[Paleopsych] BBC: Relationships: Couples: Is it over?

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Tue Jul 19 01:17:14 UTC 2005

Relationships: Couples: Is it over?

    Falling out of love can sometimes be just as easy as falling in love.
    Working out whether it's just a phase or if your relationship has
    reached the end of the line is one of life's hardest decisions.
    Relationship psychotherapist [1]Paula Hall asks the difficult

The pros and cons

    When people try to decide if their relationship's over, they often
    find themselves weighing up the pros and cons.

    On the pros side they put all their partner's positive character
    traits, the happy memories and the advantages of being together.

    On the cons they list all the things they don't like about their
    partner, the painful memories and the reasons why living together
    sometimes feels impossible.

    The problem with this system is that they're never measuring like for
    like. For example, when listing personal qualities, how many negatives
    would it take to counteract being an excellent mother? And how many
    happy memories does it take to outweigh an affair?

    Unfortunately, there's no formula and no conclusive tests when it
    comes to deciding whether your relationship's over. All you can do is
    ask yourself some difficult, soul-searching questions and see what the
    answers bring.

Is love enough?

    Love means different things to different people and at different
    stages of their lives, so can it be relied on in the decision-making
    process? For example, one woman may spend years in an abusive
    relationship, saying "I love him," while another will walk away from a
    seemingly idyllic marriage because she's no longer "in love".

    Love can sometimes blind us to the reality of what we really have. And
    although it's difficult, we can choose to love someone and we can
    choose to stop loving them. As well as being a feeling, love is
    something we do.

Do you like your partner?

    Before you can love someone, you have to like them.

    If you enjoy being with your partner, agree with how they think and
    behave, and share the same dreams in life, you're doing well. If your
    partner is also someone whom you respect, trust and feel affection
    for, you have all the basics for love to grow.

Can you communicate?

    All relationships hit problems at one time or another; the key to
    overcoming them is communication.

    Within your relationship, there needs to be a genuine capacity for
    sharing and expressing your thoughts and feelings in a way that feels
    OK for you both. There also need to be ways to [10]resolve conflict
    and for you both to address any unmet needs.

Is change possible?

    If there's a particular issue that makes you want to leave, you first
    need to consider whether it's possible to make changes to resolve the

    Is the problem something you can let go, or is it fundamental to your
    happiness? If it's the former, you have to ask yourself if you can
    change; if it's the latter, can your partner do the changing?

    If your partner doesn't agree that there's a problem, they won't
    change. If they do agree and are willing to change, you have to decide
    whether you believe they have the capacity to change.

Is it too late?

    There's no doubt that some situations do get better with time. Even
    the most painful betrayals can become less significant if there's an
    ability to forgive and move on.

    But if either you or your partner has been hanging on to a grudge for
    years and there's no indication that the pain has eased at all, you
    may decide it's too late for a resolution.

    Another indication that it may be too late to save the relationship is
    if one of you has already started to develop a life that excludes the
    other. This might include a change in career or lifestyle, or starting
    another relationship that you don't want to end. If this is the case,
    then even though you haven't made a verbal decision to end the
    relationship, it may be that emotionally you've already left.

Further help

    Deciding to end a relationship is extremely difficult and not a
    decision to be taken quickly or lightly. Many people find that talking
    through their thoughts and feelings with a counsellor can help. To
    find out more, see [11]Do you need counselling?

Recommended reading

    Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay: A Step-by-Step Guide to Resolving
    Your Relationship by Mira Kirshenbaum (Michael Joseph)

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