Flickr Photo by Nicolas Raymond
Flickr Photo by Nicolas Raymond


What has your partner done for you lately?

You’ve done everything that you could to address the problems in your relationship.  You explained your feelings to your partner repeatedly, backed it up with several examples and gave your partner a chance to respond.  But your partner refuses to work on the issues and the relationship has stagnated.  You need changes but she’s perfectly content with the way things are.  Though it makes you sick to your stomach, you know it’s time to leave the person you love.

But how? Here’s the 7-step process based on Bethany Marshall’s book Deal Breakers: When to Work on a Relationship and When to Walk Away:

Step 1: Break the rules.

Every relationship functions on specific rules, whether explicit or implied.  The more toxic the relationship is, the stricter the rules will be.  Maybe it’s understood in your relationship that you’re not allowed to disagree with your partner or be able to express your feelings openly.

To break the deal, you need to break the rules.  You will no longer stand by in silence while your partner flirts with other people even if you have done so repeatedly.  You will no longer waste your time and your future with someone who refuses to make a commitment to you. You are putting your foot down and this time you mean it.

Step 2: Face Your Fears

Why are you staying in a relationship that is not meeting your needs?  Your requests are not unreasonable.  You asked for progress, not perfection.  You deserve to have the type of love that you’re looking for.

Relationships are hard to end because our identities and self-esteem may be tied to them.  They give us assurance that we are loved.  It can be scary.  But it’s not the end of the world and we all have the capacity to recover.  By facing your fears, you’re working toward building a more fulfilling and rewarding life for yourself.

Step 3: Make a Plan

If you’re living together, figure out how and when you’re going to live on your own again. Develop a timeline and save up if you have to.

Making a plan is especially important if you have kids.  Meet with a therapist and figure out how you’re going to tell them and what you’re going to say.  Assure them that the separation is not their fault and that they are loved by the both of you.  Try to remain friends with your ex as best as you can, or at the least, agree to only say positive things about each other in front of your kids so that they can feel secure.

Step 4: Gather Your Support Network

Connect with the people in your life who are there for you no matter what.  Plan a night out, sleep over, go fishing, etc.  It will help buffer the series of difficulties that you are going to face.

Step 5: Practice the Breakup Speech

You need to tell your partner in clear terms that the relationship is not working and why.  Give examples.  Explain how you’ve asked your partner to follow through with important changes that you needed to see.  Give more examples.  Let your partner know that he or she has failed to follow through, that you are done and that the relationship is over.

Practice it.  Breathe into a paper bag if you need to.  Whatever you do, don’t be a coward.

Your partner may try to dissuade you.  All of a sudden, he may want to make a last ditch effort.  Just because you were miserable doesn’t mean he was.  Your partner may not have been willing to change but she still enjoyed having you in her life.  Don’t give in.

Step 6: Don’t Question Yourself

You may feel guilty afterward.  You may ask yourself a bunch of “what if” questions.  Stop.  Your partner made you miserable.  If she was the right person for you, you wouldn’t have needed to leave.  There would have been progress.  He would have made the changes you needed to see.

Step 7: Grieve

You need to mourn the relationship.  The death of your relationship forces you to also bury a lot of hopes and dreams associated with it.  Rehash your story, to yourself and to your friends.  By remembering and reliving your memories, they will slowly start to hold less meaning for you.

You may become depressed and that’s okay.  You may lose your appetite and interest in hanging out with your friends.  If they try to set you up with someone new, you may feel your stomach turn.  But if you can find new hobbies, tell your story, engage with friends and do whatever you can to make your life feel meaningful, you will realize that you have something to hold on to.

You deserve to be with someone who can love you the way you want to be loved.  Repeat that to yourself as often as you can during the grieving process.  It will help you accept the truth and move on.  If you blame yourself, you will only feel guilty and depressed.  But recognizing your partner’s inability to love you the way you deserve to be loved will empower you to move on and love again.

Resource: Deal Breakers: When to Work on a Relationship and When to Walk Away by Dr. Bethany Marshall

This post wraps up the series on The Art of Relationship Deal Breakers.  While the focus has been on romantic relationships, the information in the series can also apply to the relationships we might have with our friends, family or co-workers.

Perhaps you have a parent who believes they are without fault, is closed off to disagreements and does not allow you to express your feelings freely.  Maybe they insist on viewing all of your goals as a reflection on them.

Or maybe you have a co-worker who refuses to meet his responsibilities and, even after being confronted about his shortcomings, he still refuses to find and implement an appropriate solution.

These posts can help you determine what action you can take to improve the situation or find the strength you need to walk away if all other avenues have been exhausted.

Relationship deal breakers are not easy to tackle at any stage.  But I’m happy to hold your hand through this.  If you need a cheerleader or a coach or just someone to vent to, shoot me an email at

This is the last post in The Art of the Relationship Deal Breaker series.  To catch up on the series from the beginning, you can read the first post here.  Never miss a post!  Sign up here to get them sent straight to your inbox!

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