When Is It Time to End a Relationship with a Lover, Friend or Family Member?

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Bob Livingstone is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCS 11087) in private practice for 22 years in San Francisco, California. He holds a Masters Degree ...Read More

Everyone faces a crossroad sometime in their life wondering if they want to continue a relationship with a friend, lover or family member. You ponder how much you are supposed to take from another human being. You have always looked at his extenuating circumstances and have tolerated his verbal abuse in the past. His mother could have recently died. He may have a long-term illness and/or chronic pain. She may be a victim of domestic violence. You wonder if it is ever ok for anyone, regardless of their circumstances to put up with your character being assassinated or viciously assaulted. Is it ever ok to allow another person to belittle you and continue to stomp on your dreams? Is it ever OK for someone to continually use you and never reciprocate? These are tough questions.

There are situations that don’t allow you to consider moving away from the relationship. You may live with a mentally disturbed father and he constantly engages in name calling. You may not have the resources to move out and pay for your dad’s care. In any case, you would need lots of support and respite if you were in this position.


Reasons why you may tolerate someone crossing the line:

1. You may not believe you have the right to stand up for yourself; that it is your role to be the emotional punching bag that takes unlimited hits to your psyche. This may have been a role you have played in your family.

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2. You believe that you are the only one in this abusive person’s life and if you leave, he may commit suicide.

3. You are not clear about where the line should be drawn. Is uttering disparaging comments about your “lack of intelligence” enough to pull the plug on the relationship or would this step be unfair?

4. You believe the opinion that you have of yourself will become diminished if you terminate the relationship. You think putting your needs first is never the right thing to do; that this is selfish act.

Why ending a toxic relationship is a good thing:

1. Terminating this unhealthy relationship may teach the emotionally abusive person that not everyone is going to put up with her personally directed anger. It may cause her to take a long look at her behavior.

2. It may improve your self-esteem when making this powerful change.

3. It may give you a sense of empowerment that you never realized before.

4. You may embrace the knowledge that you don’t have to allow anyone to focus their rage on you.


Steps to take in considering ending an abusive relationship:

1. Determine if you have been emotionally abused. When you think about the comments and the tone this person has barked, do you cringe or have some other physical reaction while having memories of him humiliating you? Do you feel numb when you interact with him? Is this numbness an unconscious way of distancing yourself from his mean spirit? What do you think life would be like without the bad memories/negative physical reaction? Does a burden seem lifted? Do you feel safer?

2. Think about how your life would be if you didn’t have to interface with this person. You may be so programmed to take her abuse, that you are unaware of all the mental preparation involved in having to face her. You may be oblivious of how exhausting this process of taking the abuse and enabling her is. Do you often find yourself ruminating on the same thoughts? Take our specialized repetitive thoughts test to gain insights and strategies for breaking free.

3. Plan to tell him that you will end the relationship if he doesn’t alter his offending behavior. This will take a ton of courage and preparation. You have to prepare for the possibility of a nasty reaction. If he does respond in a dismissive or rage full manner that is a clear sign that it is time to walk away. You also have the option of abruptly ending the relationship without announcing this move to him. If he calls you, you can choose to answer or ignore his call. This is a decision you have to come to terms with for yourself and nobody else.

4. Talk with others in your support network about this problem. Your friends and family members could provide some useful feedback. It is better to express your confusion about this rather than keeping it bottled up and being isolated.

5. There is no shame in contacting a therapist to help you work through this trauma. Sometimes we all benefit from speaking to an impartial trained, experienced therapist to help us gain perspective. The therapist can also assist you in connecting early childhood experiences to the present day issues you are having with your abusive lover, friend or family member.

Letting go of this abusive person will teach you to love yourself and feel free for perhaps the first time.

Keep Reading By Author Bob Livingstone, LCSW
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