A Psychologist Tells Us When It's Time to Let Your Relationship Go

Honestly, break-ups suck. Whether you’re letting go of a platonic or romantic bond, saying goodbye to any relationship that was once blissful is never easy. But what’s also hard is deciphering whether it’s a rough patch that needs some extra attention, or simply time to part ways. According to psychologist, Gemille Cribb, our need for connection is fundamental, and it is this internal need to seek meaningful bonds that can make harmful relationships hard to let go of, "in prehistoric times our safety came in numbers, in being part of a tribe. Lone cavemen were dead cavemen. Also, because our babies are born relatively premature and can't fend for themselves we needed chemicals in our brains that encouraged bonding and attachment." 

But no matter how much we long for connection, staying in a relationship that is fundamentally unhealthy serves no purpose, so we asked Cribb for some key pieces of advice to think about if you feel that it may be time to let go of a relationship. Read on for Cribb's words of wisdom. 

How to Know When Your Relationship Is Over
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According to Cribb, how you feel when thinking about your partner is a strong signifier in how the relationship is going. "How does the relationship make you feel? If you feel bad, sad or anxious then there is something up. Your feelings are your unconscious warning system that picks up cues that you may not be consciously aware of so pay attention to them. In addition you can look out for the 'Four Horsemen' that John and Julie Gottman describe: Criticism, contempt (someone sneering at you), defensiveness and stonewalling (silent treatment). If anyone you are in a relationship with does this a lot then it's time to work on the relationship or get out. "


You could argue that staying in a relationship once both parties know it's over, could cause more problems. Cribb suggests that if this is the case, call it quits early on. "As soon as you begin to feel bad, address it with your friend or partner. Good relationships are not perfect relationships but ones where both parties are motivated and able to repair the natural ruptures that occur. If your friend, partner, or yourself can't or isn't willing to help get to a better place then it's time to end it."


Cribb asserts that in order for change to take place, both parties have to be willing to put in equal effort. "Talk to your partner about it as a first stop. Try increasing the positives in your relationship. You can do this by creating special rituals in daily life to help you connect, going out on dates and talking to each other about things that aren't going to lead to a fight. Try also creating a specific time to have difficult conversations so that you aren't constantly at war. Make an effort to be nice and kind to your partner, you may create a positive domino effect where he/she gets nicer back."


"Relationships are always two-way streets. You may not know what you are doing that is contributing to the problem, nor agree with how your partner is viewing your behaviour that he/she is struggling with, but that doesn't mean you aren't doing anything wrong. You are always and equal contributor to tension if there is any." 

For more advice on healthy relationships, read Attached by Amir Levine ($19)

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