I was 21 years old the first time I had to accept total and absolute failure.
I was living in a home on the edge of town with my high school sweetheart. We were talking about marriage and big futures when it all broke down. In the end, he left with my childhood best friend and I left with a shattered heart.
That was the first time I had to accept that some relationships simply cannot work out.
From head-to-toe, my childish love and I had too many problems to solve, and neither one of us had the skills (or the desire) to solve them. The relationship was never going to work.
So, in the end, I had to accept my thousands of little failures wrapped up in one horrendous package. Then I had to move on.
The relationship problems you can’t solve.
The fact of the matter is that you just can’t solve some issues that crop in our relationships. That’s especially true in our partnerships formed in bad faith and worse patterns.
And unhealthy relationships will never thrive. Just like planting a garden on salted earth, nothing will ever have enough depth to take root.
A partnership with no faithfulness, no respect, mountains of danger, and ego-based divides will always bring chaos and conflict. So accept it. These relationship problems can’t be solved, no matter how much you love the other person.
Total lack of faithfulness
Does your partner have a habit of being unfaithful? Once or twice, you may be able to excuse this behavior. You may even be able to point to a fixable failure in your partnership. When they keep breaking the bond, though? You’ve got bigger issues to face.
A partner who can’t be faithful can’t be faithful. The endless infidelity is not some sign of your failure. It’s a sign of who they are (and are not) as a person.
They’re not staying faithful to you because they don’t want to. These affairs happen over and over again because there’s a hole inside of them they haven’t been able to fill on their own.
If they can’t fill themselves up, you can’t add anything more to their lives. They will continue to stray and continue to search for that green grass on the other side of every partnership.
You can’t fix that for them. So stop breaking your own heart.
Like it or not, a lot of us have ended up in relationships with narcissistic people who destroy our sense of self and happiness. Why would we settle for that? Because we fall in love with the potential of the narcissist who keeps hurting us.
There’s no fixing a narcissist, though. There’s no trusting them or loving them into being kinder and more empathetic to us.
If you are stuck in a system of narc abuse with a narcissist, then you have to prioritize and protect yourself. The only safe way to do this is by cutting ties and accepting that you can neither change them nor the way they see you.
Willingness to harm
Does your partner show a willingness to harm you mentally, emotionally, or physically? There’s no calling this anything but what it is: abuse. And there’s only one thing that we can accept about the abusive partner or spouse.
They choose to hurt you. They choose to do things that cause you fear and that traumatize you. They are entirely aware of their behavior, and they do it because they have learned that they can.
You will not fix them. Whether or not they are a narcissist, there’s no changing who they choose to be every time they lay a hand on you or demean, dismiss, and belittle you.
A person who will harm you is a person who is not willing to stay in your life. Get yourself out in the safest way possible and cut ties entirely with them.
The big family question
One of the biggest relationship issues couples have time-and-time again is that of family. It makes sense. It’s a central question, and one that a lot of people build their entire lives around.
Where do you and your partner stand on the issues of starting a family?
Do you want to be a parent?
Both of you need to be honest and put all the cards on the table. Do they want kids but you don’t? Do you want an enormous family, but they’re uncertain about what they want to do with themselves for the next 20 years?
You cannot change their mind. And you should never change yours for someone else. Having children is a major life decision, and it’s one that has to be made for those same children (more than yourself).
If you can’t agree on this issue, then it’s an issue that can’t be fixed. Neither of you can afford to make the wrong choice, so know yourself and be brutally honest about what it means for your future.
What kind of ideals do you live by? How do you balance your beliefs and your values in your life? These core ideals are the way by which we guide the course of our lives. That means they affect our relationships and the way we interact with one another, too.
You and your partner need to have the same ideals. Both of you should be moving through the world with the same levels of integrity and sense of self.
When we don’t have aligned ideals, we end up resenting one another and clashing in conflict each time values are brought into question.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you will mold your partner into your reflection of integrity or idealism, either. You won’t. They either see things in a similar way, or they don’t. Accept it and move on.
How do you and your partner see the world as a whole? Do you see the world in entirely different ways? Or do you have the same take on things like lifestyle, the state of the world, or even politics?
When we have totally opposing views of the world, it can actually work against our love and create resentment, oppositional thinking, and a lack of trust.
As a woman, it’s hard to lay next to someone who doesn’t view you as a fully autonomous person. Likewise, it would be hard to trust someone who saw the world in a violent or expendable way.
We should see the world in complementary hues. No, you don’t need to see everything the same, but you should have similar ideologies that inform your beliefs, behaviors, and the way in which you lead your lives together.
Letting go of the wrong relationship with grace…
So what is there to be done when the issues can’t be solved? How do we handle a relationship that’s come to a crossroads we don’t want to cross? There’s only one option: handle the ending with grace.
If there’s nothing left to be done, there’s nothing left to do but walk away.
There’s no point in wasting your time with someone who has proven that they aren’t interested in changing. You shouldn’t settle for someone who is committed to making you unhappy for the sake of their happiness.
Partners who can’t be faithful, partners who abuse you, who refuse to make space for you — they aren’t people who genuinely want to be in your life.
Someone out there does. There is someone out there who wants to love you and be loved by you authentically, just as you are right now.
That person can’t enter your life until you make physical and emotional room for them to do so. Choose a better life for both you and your partner. Let go in kindness, grace, and compassion. Separate your life from them in the name of a better future.
© E.B. Johnson 2023