When to leave a relationship: How do I know it's over?

Should we break up?

The major relationship of my life up until now was really over for about a year before we ended it for good. The challenge is that we don't enter a marriage or long-term commitment with the plan of ending it. This is noble but sometimes this may work to our detriment.

I figured that come what may I was in it for the long haul. My man's infidelity was a deal breaker but I idealistically wanted to give our love a second chance to work. Then it hit me like a raw bloody punch filled with lies that it was time to pack my stilettos, laptop and pride. It was time to move on to a bright, shiny new life but I didn't want a stinking, shiny new life. I wanted my old cruddy, dysfunctional one with my lying, cheating partner. Or so I thought.

Fear of change was keeping me stuck. I took my vows seriously so to my destruction, I was holding up the progress of my life. It was not only time to move on, but time to move forward.

Most relationships go on long past their expiration date. People come into our lives for a reason, season or a time and when that time is up many of us are still unsure about when to move on. We feel guilt and even stigmas around ending a relationship. However, sometimes a relationship just times out.

So, how do you know that time is up?

Feelings of contempt

Contempt is defined as the feeling of disdain or disrespect. Contempt often stems from unresolved feelings of anger that then turn into resentment and contempt. This often results in feelings of disgust for the person who you previously loved.

When we are in love we make excuses for our partner and they make excuses for us. This is fine as every annoying behavior is not a calamity. When contempt seeps in to your love relationship you are in real trouble. This is not a switch you can turn off without real help.

If you feel contempt or disgust for your formerly beloved, it may be time to move on.

You can't forgive

As Mark Twain said, " Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it." We've spoken a great deal in this column about the importance of being able to forgive. It's not always easy. As I wrote in "How to forgive someone you love in 9 agonizing steps," none of us is perfect.

However if your partner has transgressions that you cannot move past, you should consider moving on. There is no point in staying together only to make them miserable and making yourself terribly sad as well. If you cannot forgive and you remain with your partner, I guarantee you that you are not only punishing you two but also everyone else around you.

Your relationship may be over if forgiveness is not an option.

The future looks bleak

When we are in love we imagine a fabulous future together. If your imagined future with the love of your life looks bleak, then you are not serving each other. We all go through rough times. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm saying that when you look at your life partner as a part of the misery that lies before you, something is wrong.

If you feel like you are imprisoned in a life with someone, just going through the motions or doing time, you should consider moving on.

Your needs don't match up

We're all different. That's what makes our romantic partnerships so exciting. It's a good thing to have different wants, needs and desires. However if your wants, needs and desires are at odds with what your partner wants, this is a serious breach.

Maybe you feel a calling to see the world and your partner just wants to settle down for the long haul. Perhaps you have differing levels of ambition or you want five kids and they don't. If your needs, wants and desires don't match, then it is time to move on.

We have to be willing to let go of what we have for what we might become. Take the leap. Go forward. Move on. You'll never look back. I know that I haven't.

Break ups suck, but staying stuck sucks even more.

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