a supportive reference figure with whom we can establish a privileged relationship and who is able to take care of us with affection and warmth. This need affects all of us and accompanies us throughout our lives. What changes is the nature of the relationship, which goes from being vertical, i.e. characterised by an “imbalance” in which one competent figure takes care of another (caregiver-child relationship), to becoming increasingly horizontal.
Couple relationships are (or should be) horizontal attachment relationships; that is, both partners are able to care for each other, to welcome requests for closeness and comfort, to show affection and to open up to physical contact. In the light of what has been written, the suffering that occurs when a love affair ends is more understandable. Indeed, we lose a point of reference, we lose the one who responded to our innate and biologically determined need for attachment, the one who provided us with closeness and support.
You thought it was love!
Who has never been in the very difficult situation of knowing that a relationship has no future and yet not having the courage to end it? A limbo from which it is not easy to escape. Because when we are in it, we are unable to see certain reasons that seem so obvious from the outside.
Whether it is a relationship that started out well, a friendship or a casual one, when a person is not interested in continuing the journey with us or makes us unhappy, we need to find the courage to take back control of our lives and re-evaluate it in the singular.
When is it right to end a relationship?
Staying in a dead-end relationship in the hope that something more will come of it is not the answer. Quite the opposite. It is a damaging illusion. Of course, you cannot generalise, because every relationship is a story in itself, but whether you are dealing with a person who shuns commitment, whether you are in a moment of transition, or whether you really have no interest in caring, staying in the same conditions will not move the relationship forward and will make you lose sight of yourself.
In this context, many ask: when is the right time to end a relationship? How do we know when there is no hope? Here are five questions to ask yourself if you are in a relationship that is causing you distress.
Before you go so far as to end the relationship for good, you might consider taking a ‘pause for reflection’. The pause for reflection is not actually a painless way to end a relationship that is on its last legs, but a useful tool for questioning and challenging oneself in life, regardless of the couple. In fact, each couple is a world apart, so it is difficult to make generalisations, but there are some questions that can help many make a decision:
Is there a solution to the problem(s) that have led to this point?
It is worth remembering that most couple problems are solvable, but in many cases one of the two is not willing to give in, or to give up/replace personal principles and values. This brings us to the second question:
Are we both willing to compromise and make changes to save our relationship and overcome this setback?
The term ‘member’ already indicates that both people have to make an effort to ensure that the relationship can continue; if one person makes an effort to change and the other less, it is very difficult to resolve the problem. If one person in a relationship gives and the other simply receives, sooner or later this imbalance will cause problems.
Is this the person I want to be with in the next five or ten years?
Imagine yourself in the future and think about whether your current partner is the person you would like to have by your side. Do you want to grow old with him or her? If not, it is better to break up now.
Am I sure that I love him/her?
Avoid self-deception: things will never be the same again. People often cling desperately to a relationship that has been over for a long time. They do this because they are still in love, because they do not want to admit failure, or because they are afraid to change… there are many reasons, but they all lead to self-deception. That is, to think that when the problem is solved, everything will go back to the way it was.
Do I hold a grudge against him?
If a couple’s problem is so serious that one of them is considering breaking up, it is because a deep emotional wound has occurred. Emotional wounds are the most difficult to heal and are often left open, ready to fester at the slightest provocation.
The most emblematic example is when a betrayal occurs. The betrayed person is likely to be suspicious and, although he or she may say that he or she has forgiven the partner, will take the slightest opportunity to blame him or her for the mistake made. At this point, everyday life becomes a hell of jealousy and insecurity.
Obviously, continuing the relationship in such cases only serves to add fuel to the fire. Therefore, before deciding whether the relationship can continue, you should be prepared to accept that nothing will ever be the same again. Something will have changed, the pot will have broken, even if it cannot be clearly seen from the outside. This does not mean that there is no chance of being happy together again, only that you will have to work very hard to rebuild mutual trust.