The Relief of Ending a Relationship

Colleen Sheehy Orme
Woman in field of flowers walking awayPhoto by Alexey Komissarov

Walking away from a relationship can be a relief. The angels singing, heavens parting kind of relief. You don't have to try and fix or rescue anymore. The frustration, exhaustion, and angst can subside and valuable headspace allows you to breathe again. To be present in the day-to-day.

As painful as it may be, not all relationships are healthy even where love exists.

Often, we wait too long to make this decision. The deteriorating relationship consumes us. It impacts our moods. It brings us down. It robs us of the best parts of ourselves. Not because the relationship no longer works.

But because we wait too long to walk away.

Our individuality blurs as we neglect aspects of ourselves to overcompensate for another. To beg them to care, change a bad behavior, make us a priority, respect us, or listen to us. We believe our efforts are well-intended. Especially when they involve marriage and a family.

We believe we are protecting the ones we love.

As a relationship columnist, I hear from readers frequently. The resounding theme is consistent, "I should have left sooner." There's a reason for this sentiment. We can become desperate in our attempt to save a relationship. Our own behavior may digress and become unhealthier.

The battle to save two ends up sacrificing one.

I've coined several quotes about this.

"We indulge the ugliness in failing relationships when we should be rescuing our own individual beauty so that at least one of the two survives."–Colleen Sheehy Orme
"Love requires you sacrifice some of yourself. Don't ever mistake that for all of yourself."–Colleen Sheehy Orme
"When you have to ask someone to care about you, they're already telling you they don't."–Colleen Sheehy Orme

Some say leaving a relationship, especially marriage is giving up. This radically simplifies the complexity of love. One person can't change another person. One person rarely saves another person. That individual must want to be saved.

Relationships can struggle because one person cares more than the other. Or one partner, unfortunately, engages in poor behavior. It could be cheating, addiction, or abuse. Or one individual suffers from medical or mental health issues. Or a lack of respect and everyday issues erode the relationship to the point of deep resentment.

Whatever the cause, many walk away from relationships they felt they were trying to save alone. Or because the behaviors became destructive. They aren't giving up.

They are surrendering to their truth.

Divorce is rarely a choice. It's the unfortunate result of exhausting all of your options. And when a person is forced to care enough for two people it can be exhausting.

It's like a coach trying to rally an unmotivated team. You can't step onto the field with them. You can only hope they respect and value your opinion and words. If not, the coach watches helplessly from the sidelines. Because the team should care what the coach thinks...but doesn't.

Ultimately, the coach will become upset, frustrated, and angry.

It's a terrible alliance. There's zero teamwork. There are no common goals. Inspiration is thwarted by a lack of respect. An inability to value someone diminishes the entire team.

I learned a valuable lesson in marriage counseling. My therapist said, "Our greatest strength can become our greatest weakness." I cared too much. It was a strength. But it became a weakness when I was unable to walk away from an unhealthy situation.

I became less than who I was. I yelled. I said terrible things. The more my husband acted out, the more I reacted. It created a cycle. I loved him too much to leave. He didn't care enough to warrant my feelings or stop the destructive behavior.

There's a sense of relief in ending relationships that are no longer working.

To surrender to your truth.

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Colleen Sheehy Orme is a National Relationship Columnist, freelance journalist, and former business columnist. She writes about love, relationships, and self-restoration. She has spent more than a decade in research and counseling on the topics of divorce, relationships, and Narcissistic personality disorder.

Reston, VA

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