I was with my previous partner for seven years, the last four of which weren’t happy for me. I wasn’t really in love with him any more. I became aggravated by little things that I used to find endearing and wished he was a lot of things he wasn’t.
Three years into our relationship, and despite my niggling reservations, we emigrated to Australia.
We brought our second house together and embarked on our new life. I was convinced this exciting move would help fill the relationship cracks and result in a “happy ever after”. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t.
No matter how many home renovation projects I took on to distract myself, no matter how many social outings I threw myself into and no matter how much I tried to be happy, I still wasn’t.
The international move was just a distraction from facing the glaring truth of my crumbling relationship. I quickly learnt that personal baggage travels, too.
So, why did I stay so long?
I stayed because it was both convenient and scary. Convenient to stick with what I knew and within my comfort zone. Scary to be alone in what was, at the time, a foreign country, with no family or friends. We’d been together since I was 19, so it felt like he was all I’d ever known.
Yet I consider myself to be a very independent and tenacious woman. When I want something, I generally get it, whether it be through persistence or hard work, and I don’t feel I need a man to be “whole”.
I’m capable of doing things for myself. I’m not scared to fight my own battles, and I don’t need to hold someone else’s hand to be heard. But, walking away from that dead-end relationship felt so hard. So, like thousands of other women, I stayed.
But why do we do it?
“It’s far more likely for women to be unsatisfied in a relationship than men, but I think women often stay because they see ‘potential’ for the relationship and hope things will change,” says relationship therapist, Isiah McKimmie.
“As successful women, they know that, with enough effort, they can make everything else in their life succeed, so think their relationship is the same. If they just put enough effort in, it will become what they want.”
But it’s not this alone that holds women back from leaving dead-end relationships. McKimmie notes that women are also very aware of their biological clock ticking. If they’ve already invested substantial time in a relationship, they don’t necessarily want to have to start again.
Sadly, for other women it comes down to low self-esteem.
“I think a lot of women don’t believe they deserve to have a relationship that is everything they’ve wanted, despite being independent and strong in so many other ways,” McKimmie says.
“Depending on circumstances, these women may decide to end a relationship after a few months, but for others is can be years.”
The signs that your relationship may be heading down a dead-end road will be different for everyone. But while it’s normal for relationships to fluctuate in intimacy, happiness and passion, when these things have gone missing, it’s time to start asking questions.
McKimmie advises thinking about whether your partner is willing to commit or take the relationship to the next level, if they’re making you a priority in their life, and if they’re still meeting your needs in terms of communication and intimacy.
If the answer is no, you may want to reassess your future.
“The best time to end a relationship will be different for everyone,” he says. “Sometimes it’s important that we know we’ve done everything we could to make it work, and sometimes in hindsight, we wish we’d left a lot sooner.
“When you’re ending a relationship, be clear and honest and explain that this just isn’t what you want. Remember that you deserve a happy, loving relationship and know that you’ll find it.”
I can certainly vouch for this. One year after my break up, I fell into a happy and loving relationship with someone who ticked all the boxes. The fact that he was tall, dark and handsome was a plus.
Riding along the pathway of love with him for the past 12 years, there have been lots of twists and turns and definitely a few highs and lows. But one thing we’ve never had to face is a dead end. I’m hoping it will stay that way for the continuing journey ahead.