Do you leave relationships too quickly? Take the quiz to find out.
In the case of longer relationships, you may feel that either you or your partner has changed over time and that your partnership isn’t fulfilling the same role it once was. In some cases, this is something that you may be able to adapt to together - but in others, this isn’t always possible.
Or, if there’s been lots and lots of conflict, perhaps things simply feel different now - that, with so much water under the bridge, the relationship doesn’t hold the same place in your mind.
However, in some cases, we may also be tempted to give up on a relationship before really giving it a chance.
We may feel that the effort of trying is going to be too great - or even that the fact we have to try indicates there’s something wrong here. We may be put off by early indicators of conflict or incompatibility - and worry that this is a sign of things to come. The temptation can be: get out unless you’re dead certain because you should ‘know’ from the start.
And while this is understandable, it can also mean not pursuing things properly. While we should try to find relationships that are likely to succeed and aren’t going to cause unnecessary conflict or pain, it’s also important to give new partnerships a real chance - or risk missing out on something that could work for both of you.
What does it mean to ‘give things a try’?
Being too ‘quick’ to leave a relationship isn’t necessarily about the amount of time you invest in it - sometimes, it’s about the amount of energy and attention.
Giving a relationship a proper try is about working towards a genuine understanding of the other person. It means focusing on the positive and being open to who they are, not overly focussing on potential points of incompatibility or conflict, or using a ‘checklist’ of conditions to see if they fit into every category you’re looking for.
It may be that you feel you’ve got the answer before you even begin. Sometimes, we simply ‘feel’ a certain way - and might be tempted to follow that instinct, believing it to be an indicator of how things are going to go. But - no matter how much we might believe the opposite - we can’t always tell the outcome of a relationship within its first stages. It can take a while before we’re able to truly get to know someone. How they seem when we’re first getting to know them may be different from who they truly are - it can take patience, understanding, and trust before our true personalities begin to unfurl.
Likewise, if you've become worried by signs of conflict, it may be that you need to accept that some degree of difference or disagreement is going to be a part of any relationship - and, indeed, can be a healthy or even useful thing; it can mean a real engagement with that person as you tussle with ideas. Being able to openly express differences is a crucial part of coming to a proper understanding of one another and often it’s the relationships that have faced and endured real difficulties that end up being the strongest.
Why might someone give up on a relationship too soon?
There are many reasons why someone might get into this pattern of behaviour.
You may have insecurities about long-term commitment - and find the idea difficult or scary. You may have grown up in an environment where you learnt about the more difficult side of commitment - witnessing your parent's divorce, for instance, or the breakdown of a family relationship. You may have been in a romantic relationship where you were badly hurt, and consciously or subconsciously want to avoid allowing this to happen again.
Arguably, cultural trends at the moment don’t do much to encourage the idea of giving things a go or enduring relationship difficulties. Whereas in previous decades there was often a sense of shame associated with giving up on a relationship too soon, in some ways things have now swung towards the opposite. Nowadays, instant gratification carries a lot of cultural worth - and online dating can give us the feeling that there’s an infinite number of potential partners out there, available at the click of a button. Many people who have engaged with the ups and downs of online dating report feeling jaded and cynical as they describe the lack of authenticity or ‘same old, same old’ circumstances of feeling that it’s all very disposable somehow. For many of us, the temptation can be to simply drop things when they get tough, believing that we can always find someone else.
But one of the consequences of getting into this pattern of behaviour is that it can simply be repeated. We often take ideas from previous relationships into new ones. If we repeat these behaviours enough, they can become patterns. So, in the case of never quite giving relationships a chance, we may end up never getting to the point where we truly have to engage: instead, skimming along the surface, going from partner to partner without getting a proper idea of any of them.
What should you do?
Simply? Try to give things a real ‘go’. This may sound fairly cliched and easier said than done, but it really is the key to giving both you and any potential partner the chance to really understand one another.
A lot of this is to do with trying to be more open, communicative and honest. Although this can be a little harder, sometimes more frustrating and will definitely involve being more vulnerable, it can also mean really getting an understanding of who each other is and whether your relationship might work in the longer term.
Similarly, for relationships to be successful we often do things because they mean something to the other person, not because we want to, but because it matters to them. This builds trust and goodwill.
How can you make this shift? There’s no simple answer. It might be a case of giving the relationship more time and energy before getting into the mindset of ‘making decisions’ or figuring out what’s going to happen ‘next’. You might simply set a rule: I’m not going to try and make any decision until I really feel confident I can make them properly. This might mean making practical efforts to find out more about your partner: having proper conversations, asking lots of questions, or doing things together that allow you to see different sides of your personality. It also means being more open to yourself: allowing them to see the real you.
It’s also important not to shy away from or be put off by conflict. Part of being open is being willing to acknowledge and accept differences - either by shrugging them off if they’re not really all that important or by talking about them if you think they could create tension. Read our communication tips if you’d like some help with this.
Being open means taking a risk: it means being willing to risk being hurt - and it can mean risking hurting. It can also mean being willing to invest time in something that doesn’t work out anyway. But even if, having properly got to know each other, the answer is still ‘no’ - this is at least an answer you’ve reached having gathered all the information needed to get there.
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