Generally speaking, I'm an advocate for relationships. I spend most of my time helping people work out their issues, dispel myths around love and relationships, and create new patterns within their relationship. I love what I do.
There have been a handful of times in my career that I've not advocated for the continuation of a relationship, and they all have very similar things in common. So, before I go further, please keep in mind that:
a) I love relationships and am pro-relationship when I work with the vast majority of couples,
b) I don't typically spend time telling people 'signs to leave,' but there are some pretty important things to consider.
- Emotional Abuse
This takes many forms, from gaslighting (i.e. your partner making you feel like you're crazy), to name calling (one of the four horsemen), to belittling, there's no place for emotional abuse in a relationship. If your partner is a person who repeatedly engages in this type of communication with you, regardless of how many conversations you've had and how many times they say they're going to change, then it's probably time to move on.
And, yes, there are various levels of emotional abuse. I've known some couples who have had horrible fights, but both parties were actively attempting to reconcile, apologize, own their part in what went down, and try not to let it happen that intensely again. If your partner doesn't care how horrible you feel, this is an issue.
- Lack of Remorse
I mean, this ties in a little bit with the previous point, in that I would say a lack of remorse could be categorized under emotional abuse. If your partner consistently and repeatedly treats your poorly and then doesn't care (i.e. lacks remorse) for how they treat you, we have a problem. Technically, you have a problem. And that problem is your partner. I say this with tough love, but sometimes it's not worth it to try to fight your way into someone's empathy zone.
If you spend vast amounts of energy just trying to be heard and understood, then chances are high that you're going to spend the bulk of the rest of your relationship doing the same thing. Obviously, this is your call. If you're good with that dynamic, then that's fantastic! On the other hand, I've seen enough couples to know that most people aren't happy with that sort of dynamic and that it doesn't lend itself to happy, successful relationships.
- Physical Abuse
This one seems like a no-brainer to me, but I know there are many people in relationships where there is some sort of violence. However, here's an interesting tidbit. 12.8% of people in relationships have reported physical altercations (not within the past year) and a whopping 35.6% of people in relationships have reported physical altercations within the past year!! And guess what?! THOSE PEOPLE ARE STILL TOGETHER!!
Here's my point (because the above could very well be a full blog post [or 10]) - there are two types of physical abuse. There's the one and done that happens when tempers flare. These are often responded to with, you guessed it, remorse and guilt. The one-and-done is typically the type where people are embarrassed, ashamed, and actively working for that to not happen again. I see these people frequently in my practice. It's common for them to not have physical altercations after some couples work.
On the other hand, we have what we like to call "intimate terrorism." These folks do not show remorse, do not care about changing, gaslight their partners, and consistently engage in these behaviors. These are the relationships you want to run from. They're the ones that don't respond well to therapy - often because one partner (the 'terrorist,' in this case) doesn't want to change and the other partner (the victim) is afraid to say anything... which leads me to my last point.
- You're Afraid
If you're afraid of being honest with your partner, speaking up in front of them, disagreeing with them, or generally being yourself with them (amongst other things), then this is not the relationship for you. Being afraid in any relationship is unhealthy.
Again, this isn't usually something I post, but it's important information and it's worth it to put it out there. If you're reading this and feel helpless or hopeless, and are unsure of what to do, reach out to me, a close friend, a national hotline, or anybody else that you trust.
And here's one last takeaway from this. There is so much more out there!! If you're reading this and relate to any of the above, please keep in mind that there are people who are loving, kind, and gentle in relationships. If you're with somebody who lacks remorse, is constantly belittling, and who you're afraid of, then, my friend, it's time to skedaddle. No person is worth your own sanity and wellbeing, and I can almost guarantee that those are suffering if you're in a relationship characterized by the above. You deserve better.