For a dating relationship to be enjoyed, for it to thrive, for it to last, we need commitment. But what if it isn’t working, what if one person becomes selfish, how long do you wait and try to change things before it’s over? I think there are 3 rules which can help us to process some of the tricky situations we face. 

You know when you’re chatting to a group of friends and there’s nothing in particular you’re talking about, then one of them says something and you think, ‘hu, interesting.’

Well, this happened when one of my friends said, ‘I think you need to know when to walk away in a relationship for it to work.’

I was taken aback a bit and started to think about if this was true or not.

Part of me was thinking, well yeah. If a dating couple are making each other miserable, or if there is an extreme case like manipulation or abuse, then it needs to end.

I really think both of these principles are true

But the other part of me was like, but relationships take hard work, we can’t just walk away when it gets a bit tough or at the first argument or over something that requires some compromise.

Opposite, But Both True(?) 

I really think both of these principles are true.

We need to commit and work through the hard times and know dating isn’t always easy, it can be hard and confusing. When we remember that two imperfect people are coming together, it can help us to know that it won’t always be fun every single second. Compromise and hard work is part of it.

Having said that, if it isn’t working, and if two people just aren’t suited long-term, or the dating dynamics become toxic, then we need to be able to spot that it’s time to walk away.

What About Me?

But how do we apply these principles? Every situation is different. So how can we spot when it’s time to walk away in the best way possible? And how do we spot when the tough bits are just part of building an overall healthy and good relationship?

I want to offer three principles that can help us begin to process our unique situations, as individuals and as couples. Namely:

  • Drop The Transaction Mindset
  • Drain Vs Gain
  • Commitment Needs More

Drop The Transaction Mindset 

A transaction mindset sees the relationship like a vending machine. It says ‘I will put in “X” amount of time, energy, etc., and I want to get “X” in return’.

But relationships that thrive are about both being committed and selfless. When both people are putting each other’s needs first, and thinking about how to make it work, rather than what they are ‘owed’, it creates mutual flourishing, care, and enjoyment.

It’s easy to begin a relationship and think ‘what am I getting from this?’ rather than ‘what are we getting from this?’. But transaction mindsets lead to dating relationships that are selfish rather than selfless.

If they can’t see the problem, it may be a red flag

If the person we’re with is approaching the relationship like a transaction, and not evolving their thinking and being selfish, then the relationship can’t thrive. If they can’t see the problem, it may be a red flag. However, if you are both dropping the transaction mindset, then you have a better chance of working through issues together with this approach.  (Read What No One Tells You About Saying Sorry)

Drain Vs Gain

My friend also talked about the drain versus gain theory. ‘If we aren’t gaining from a relationship then we need to drop it’.

That worried me because I have had times in my life when I needed a lot of support from my friends, and/or wife, because I was having a tough time. They probably think I was very draining to them for long periods of time.

But there are times where the role has been reversed. Where I’m the one that is supporting and feels drained.

If we decided in that snapshot, in that precise moment, that we weren’t gaining enough then the relationship would end. Which is ridiculous. Any romantic or strong friendship involves up and downs. So we can’t just think short-term gain and drain.

Together we are able to work through the hard times

However, when we take a step back and reflect on our overall dating relationship, do we think we are gaining? Do we enjoy lots of joint victories and celebrate each other’s achievements? If it’s yes, then we probably should be committing more, realising together we are able to work through the hard times.

But when it’s draining overall, and it takes away too much over time, with constant setbacks in the relational dynamics, it may be a red flag. Relationships take hard work, but they should be enjoyable, respectful, and breed trust and faithfulness. If these things aren’t there, there is a problem.  (Read Warning: A Relationship Should Change Us, But Can’t Cure Us)

Commitment Needs More

Our culture says we can change our phone when we get bored, change our clothes and hairstyle, our social media pic, anything, easily and quickly. As a result, commitment is undervalued because it’s all about being new and getting the initial buzz.

A relationship may not work for many reasons, but without commitment it definitely won’t work

Commitment is often forgotten. If we go into a dating relationship thinking we will just leave as soon as this gets hard and go to something new then it will never work. It needs commitment and we need to chose to invest. Sadly, a relationship may not work for many reasons, but without commitment it definitely won’t work.

Knowing when we will walk away is key. But we need to go in knowing that commitment is vital in a culture that undermines it constantly. (Read 2 Strategies for Surviving The Changing World Of Dating).

Imagine If… 

Imagine if we had some principles to help guide us in the highs and lows of dating. To help us to be wise and spot when something is hard but is just a rough patch, or when something is hard because it may be time to walk away.

I hope remembering: Drop The Transaction Mindset, Drain Vs Gain, Commitment Needs More, will be able to help you.

Are these principles enough? Comments welcomed below.

Originally posted 17/9/2018