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Relationships: When To Let Go and Move On

By Dr. Margaret Paul
December 09, 2013



Are you staying in an abusive relationship because you believe you can change it or not be bothered by it?



The question of when to leave a relationship comes up over and over with my clients and with the members of Inner Bonding Village. In fact, my YouTube video, "When To Leave A Relationship," is my most popular video.

Sonia asked:

"What can you advise for a couple who is struggling with one person wanting to grow, love, move forward and the other person does not want to change. The person who wants to change is going to church and has stopped all addictions; however, the other person feels threatened and fearful and is making it harder for both. Abuse is going on and I know I need to move on. He is not my husband, but we live together and I have a son living with us. I realize I can't change him or even help him when it is hard enough to deal with my own past and inner child. When is it time to let go and move on without feeling guilty that I gave up on him? Thank you."

To me, the telling information is in the last sentence: "When is it time to let go and move on without feeling guilty that I gave up on him?"

Sonia, when I hear you talking about guilt about giving up on him, this tells me that you are taking responsibility for him – and trying to control him. You say " I realize I can't change him or even help him when it is hard enough to deal with my own past and inner child." But if you really believed this, then why would you feel guilty about leaving him? It seems to me that what is keeping you stuck in this unloving and abusive relationship is your hope of getting him to change.

What if you gave up that hope? And what if you gave up the hope that he wants to change, which you clearly state he doesn't? What if you accept the reality that you are ready to heal and he is threatened by this? What would be loving to you if you really accepted all of this?

I think it's obvious to you that if you accepted the reality of all of this, you would leave, and you would leave without guilt.

I encourage you to 'give up on him,' since it sounds like he has given up on himself. 

* * * * *  

Andrea wrote:

Dear Dr. Paul, Thank you for your beautiful and inspiring work! It feels like no matter how much I practice staying open to learning and not judging my husband for yelling and raging, there are still many times when I feel triggered and heartbroken in his presence. I am better at lovingly disengaging, but wonder if I will EVER get to the point where I will not be upset about this. I know it might be better to stay in this relationship until I no longer feel triggered, but I don't know if I want to live the rest of my life this way and am struggling with HOW LONG to stay in this difficult relationship. It's so hard for me to have faith and trust that one magical day in the future, his behavior will simply no longer bother me - this feels like a superhuman and unrealistic feat! Appreciate your thoughts!

Andrea, you have a huge misconception, which shows in your statement, "I know it might be better to stay in this relationship until I no longer feel triggered." This is NOT what learning to be loving to yourself is about!

The learning here for you is that you will NEVER reach a point when his unloving behavior will no longer bother you – nor should this EVER be a goal. Unloving behavior is SUPPOSED to bother you! Your inner child is letting you know by being upset and heartbroken that you need to take loving care of her by taking her away from his raging. If you had an actual little girl, would you tell her that she needs to reach a point where she is no longer bothered by it, or would you just get her out of there?

Andrea, it's time to leave that relationship, and then explore where you ever got the idea that staying in an abusive relationship was the right thing to do.



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