There are several levels to ending a relationship. It really comes down to investment and volition.
Bear with me here while I clarify…
When you have just gone on a couple of dates with someone there is a lot less time, energy, money and self invested in the relationship than when you have been married for twenty years and have a kid in college. When we talk about volition it refers to how much control we have over the break up. If we are unilaterally making the decision to leave, we have all the control. If our partner suddenly passes away in a car crash, we had zero control. These factors all affect our method of coping, and our approach to handling a break up.
Let’s take second to focus on the most impactful of these:
High Investment Low Volition:
This falls in to the category of the most devastating break ups of all. A highly invested relationship where you have little control over the outcome. In this scenario you don’t want the relationship to end, but you feel that there is nothing you can do to change your partners mind. Scenarios that fall into this category are:
- Your spouse leaves you and (or with) the kids.
- Your spouse passes away.
- Your fiance backs out on the wedding.
High Investment High Volition:
The second toughest scenario is when you are highly invested in the relationship but you feel that for whatever reason, there is reason to end it. The “justified cause” here will only play a role in making either of the two variables more or less relevant in your judgment. For example, in abusive relationships the investment value is reduced and the volition component increased due to the aggravating variable. Some basic scenarios:
- You leave your abusive spouse with (or without) the kids.
- You back out on a shotgun wedding.
- You leave a long standing financially rewarding relationship when you realize you are unhappy.
Although we try to be simple here, to give some blanket statement that would help is rather difficult. On thing that you might have noticed is that the higher the investment the tougher the situation. One key rule of thumb is: Make the call while you are least invested! This will make it less hurtful for everyone involved.
If we really want to help though, we need to explore specific situations which are common, yet tricky to navigate:
- Ending a Marriage
- Divorce Advice
- Letting Go
- The Rebound
- Mending a Broken Heart
If you are ending a relationship and you digest and incorporate what we have talked about here, especially the key rule, you will be doing the best anyone can do in these situations. Hopefully, you can both walk away feeling good about the past, and the future at once.