How To Decide When to End a Relationship or Activity

By Kalpana Murthy, LPC

Many people struggle with changing a habit, saying “no”, or ending a job or relationship. One of the reasons it’s difficult is because people think they are weak, failing or giving up if the walk away from something they’ve invested their heart, money or time in. The phrase “winners never quit” is not true. In fact, the opposite is true.

If you want to be mentally and physically healthy and achieve your vision for your life, you have to quit some things. You have stop investing time and mental energy on activities and relationships that make it harder for you to enjoy life or achieve your goals.

Often even if something is good, we need to let go of it in order to have some unscheduled time to relax, reflect, or do nothing. Letting go creates space for something new to come into our life.

Saying “no” or “no more” to an activity or a relationship doesn’t necessarily mean the activity or relationship is bad or that you are rejecting someone; it simply means you are living in accordance with your priorities.

As our life circumstances, interests, and values change, it’s smart, normal and essential for well-being to reevaluate how we invest ourselves. We have so many options and can’t do everything. So, we have to let go of things that drain us, distract us, or are not as productive or enjoyable.

Here are five questions to help you make a decision about when it’s time to walk away or spend less time with someone or some thing.

1. Are you investing in relationships and activities that align with what’s most important to you?

For one week, keep an hourly log of how you spend your time and then see how your actions support your priorities. You may find that you are engaged in phone calls or social activities out of habit, a sense of obligation, or because it feels easier than saying “no”. Think about what you really want to do and how doing that would align with your values and goals. If an activity went away, how would you feel and how would you enjoy that extra time, space, energy?

2. Does the relationship or activity enhance you or drain you?

Pay attention to how you feel before and after you spend time talking with someone or engaged in an activity. Do you feel better, worse or the same? Does it take you awhile to regain your focus, motivation or positive mood after you’ve invested time with that person or activity? Take a one week break from an activity that distracts you or depletes you and see what you notice.

3. Are you concerned about what others will think?

When we start saying no, making changes and walking away from certain activities and relationships, other people may question your actions, criticize you, or say things that prompt you to feel guilty for your decision. Beliefs like “I’m selfish” or “I have to please everyone” are often rooted in childhood and can hold you back from living your own life. When you are trying to make changes, it’s important that you surround yourself with people who have made changes. Seek out the support of people who achieve their goals and who model the importance of self-care and living a fulfilling life. Are you hanging out with people who have settled for less than what they want or live in fear of change?

4. What signs do you have that there is hope for the situation to get better?

When we are contemplating a major shift, like ending a relationship or quitting a job, we may stay in a bad situation too long. If you’ve been spending a lot of time talking about a problem and trying to bring about improvements, are you seeing changes from others that indicate the situation will get better? Or are you just holding on because you want it to get better? Do one thing differently and that may be the catalyst to make things better.

5. Are you holding on out of fear?

Often we hold on because we fear you can not handle the consequences of letting go, such as being single, searching for a new job, or dealing with the reaction of others. One way to address these types of fears is to think about all the good things that will come from making the change. If you let go of that relationship or activity, how would life change for the better? What will your physical and mental health be like? How will the extra time and energy move you closer to what you really want in life? Move towards the positives rather than staying stuck to avoid the discomforts of change. If nothing changed, what would you feel like and what would your life be like a year from now?

If you are trying to decide if you should end something, I can help you work through your thoughts and feelings to reach a wise decision that you feel good about. I can also help you deal with questions, criticisms and resistance you may receive from others as you try to make changes in your life.