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 Deciding to Break Up

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Deciding to Break Up

In at least one relationship you'll have in your life, inevitably the day will come when you ask yourself, "Is this working?" or "How long should I keep at this before it's really over?" or "When's the right time to break this off?"

Only you can determine your limits of tolerance for working on a relationship. Some people look for instant gratification, and as soon as their needs aren't being met, they're out the door. Others hang on forever, hoping and praying things will get better. Neither approach is ideal, but it helps to know where you and your partner fit along this continuum.

Think of dating as a long road punctuated by traffic lights. Red lights signal danger, yellow lights require caution, and green lights mean keep going (but proceed cautiously since you never know when a car might run a red light!).

You know you are at a green light if your mate:

  • Has positive, close, friendly relationships with family, friends and co-workers.
  • Is responsible and trustworthy.
  • Is a good communicator (listens and empathizes).
  • Is open to commitment.
  • Can express feelings and be intimate.
  • Displays respect for self and others.

You're at a yellow light when:

  • You're been hurt by him before.
  • Friends are giving you warnings or feeling you negative stories about her, though you're not sure they're true.
  • There is a history of bad relationships.
  • You recognize in yourself a pattern of attraction such that you always end up hurt.
  • You fall in love too fast (without testing and observing).
  • Either of you has a cheating past.
  • The two of you are always talking about ex-partners.
  • You spend too much time just "hanging out" without doing anything meaningful.
  • He cancels or forgets dates.
  • She sends "mixed signals" -- one minute you're great the next you're ignored.
  • One of you feels deprived and unfulfilled or complains of not getting enough attention.
  • You wait by the phone or feel you are wasting your time "waiting" for the other to come around.

You know you're at a red light and it's time to put on the brakes when:

  • You're experiencing more pain than pleasure.
  • You're being mentally, physically, or sexually abused.
  • She betrays you or cheats on you.
  • You feel used, abused, or foolish.
  • He keeps secrets (like not revealing a home number or never inviting you over).
  • She constantly blames, criticizes, or denigrates others (parents, friends, co-workers).
  • Either of you has a lot of unresolved anger toward the same or opposite sex.
  • There is a clear reluctance to commit (indicated by statements like "Marriage is a disaster" or "I'll never settle down").
  • He is pushy, controlling, or obsessed with sex.
  • Friends warn you with evidence you don't want to believe (unlike you, they're not wearing "love blinders").
  • His life is dangerous (involves guns, drugs, illegal acts).


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