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Most of us have been there: You’re in a struggling relationship, and you start weighing the options to leave or stay and keep working on it.
The reality is all relationships have their ups and downs. They ebb and flow. The downs do not mean it’s over.
That being said, relationships do not survive without care. Couples in strong relationships assess themselves on a regular basis. They respectfully discuss what’s working and what’s not, and they make adjustments accordingly. They make requests of each other. They communicate openly and honestly.
Here’s some advice if you’re wondering if your lesbian relationship is over:
So many of us grew up thinking that relationships are only successful if they last forever. My parents and both of my sisters are all with their first spouse. It was difficult for me to face my relationships ending in light of the longevity of their relationships. I thought I was a failure because I couldn’t keep my two long-term relationships going.
My current girlfriend helped me realize my past relationships were actually successful even if they came to an end. When I looked for the beauty in them and found things to be grateful for and lessons to take away, that was when I changed my perspective.
Spending 17 years and eight years, respectively, with my previous partners is not a failure. Every relationship we have or have had can be viewed as successful as long as we learn something from it. Relationships don’t have to last for decades.
There is no accepted measure of success. The divorce rate certainly reinforces this. Relationships can be for the long haul or for a shorter period, and they can still be good. Altering that belief was important for me to enter any new relationship with an open heart.
With all the stressors and demands on our lives, we often run out of time and energy to devote to our relationships. In reality, just 10 focused minutes a day can keep a relationship strong. Those 10 minutes must include appreciating something your partner does for you, asking what’s taking up their headspace, and asking what you can do better.
If you are feeling less connected, reach out and arrange a time to talk with your partner. Have an open heart-to-heart, expressing your feelings and asking for the same from her.
The reasons for a couple’s disconnection can be work, family issues, or something else that can be dealt with. These issues are often temporary and fixable.
At other times, the problem is ongoing like addiction, cheating, money problems, and even health issues, all of which can overburden a relationship.
Therapy, couples counseling, workshops, and other interventions can be effective. If you have tried everything, and it’s still not working, then it may be time to face the inevitable and end the relationship.
Many of us enter into our relationships with a vague notion of the future. We meet someone, like each other, really like each other, say I love you, and move in together. Then we simply make our way through life, and if we are lucky enough to have found someone with similar values and interests, we end up staying together for a long time.
Then things change or we change or they change, and the “rightness” goes out the window, leaving us feeling out of love.
Other times, the relationship starts strong based mostly on chemistry and sex, and then it fizzles fast. We both know it’s over, and we mutually end it.
With some relationships, we know they are over because one of us leaves the relationship emotionally and physically. There is no “let’s try and work it out” option.
It’s the relationships where we are not sure if it’s over that may survive if given the proper attention.
One of the major relationship issues couples complain about is: We have nothing in common, or our interests have changed.
When you stop doing things together you used to enjoy, it’s easy to feel disconnected. If you prefer doing things only with friends, this is a clear sign that you don’t want to be around your partner. If she is dismissing your interests now in favor of new or different interests, that can be challenging, too.
The reality is that people change over time. They may outgrow interests they had when they were younger like going to bars and parties. Their job may necessitate more professional after-work activities that the other partner doesn’t enjoy.
When you feel like your interests have diverged completely, the result is disconnection.
You two argue unfairly and do not respect each other’s opinions. Partners who throw insults and blame, or lack empathy and sympathy in arguments, can get lost in an inescapable rabbit hole.
At some point, it is difficult to reverse this pattern of blatant and relentless disrespect, and the relationship deteriorates even more.
Every discussion turns to an argument where no one wants to give in. Even simple discussions inevitably lead to disrespectful bickering with lots of finger pointing. You two may even avoid communicating at all.
You no longer want to spend time with your partner and avoid being in the same room. You deliberately go to bed early or late or fall asleep watching TV.
You show no interest in what’s going on in your partner’s work and life, in general. You feel like roommates who don’t even like one another. You all but stop caring about them.
You avoid sex and anything resembling intimacy because it feels uncomfortable. At best, you kiss your partner on the cheek or give them a quick peck or hug. The feeling of separation becomes stronger and stronger and unbearable at times.
Dr. John Gottman, best-selling author and relationship expert, defines the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as strong predictors for divorce. These are: criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling.
Criticism is always finding fault in the other. Defensiveness is when one partner blames the other and refuses to take any responsibility. Contempt, the most serious of all, is when a partner feels superior and insults the other, often calling her names or mocking her. Stonewalling is when a partner withdraws from most conversations and shuts down. Any of the Four Horsemen can arise from allowing issues to snowball.
When your relationship experiences any of these signs, it can become toxic. Often one partner already has one foot out the door and can’t seem to be honest and tell the other. This is a situation in which you have tried and are certain that breaking up is the only way.
Allowing the pain of disconnection to linger because you can’t bear to hurt the other isn’t right for either of you. No one wants to be the bad guy.
Eventually one of you will come to a singular, definite decision to move on, and you both must go through with it. As the song promises “breaking up is hard to do.” Remember that.
Simply request a time to talk, plan what to say, bring it up with love and respect, and say it confidently and concisely.
I encourage a sit-down discussion where you reveal how you’re feeling with simple “I feel” statements, relating how difficult this is for both parties. Then allow time for your partner to express her feelings.
Anticipate a reaction and stay calm and caring, and keep your cool no matter what is said to you. This is not a time for defensiveness or even an apology. Let her know you believe this is best for both of you. Be firm but caring and polite.
If your relationship has become toxic, it may be best to break up with a third party, like a therapist, present if you can get your partner to agree to this.
Afterward, take some time for yourself and do self-care. Spend time with supportive family and friends. Reinforce your decision to leave the relationship without judging yourself.
Yes, that evil inner voice will try to make you the bad girl and even suggest that you try to make things right. This may be a good time to find a new hobby or engage in a fun activity you did before the relationship.
Enjoy being single and decide to work on being the best version of yourself moving forward. Be sure to show yourself compassion on a daily basis. Even if you were the one who initiated the breakup, it can still be difficult to find yourself alone.
Don’t be too quick to end a relationship. Interventions and more loving attention can work to help you stay together if you both agree. Accept that there are ups and downs. Work toward increasing the up times. Attention, intimacy, and curiosity are great skills to exhibit and grow.
If it’s becoming toxic for either of you, look seriously at ending your relationship. Demonstrate care and respect when communicating to your partner that you want to break up. Often she will be relieved too, and it will be a more agreeable outcome.
Realize that every relationship can end on a positive growth note as long as you find the gifts and express gratitude for what you have shared. Move forward wishing each other the best.