Relationships: how do you know if it is right? Is it good enough or do you need to end it?
How do you know if a relationship is right for you?
If you are struggling to make a commitment to someone, is it that the relationship itself is wrong, or is there something wrong with your ability to feel happy with your partner?
If things aren't as good as you would like them to be, are you the one with a problem for being a perfectionist and should you work on your unrealistic expectations? Or is your problem that you hesitate to accept when a relationship is not right and end it because of the hurt caused or the fear of making a mistake?
These are such important questions, and they are not straight forward to answer.
Sometimes the only way you can know if it is you with the problem is to look at whether this is a pattern with past relationships that you are repeating again.
Some people feel afraid to end a relationship that is not working because they are afraid of change, or afraid of being on their own. It is not uncommon to want the other person to end it rather than make the move yourself, either because you feel afraid of the weight of responsibility making a decision, or you cannot bear to be someone who rejects others.
The affect of the past
Although long ago, what we grew up with and saw in our parents' relationship can have a large impact on how we feel about being in a relationship, and how we expect relationships to go. We are also affected by the style of communication we observed. Some people grow up in families where there is a high amount of expressed emotions, i.e people get very vocal with their emotions. Others grow up in environments where feelings are kept inside or expressed very quietly. The past is not in the past, it is in the present in how we now relate to others. Often people are fearful of repeating the dynamics they saw in their parents. Sometimes this can push them into the opposite which can be equally problematic but in a different way. For instance, if you saw your parents argue a lot, your determination to avoid this in your own relationship may lead you to keep any conflict inside, which avoids the arguing but gives you a different problem in that your partner won't know when there is a problem, and this can lead to distance in the relationship and eventual breakdown.
It is normal to have mixed feelings towards a partner. It is impossible to only feel love 100% of the time. The problem is, if feelings are changeable from moment to moment, how can you rely on them to make good decisions and not regret them later? A partner can bring out strong feelings of love and hate - this doesn't mean that the relationship is necessarily wrong. Conflict is unavoidable. Relationships can make us feel very vulnerable so it's not always as easy as we might think to address any conflict openly.
Some people believe that surviving disappointment is the key to successful relationships, but how much disappointment is the right amount to try and get past, and when is it just being masochistic to stay in a relationship that isn't working? For each of us, how much is good enough varies from person to person. If you are someone who ends a relationship at the first disappointment, you are not giving yourself the chance to work through the conflict and understand why you feel so devastated that you want to leave.
I realise this article raises many questions and maybe hasn't answered them. There isn't one answer that fits all, as each situation needs to be explored. A therapist can help you unpack all the different strands that are affecting your thoughts and feelings towards a partner.
Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.
About Teresa Mulvena
Teresa Mulvena is a senior accredited therapist with extensive experience working with couples and individuals with relationship issues. If you feel anxious about whether counselling can be useful or not, come to one session with no ongoing commitment and you will get a sense of whether it is going to be helpful.