Zoe Coetzee, 07.07.2017

Dead-end relationships: when to make a U-turn on bad relationships

Are you questioning your partner, wondering if you went down the road to a dead-end relationship? Relationships start out with high hopes – the heady rush of new love sweeping you off your feet. However, as infatuation gives way to reality sometimes the dynamics which drew you together in the first place start straining under the weight and responsibility of a fully functioning adult relationship. Let’s break down the tell-tale signs of a dead-end relationship, why people stay and how to move on from a bad relationship.

The tell-tale signs of a dead-end relationship

So what does a dead-end relationship mean? A dead-end relationship can most simply be understood as a relationship that cannot move forward - a situation where there is a set of issues that make you want to put the brakes on your future together. If you don’t see you and your partner making progress and moving forward together, you may be stuck in a dead-end relationship.

There are some warnings for the major signs of a failing relationship. When you start experiencing these dynamics consistently it might be time to face the facts and do a U-turn on the dead-end.

  1. Confidence: You start losing confidence in yourself and don’t feel comfortable to be you. If you spend too much time walking on eggshells, and begin to question your own thoughts, beliefs, and feelings, the relationship is undermining your self-esteem. 
  2. Trust: The foundation of trust is broken in your relationship and dishonesty rears its ugly head. When you do not trust your partner, it becomes very difficult to build a life together.
  3. Conflict: All relationships have some degree of conflicts and disagreements as no two people are the same. However, when conflict is the norm rather than the exception, you are straying into dangerous territory.
  4. Values: It is one thing to have different personalities, but if you don’t share the same values and beliefs you will not only land up knocking heads, but more importantly, may find yourself compromising on issues that are of core importance to how you want to live your life.
  5. Vision: When you imagine your future, is your current partner part of that vision? Can you see yourself growing old alongside each other or see your partner as a parent to your children? Do you have a shared vision for life which you can both work towards? If the answer is no, then you need to consider it may be a sign of a dead-end relationship. 

Why people stay in a dead-end relationship

If you have identified that you are in a dead-end relationship but are battling to leave, you are not alone. There are several reasons why people stay in dead-end relationships. Identifying and understanding what these reasons are can make it easier to lay it down and move forward.                                               

  1. Security: A relationship and a steady partner are familiar to you, even a bad partner and an unhealthy relationship. The familiarity creates a sense of security and the fear of the unknown can keep people trapped.
  2. Low self-esteem: As a result of the negative relationship, you may believe you don’t deserve better or that you don’t deserve to be happy. This diminishes the impetus to leave, and makes staying a form of penance.
  3. Locus of control: Losing one’s sense of autonomy can result in an expectation for your partner to take action. Working in tandem to undermine your independence, an unhealthy relationship and low self-esteem can create a state of inertia, with you sitting back and letting your partner define the next step.
  4. Loneliness: People fear loneliness and don’t want to be alone. Sometimes people choose to be unhappy with an incompatible companion rather than facing the prospect of building a new life alone.
  5. Hope: You keep clinging to the hope that your partner will change, and in so doing repair the relationship. However, in a dead-end relationship, the change and repair are more fallacy than fact. 

Although these are some of the major causes to keep you tied down in a dead-end relationship, there is always a way to leave. 

Leaving a dead-end relationship

Having realized that you are stuck in a dead-end relationship rut, this is how to empower yourself to pack your bags, put your boots on and walk away!

  1. Be honest: Look at yourself in the mirror and ask, am I happy in this relationship? Strip down your fears and defenses, be real and answer honestly. The truth will set you free.
  2. Focus on yourself: It is now your time, concentrate on your own needs and emotions and not those of your partner, which have been sapping your energy. It is your time to heal and move forward, and so make yourself your own number one priority.
  3. Support: Seek out the people who truly care about you and the places you feel secure. Surround yourself with the solid social support of close friends and family.
  4. No second chances: Once you have decided to leave a dead-end relationship, don’t second guess yourself. You need to stick to your guns, and not let your partner’s appeals and promises stop you.
  5. Visualize the future: Set yourself the exercise of visualizing the future you desire. Be detailed and be generous to yourself, from the bigger picture issues to the gratifying details. Sign up for that pottery course, go on that holiday, design your dream home…picture the dreams you have been putting off because of the relationship drain. Then, action your ideas and map out the steps to achieving these ideals. Now you have a goal, go towards it.

Only you know if your relationship is worth fighting for. However, loving someone is not a good enough reason to stay in a dead-end relationship once it has become destructive and come to a standstill. You can and you should make decisions for your best life. And if you are asking yourself if you're in a dead-end relationship or not, you probably already know the answer...

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