James J. De Santis, Ph.D.
Post Office Box 894, Glendora, CA 91740-0894
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Signs of A Troubled Relationship
Ideally, a romantic relationship should offer great potential for happiness
and well-being for both people when chemistry, compatibility, and
commitment are all present.
"Ambivalence" means experiencing contradictory feelings at the same time.
Troubled relationships are generally characterized by ambivalent feelings like
love and hate, hope and disappointment.
If, however, you are in a relationship that is troubled, but you're ambivalent
about taking action to leave, first consider if any of these situations fit you:
Despite powerful chemistry, you are not resolving big differences and
frequent conflicts with your partner.
You love your partner deeply, but you are repeatedly hurt in the
You find yourself seduced over and over by the cycle of conflict -
escalation - remorse - making up.
Your partner admits to serious faults but makes no serious effort to make
Your partner possesses so much potential that you hang on, hoping for
change which never comes.
Ineffective Methods To Salvage A Trouble Relationship
You may have already exhausted many efforts to improve your situation.
Here are some ineffective methods people sometimes take to try to salvage
a troubled relationship:
Despite your repeated efforts to forgive and forget, your partner breaks
promises again and again.
You've made threats if the situation didn't improve, but your ultimatums
have come and gone.
You've tried to satisfy every demand from your partner for change, but your
partner has nothing but contempt and criticism for your efforts.
You may have tried a variety of dead-end alternatives to change the
situation or mask the problem, like anger, depression, alcohol, drugs,
binging, affairs, workaholism, suicide attempts, or violence.
Although you've tried couples therapy, your partner just won't cooperate
with the process.
You have resigned yourself to accepting that ANY relationship is better than
NO relationship at all.
What You Can Do
Ending a significant relationship is of course a step not to be taken lightly or
impulsively. If you are a caring person, the idea of exiting a relationship can
be scary and painful. The longer one has been in a relationship, the harder
it can be to emotionally "let go."
If children are involved, the decision can be harder as well because their
needs and feelings must carefully be weighed as well.
Only with the loss of hope can one exit without confusion. If you examine
your relationship carefully, make a sincere effort to produce constructive
changes, and conclude that you have exhausted all reasonable options for
improvement, you may still need to go your separate ways, but you can exit
knowing with a degree of confidence that you've done your best under
Consider steps you may not yet have taken before ending your relationship:
1. Review your original reasons for entering into the relationship in the first
place. Were your expectations for the relationship realistic?
2. Assess the degree of fundamental compatibility you really have with your
partner. Are you mostly compatible or mostly incompatible?
3. Be honest and assess if the problem is partly your fault. Have you taken
responsibility for making any necessary changes in yourself to be a
genuinely loving, caring partner?
4. Step back and evaluate the overall health and viability of your
relationship if it were to stay just as it is right now and never change.
Knowing what you know now, would you choose the relationship all over
Consider steps to take if you do decide to exit your relationship:
1. Formulate specific steps for exiting your relationship that will help you
avoid procrastination or excuse-making.
2. Activate your social-emotional support system, including friends and
3. Avoid entering a new relationship too quickly. Take time to work through
your feelings. Examine what happened so you can make better relationship
choices in the future.
4. Pursue your own goals for happiness, personal growth, and getting on
with building a new life.
When To Seek Help
It may be time to seek guidance if you realize that you have been
floundering for a long time in a troubled relationship, if you have not been
achieving your goals in life because your relationship is getting in the way,
or if your relationship is seriously or chronically abusive. Clergy and mental
health professionals may be of help.
Exiting a Troubled Relationship