You create many relationships in your life. Some work out well, while others not so much. Relationships are complicated and require a commitment of time and energy to be fulfilling. When they are not working in your favor, it’s helpful to know when to move on from a relationship so it doesn’t hold you back from being at your best.
You may have a life partner and many different friends. Relationships are created at work and with each member of your family. Each relationship has the potential to inspire you and exhaust you—and everything in between.
As you find yourself thinking about specific relationships and wonder what kind they are and how they serve you, it may be time to make some choices about which of them you want to keep close to your heart and which to distance yourself from—maybe even let go of completely. Here are some things to consider:
When to Move on from a Relationship
Differences in Values and Beliefs
Things can change, even if your values and beliefs were aligned at one time, they may shift and feel out of alignment now. This can happen with friends, spouses and family members. It may be a result of your growth or theirs. Different things become important to them or to you and it feels awkward or uncomfortable when you are together.
It can happen at work, too. The company you work for may go through a major restructuring with new leaders at the helm. What the new team values in employees may differ from the old regime, and you have a sense that you no longer fit.
Knowing when to let go of that relationship, or when to move on from a job, and why will save you some angst.
This can come from either side of the relationship. You may hope the person or the situation at work will change, so you can get back to the way it was. Or, you may feel expected to change to comply with that person’s wishes or to fit the new situation.
Neither of these scenarios bode well for a healthy relationship because the only control of the change you actually have is of yourself. If you are not willing or able to change, then nothing will happen. Likewise, if the other side of the relationship is unwilling to change, nothing happens. You are in a deadlock.
Living in the Past
Focusing on only the good things that have happened in the past is a great way to get stuck in the present when you’re considering moving on from a relationship.
If the situation has changed dramatically from what it was, holding on with the hope that it will change back to the way it was may dig you a trench that is hard to climb out of. It can also cause you to repeat the same old patterns and behaviors which will dig the trench even deeper.
Memories can turn into lessons. The memories are important to hold onto so you can move on knowing that some good has come from the relationship and that you learned something. It helps you to recognize that it wasn’t a total waste of your time.
But, allowing the past to keep you in a relationship that no longer makes you feel good is a sure sign it’s time to move on.
The Energy You Expend is Exhausting
Do you ever find yourself contributing to a relationship everything you’ve got to give, only to receive little or nothing in return? Are you feeling more pain than joy when you spend time with the people in your life or at work?
Although relationships do take effort and compromise, it shouldn’t be so hard to be in that relationship that you feel like you want to cry all the time. If you feel like you’ve given it your best shot and you’re not getting from the relationship what you need, it may be time to let go.
Justifying Bad Behavior
Often in relationships, you can feel abused, bullied or harassed. These behaviors are never justifiable, yet you may find yourself making excuses for the person who is doing the abusing. You may say things like s/he didn’t mean it or that’s not like them. Worse yet, you may think I deserved that.
Signs of disrespect toward you can add up over time and turn into full-blown abuse that becomes chronic if you allow it. It may affect you emotionally, as well as physically—even spiritually.
Holding yourself in high esteem, ensuring you are treated with dignity is a core value that can ensure you are treated well. Allowing bad behavior and justifying it only prolongs a relationship that doesn’t honor who you are.
Losing Self-respect–It May Be Time to Let Go
A consequence of allowing people and situations to mistreat you is the ultimate loss of your own self-respect. Finding yourself in this place can lead to loss of confidence, making bad choices and just plain feeling bad about yourself.
Relationships of many kinds can eat away at your self-respect when you are afraid to let go of something that you’ve participated in for a long time. It can happen slowly over time and you are not even aware of how much your self-respect has eroded.
Suddenly, you may find that you don’t like who you’ve become. You may ask yourself How did I get here? Why have I changed so much? You’ve made small choices along the way within your relationships that have shifted your values, or you’ve compromised them entirely. You may find yourself believing that certain things are true now that were never true before.
When you start to notice these fundamental changes in who you are, it may be time to think about moving on from a relationship that got you here.
Pretending You’re Okay
We all wear masks at one time or another so that the others in our lives “see” that we are okay, when deep inside we’re really not. That’s normal. Most of us can’t continually show up wearing our heart on our sleeve. We wear the mask for protection.
But, when the mask you wear never comes off and you start to believe that you’re okay, it may be time to examine your relationships which cause you to wear it.
In what situations do you wear the mask most? Who are you trying to kid? Is pretending your normal pattern of behavior?
You can’t thrive in life by pretending. You can use it as a coping mechanism and a survival technique, but being inauthentic will wear you down faster than anything I know. Resentment can set in, which can change the way you see things and influence the choices you make. This can lead to deepening your need for the mask.
Try removing the mask and truly noticing what those relationships are doing to you. How are they making you feel? It may be just one relationship, or you may have created a pattern of them in your life that are causing you to don the mask. What can you do to show up as the real you so you can stop pretending?
Knowing It Is Time to Move On From a Relationship—But You’re Scared
You can rarely know for sure what is on the other side of a relationship until you make the break. This fear alone can keep you stuck in relationships longer than you may want. It is scary.
Who will you be when you’re no longer part of a couple? What might your next career move be after you leave this job? Will you be able to find another new friend who won’t betray you? When you distance yourself from this family member, how will the rest of the family treat you?
There are so many unknowns when you make major changes in your life. Moving on from a relationship, regardless of what kind, can be one of those times that turn your world upside down.
You may feel totally alone, as though there is no one you can turn to for support. I challenge you to explore this one deeply—it is rarely true.
You may also feel unprepared for what comes next, and this can also stop you in your tracks.
What I know for sure is this: you can take small steps, one at a time, reach out for help, and make conscious choices to rediscover the authentic you. Get clear on what you value most at this time in your life. Envision what you really want for your next chapter. Then, lean into it with self-respect and dignity.
When you understand the tell-tale signs, you can trust that you’ll know when it is time to move on from a relationship. And you can prepare yourself, so you move through the change with confidence, flexing that resiliency muscle all the way.
Step Onto Your Bridge
When life-changing moments flip the world upside down, I create a bridge for women so they can turn chaos into calm, build resilience and learn to live a life guided by their own values and vision. If you’re ready to take the first step onto your bridge and explore how change can impact you and how to move through it with more dignity and grace, get my free ebook From Darkness to Light: Learning to Adapt to Change and Move Through Transition.