In my most recent Instagram Q&A, many of the questions I received were focused on relationships. But one question in particular caught my attention because it felt so honest: “I don't love my spouse anymore. How do I get out of my marriage if I don't want to put in the work?”
We’ve been repeatedly told, “all relationships require work,” but what if you think the relationship is not worth fighting for?
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The first step we should take toward ending a relationship is to spend time reflecting. It’s helpful to consider a few questions:
What did I learn about love growing up?
Am I about to reenact a familiar pattern by leaving the relationship?
Is there anything I can do – or am willing to do – to rekindle the connection?
How does the relationship make me feel most of the time?
How does the relationship impact my mental health?
Falling out of love
We often fall "out of love" gradually. Many people grieve relationships before they decide to leave. They do this to build up the courage and emotional distance needed to walk away. As a consequence, once they have come to their decision there is very little that can change their mind. They have resigned.
If you’ve spent time reflecting and are sure you want to leave, here are a few things to consider when ending a relationship. (Bear in mind, these considerations may not apply to all relationships, particularly ones that have involved abuse.)
Have a face-to-face conversation. Leaving without notice is unfair. Out of respect for your partner, you must be honest and direct, and in doing so you can help eliminate some of the confusion your partner may be feeling. The way you communicate can ensure that you don’t leave things open-ended or keep your partner on the hook. It's best to avoid settings that are public so your partner can process and respond.
Set an intention. A relationship-ending talk is not the time for negotiation. The intent should be to end the relationship, not to utter an empty threat that can lead to a better “offer” or promises. Be clear about whether you are entering into a conversation about ending the relationship or trying to talk about fixing the relationship. If you are still hoping things will improve, you should be having a conversation about change.
Be kind. It's not unusual for people to get carried away or triggered, which can lead some to throw around blame or disrespect. Pause, take a deep breath, and remember the purpose of the conversation. You are trying to leave the relationship, not hurt the other person. It’s not worth starting any conversation that is motivated by the desire to hurt another human.
Listen. Depending on the context, the other person may be surprised by – or resistant to – the decision. Allow space for their emotions and thoughts.
Adjust your boundaries. When a relationship changes, so should the boundaries. Identifying how you expect to be treated differently (and how you plan to treat your partner differently) will provide both people with guidelines for future interactions, or lack thereof.
Spend time with your feelings. Even if you are the one who decides to leave, it does not mean that you are not experiencing pain. You may be relieved, but you may also feel sad, frustrated or disappointed. Ending a relationship can be messy. In order to stay grounded, it’s often helpful to face the thoughts and feelings that come up.
When all is said and done, one of my favorite questions after any relationship ends is: "What lessons can I take away from this experience?" Ask yourself this and reflect.
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Sara Kuburic is a therapist who specializes in identity, relationships and moral trauma. Every week she shares her advice with our readers. Find her on Instagram @millennial.therapist. She can be reached at SKuburic@gannett.com.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Marriage advice: Is it time to get divorced? I don't love my spouse