Relationships are an important part of life and without fulfilling and happy relationships, you can never be completely happy. Loving relationships is what gives life meaning. No matter how much money you earn or how filthy rich you are, what is the point if you do not have anybody to share it with?
However, maintaining relationships can get really challenging sometimes. In every couple’s lives, there comes a phase when they feel like the relationship is doomed or the relationship has run its course.
But, is giving up on your relationship the only solution? What if there is more to your relationship than your problems and you are just going through a rough patch?
Can This Relationship Be Saved?
One of the most frequently asked questions that Linda and I receive is: “How do you know when to call it quits?”
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength; loving someone deeply gives you courage.” – Lao-Tzu
A lot of people, it seems, are more concerned about how to get out of a bad relationship than how to create a great one. This focus may actually contribute to the conditions that make relationship breakdowns (and, therefore, break-ups) more likely. While it’s certainly understandable that some couples require pre-nuptial agreements, when their primary focus becomes the possible breakup of their relationship, and not the deepening of their connection, they may be inadvertently contributing to the very outcome they fear may occur.
And yet to deny that every marriage is vulnerable to the many pitfalls that can overwhelm relationships is naïve if not dangerous. One thing we’ve discovered over the years is that no marriage is absolutely divorce-proof. That doesn’t mean that divorce can just come out of nowhere or occur arbitrarily, but rather that any relationship, no matter how solid, can, if neglected, slip into a state in which it is vulnerable to conditions that can cause serious harm.
While it is important to be mindful of the steps that can preserve an endangered relationship, it is, of course, preferable to create the sustained reciprocal connection that makes such an outcome unlikely.
Strengthening shared commitment, and practicing mutual generosity, compassion, honesty, kindness, and respect are all ways of maximizing the likelihood not only of staying together but of experiencing greater fulfillment over time.
“The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.” – Audrey Hepburn
Yet, for a variety of reasons, many of us are unable to practice these skills and embody these qualities consistently. Even when we make our best efforts, there still may be factors that make it difficult or even impossible for us to continue in our attempts to salvage a relationship.
The truth is that not all relationships can or should be saved.
There are such things as “deal breakers,” conditions that one or both partners are unable to tolerate in a relationship—chronic dishonesty; untreated addictions in which there are denial and an unwillingness to get help; the revelation of a difference in one’s sexual preference; repeated violations of trust without a willingness to repair the damage; violations of a commitment to monogamy—and certainly, physical or emotionally abusive behavior with no motivation to change. But even some of those scenarios don’t have to mean the end. The key variable is whether there is a willingness on the part of both partners to acknowledge the problem and to work on it.
A willingness to address a potentially relationship-ending condition doesn’t guarantee that it will be saved—only that there is a chance that it might be. When destructive patterns repeatedly play out without a committed effort on both partners’ parts to address them, the prognosis is poor.
So how do you truly know “when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em”? Every situation must be considered based on its own set of circumstances and on the unique aspects of each individual and couple. But there are a few guidelines that may be useful to consider: