I think this question haunts everyone. How do you know when it’s time to walk away from something? And, it could be anything: a bad job, a relationship, friendship, project, literally ANYTHING. And, most importantly, how do you know when it’s OK and you aren’t just throwing in the towel early? That is what I wrestle with the most…am I NOT giving it a fair shot? Or, am I giving it TOO much of a fair shot?
I’m definitely guilty of letting a relationship last too long, letting a friendship cross boundaries too many times before I say something, and letting a job dictate my mental and emotional state. So, when I began thinking about this I decided to do a little research and see what else was out there about this topic, and am I the only one who struggles with the, “give it a better shot,” or “you’ve given it enough, time to walk away.” My little Google search resulted in a list of 17 things (I had a list of 20, but upon reviewing realized I was repeating some of them in just a different way – so, for the sake of making this list easier to digest, I eliminated them). I think these 17 things are little bits of information everyone should consider before making that big decision to throw in the towel and go a separate way.
17 things to consider when trying to make the decision to walk away:
- Think about the situation:
- What do I want to get out of this situation?
- What am I actually getting out of this situation?
- What am I investing into this/ what is this situation costing me?
- What will happen if I keep investing these things into this situation?
- What will happen if I stay? (best and worst case scenarios)
- What will happen if leave? (best and worst case scenarios) – I’m a big “list” person so this is literally the best place for me to start.
- Remember, walking away doesn’t make you weak: Walking away from something that doesn’t add value doesn’t make you weak – it actually is one of the bravest things you can do, and also means that you are decidedly a strong person. I am a very loyal person, and definitely almost to a fault. I’m also non confrontational and want everyone to always get along so, walking away can sometimes feel like I’m taking the easy way out. In reality, it’s harder to recognize it’s time to go, and then to actually do it – it makes you stronger.
- You’re probably the most attached: Often, the first person to walk away is the one who is most attached – true story! My five year relationship ended because I chose to walk away…and as a result I realized that I was more attached to the relationship than he was – he moved on quicker, and just in general seemed to mourn and move on fast than I did.
- Acceptance: You’re able to accept that things aren’t going to workout how you wanted. Wow, this is the hardest realization, and usually the one that is the saddest. I’ve had friends who I thought would be in my wedding someday, or my kids would call him/her uncle/auntie so-and-so, and had to come to the realization that that probably wasn’t going to happen. It’s a really sad feeling, but also the quickest way to come to terms with it and move on.
- Before it gets worse: You know to walk away before things get worse. Often this is the hardest decision to make because quite frankly, you generally can’t imagine it getting any worse…until it does. And, when it does – you gotta pack your shit and run!
- Your gut! If your gut, or intuition, or whatever it may be, tells you that something feels off, it probably is. Really folks, our instincts are our best bullshit detectors.
- Going with the flow: Going through the motions instead of reaching the next level of the relationship, friendship or career. How many of us have found ourselves just going through the motions at work? You might be doing a great job and everyone is happy with your work performance, but it’s just easy, and almost takes no extra energy or thought so you just kinda stick with it? Yep, if you’re just going with the flow, you’re never going to get that promotion or find motivation to take that next step in your career, or the next step in your relationship.
- Loneliness: You feel lonely, even while in that relationship or friendship, or feel unsatisfied despite working hard at that job. If you have someone who loves you, wants to spend time with you, but you’re still feeling lonely – you are not happy and nothing should come at the cost of your happiness. Leave!
- No respect: I mean, this is for anything really. If there’s no respect, nothing else is really left. Walk away! And I would elaborate here, but everyone’s definition of “respect” is different so I’ll just let you interpret that in the way that works best for you.
- Desire for a change: The want and need to walk away should come from the desire to change something, not out of fear. I don’t think you are making a confident and well thought out decision when you’re doing it out of fear.
- Convenience or desire? Is the friendship, relationship or job more about convenience than desire? Are you staying in that relationship because you live together and have really good rent? Are you staying friends with that person because you’ve known them since you were 12 and have mutual friends so it just makes things easier? These aren’t good reasons to stay in that situation, though when trying to rationalize the choice to go, these will weigh heavily on your mind.
- Does the situation cause anxiety? I don’t particularly like this one but it’s so true, and maybe that’s why I don’t like it much. But, if someone’s presence puts your anxiety level through the roof, but you spend time with them anyway because you feel obligated, it’s time to go!
- Priorities folks! When you’re an option, not a priority. I, not so long ago, had someone who was trying very hard to get back into my life. I had a weak spot for him, cared about him a lot, and boy did he know the right things to say. My issue, and why we were no longer together, was that I was never a priority. Not ever, not once. So, while trying to get back into my good graces he promptly said, “I want to make this work, and I’ll start by putting you first and making you a priority.” Lasted a week folks…one week. But, I also knew it wouldn’t last long so I wasn’t as disappointed as I could have been. So, walking away was very easy.
- Are you still having fun? When it’s more work than fun. If everything is a drain and you’re not finding anything even remotely entertaining or fun about your relationship, friendship or job, then it’s definitely time to go. Nothing is worth your happiness. Wait, haven’t I already said that once in this list?
- Is it abusive? When abusive behaviors prevail – or continue. Look, I’m not one of those lucky people who can say that they’ve never been in an abusive relationship – or even friendship. It’s a little harder to identify in a friendship, but if your friend says mean things to you, it’s verbally abusive folks. However, it is often easier to identify abuse in your romantic relationships. But, it can take a while to come around to the reality of it all and actually decide to leave because of it. Inevitably what happens is the abuse becomes more and more frequent and more and more vicious. I wasn’t physically abused, but I was told some really awful things over and over, and they got increasingly hurtful until I worried it might get physical, upon which I left for good. But despite that, it was still one of the hardest decisions I’ve made (crazy, right?).
- The good old pros and cons list: Do the cons outweigh the pros? I mentioned that I love lists, and the pros and cons list is no exception. I mean, it’s not going to give you a definitive yes or no about walking away, but it will give you some serious things to think about. When everything is laid out there in front of you it’s hard to hide from it.
- What’s the best way to walk away? This is so important. You definitely don’t want to leave out of anger. Believe me, I know that in the moment there is nothing that would feel better than to do the most dramatic walk-out ever seen, but you will inevitably second guess yourself for a really long time. Did I get too worked up and just react? Did I not give myself time to think about it before I just flew off the handle? It’s just best to wait until you’re not so angry so that when you do walk out you are confident you are making the right decision. I even think that walking away sad instead of angry is better, because if you’re anything like me, once you’ve worked through the anger, you’ve probably moved into sadness, and eventually you’re moving into acceptance and ultimately moving on with your life.
I realized while writing this that I too still have relationships that I should be considering for this list, but ultimately you come to the decision in your own time. For some, you decide to end things confidently and swiftly, for others it takes time. For example, I give the benefit of the doubt and chance after chance, but when I’m done…I’m really done. There is no going back ever at any point once I’ve truly decided to walk away. Some folks may walk away and then years down the road decide to give that person a second chance. I don’t operate that way, and some may say that isn’t good either. But, whatever it is or how you’re feeling, I hope this list helps you realize that walking away is never easy, and can cause fear and anxiety because of the unknown, but know that it’s the bravest thing a person can do.