How to recognize if your relationship is worth the effort or not

In my counseling sessions, my clients often deal with the following question: should I stay or should I go? How do I know if I should still put effort and energy into the relationship, and how do I know when it's time to give up on the relationship?

This is not a simple question to begin with. After all, every relationship involves, to some degree, an investment of "work" and energy. Yet, there are different types of energy and effort you put into the relationship. There is a kind of effort that results in you feeling emotionally connected, having an honest and direct communication with your partner. And there's a kind of investment in the relationship that only leads to keeping a relationship that's not doing well going. It's important that you learn to differentiate the two!

This is healthy relationship investment

In fact, you can think of your relationship like a plant. A plant, just like a relationship, needs care through water and the right balance of light and shade, as well as the right temperature to grow. In the same way, your relationship also needs the right kind of nurturing to grow. But let's take a closer look at this effort that nurtures your relationship plant and is important so that the relationship can develop:

By that I mean,

  • Learning to notice your own feelings and needs
  • Learning to communicate in a way that doesn't insult/accuse the other person, but rather you talk about yourself and your feelings/needs/wants
  • To be able to openly share your feelings and needs,
  • to show understanding for the different needs of your partner and to always find compromises together
  • to seek open communication when something has made you sad/angry/etc.
  • to look at the relationship and discuss your satisfaction: to discuss if things can be changed or if it suits both of you like this
  • consciously appreciate your partner and train yourself to perceive your partner positively
  • to adapt to your partner to a certain extent and to do things for the other person
  • that you are triggered by your partner and learn to deal with it and calm yourself down
  • that you get to know yourself better and realize what your boundaries, needs and childhood imprints are.
  • communicate your boundaries (even more often than once) and enforce consequences when they are ignored

Investing energy in healthy relationships is necessary!

All of this can feel exhausting at times. However, all of this is part of keeping a relationship alive, and keeps you and your partner evolving. All of this is good, healthy water for the relationship plant.

So if most of the points apply to you, you can be relieved. Because the energy you're putting into your relationship is a good investment. It will help you strengthen your connection with your partner, get to know each other better, and increase your satisfaction in the relationship.

should I stay or should I go

This is unhealthy relationship investment

Now let's look at what is another type of investment of energy and effort in the relationship that is more indicative of something not going well in the relationship. This kind of investment speaks to the fact that you are keeping "relationship weeds" going, that is, a relationship that is not good for you.

The behaviors that are a bad sign for your relationship are the following:

  • You express your needs, but your partner doesn't take them seriously or notice them and doesn't change anything.
  • In conflicts you always give in and your wishes are not respected.
  • You are the only person who wants to work on yourself and the relationship, and your partner sees no reason to change.
  • Your partner gives you the feeling that you are the problem in the relationship and does not take responsibility for his or her part in conflicts.
  • Your partner apologizes, but then behaves the same way again.
  • You are taking all the responsibility in the relationship and it is stressing you out.
  • You are solely responsible for organizing your life together (household, friends, income).
  • Your partner repeatedly oversteps your boundaries, and it tires you to bring it up again and again.
  • You have to change a lot (e.g., give up hobbies or friends) to have a relationship with the other person.
  • If you are sad, anxious, or otherwise upset, your partner can't handle it, e.g. walks away from you or expresses a lack of understanding.
  • There is no open communication, so you have to guess what the other person thinks/wants.
  • Your partner is very emotional, jealous, or angry and offended when you bring up a conflict, and therefore you feel like you can't really address your needs.
  • There is physical or verbal abuse in your relationship.
  • Your partner denies having said or done things, and you wonder if you can trust yourself anymore.
  • Your partner forbids you to do things or has encouraged you to cut off contact with your family and friends.
  • Your partner has extreme mood swings and changes their mood because of one "wrong" word from you.
  • Many of the things that are important to you, are not being fulfilled by your partner.

Do not invest energy in unhealthy relationships

If most of these points apply to you, then this is a strong warning sign. Because it means that your needs are not getting the space they need in the relationship. The energy you're putting into the relationship rightfully feels exhausting. It's understandable that you're frustrated and distressed. If only some of the signs listed apply to you (for example, if you don't know how to communicate in conflict), you might consider working on your relationship with a professional relationship counselor.

If there is physical or verbal violence in your relationship, your partner isolates you from friends and family, and doubts your perceptions, then it is imperative that you seek professional help from counseling services and psychologists/psychotherapists!

Couple unhealthy relationship

What can you do if you are stuck in an unhealthy relationship?

If you are in such a relationship, then there are many indications that the relationship is not good for you. You can ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why are you holding on to such a relationship? What reasons are there for staying in the relationship?
  • What else does the relationship give you? Does it drain your energy or give you energy?
  • Did you experience a relationship in your childhood that is similar to the one you have with your partner?
  • What would happen if you were with a partner who was responsive to your feelings and needs? Does that scare you?

If you realize that your relationship is not good for you, but you can't manage to separate, professional help is also important. Feel free to contact me for this (you can find more information here) or other psychologists/psychotherapists for support.

Conclusion on Should I stay or should I go

In this blog article, you learned how to tell if you are investing in a healthy or unhealthy relationship. You also learned what questions to ask yourself if you find yourself in a relationship that you have a lot of energy to invest in, but it's not doing you any good.

Would you like support in recognizing what kind of energy you are investing in your relationship? Then feel free to contact me!

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