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Margaret Paul, Ph.D. Headshot

Leaving a Relationship: The Easy Way Out?

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LEAVING A RELATIONSHIP

People often believe, when they have very challenging relationship problems, that it is easier to start over with someone new, or easier to be alone. Most of the time, this is anything but true.

Katheryn and Mathew, both in their 50s, have been together for two years. Both have been previously married and divorced. When they met, they fell madly in love, which lasted for a few months. Then the conflicts started.

Both Katheryn and Mathew left their marriages because they were with partners who were completely unwilling to open to learning in conflict. Both Katheryn and Mathew wanted to find a partner who would learn and grow with them. They found each other at a personal growth seminar.

However, each time a conflict occurs, which is often, at this point in their relationship, they both threaten to leave. Katheryn is consistently yelling, "I've had it! I'm leaving!" while Mathew yells, "Why don't you just leave!" They each have a foot out the door.

Katheryn and Mathew are stuck in a typical control-resist relationship system. Katheryn wants to leave because she is so frustrated by Mathew's constant withdrawal and resistance, while Mathew wants to leave because he can't stand Katheryn's constant attempts to control him and make him responsible for her feelings.

Leaving is a waste of time for Katheryn and Mathew. Actually, these two people have exactly what they asked for -- someone to learn and grow with. Both Katheryn and Mathew are willing to learn and explore at some point after the conflict. Each is slowly becoming more aware of his or her end of this dysfunctional relationship system. If they leave, they have no one to come up against, no one who triggers their issues, so their issues will not be addressed until they are in another relationship. Then the same issues will surface.

The people I work with often believe that it would be easier to start over with someone else, or easier to be alone. I assure them that, in my experience, all learning and growing relationships are very challenging -- that all couples who desire to create a really wonderful and loving relationship have to go through the trenches of healing their woundedness within the relationship. It may be easier to be alone, but it's lonely, and the major relationship issues never get healed.

If you are a person who deeply desires to continue your emotional and spiritual growth, and you are with a partner who also desires this, than don't leave! No matter how bad the fights get or the distance gets -- except if there is continued physical violence -- keep at it. It's too easy to leave, too easy to blame the other person, too easy to miss the incredible opportunity that relationships provide for healing and growth.

It's especially important to hang in there when children are involved. I'm not saying to stay just for the children. If you are with a physically violent partner, or a partner who has no desire to take any personal responsibility, or a substance abuser who has no desire to heal from his or her addiction, then you may need to leave. But if you have a partner who is on a growth path, who is willing to explore with you, who is willing to have counseling with you, who is willing to learn to take responsibility for him or herself, then leaving is not the answer. No matter how difficult things get at times, you have a responsibility to yourself, your partner, your family and the whole of humanity to do the learning you came to this planet to do.

If you are fortunate enough to be with a partner who is, at least some of the time, open to learning with you, you are fortunate indeed. The relationship will take you to the depths of your dark side and to the heights of your ability to love. It will take you where you need to go, so don't give up just because it's so hard. The challenge is to keep going within, connecting with your feelings and your inner wisdom, and learning what it means to move beyond control, resistance, punishing the other, threats, bullying, blame, being a victim and compliance.

Even if you think that you are open and your partner isn't, it would be in your highest good to stay in the relationship until you are able to remain loving to yourself and your partner no matter what your partner is doing. As long as you are triggered by your partner's behavior, your healing is not complete, and there is no point in leaving. If you reach a point where you are no longer triggered by your partner's behavior, you might discover that your partner has also changed, even though you believed that he or she was not open to learning and growing. If your partner remains closed and there is really nothing more for you to learn, then it might be time for you to leave.

I hope you get both feet in there and do your inner work before thinking about leaving. Don't waste this opportunity to evolve your soul in love.

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