Pulling the Plug on Love

Jennifer Maerz

No relationship is perfect, but when yours becomes a source of pain rather than pleasure, it might be time to call it quits and move on. How can you tell when it's time to pull the plug? Read on.

The No-Brainer
When is it time to give back the Beck CDs and reclaim the red fuzzy sweater? If you're being physically or verbally abused, the relationship is over. There's no excuse for being slapped around or constantly put down by someone else, especially when that person is supposed to care for you.

You forgive the fact that he never calls because he plays in a cool band. She always cuts you down in front of your friends, but your family loves her. Sound familiar? Most people instinctively know when their relationship is over, but they make superficial excuses to stay together, says Laurie Schur, a licensed clinical social worker and associate at the Pacific Institute for Women's Health in Los Angeles, CA. "Pay attention to your intuition," says Schur, "Don't measure the relationship by external markers if it isn't working for you."

The Fight Club
Issues like religion, work ethics, and drug and alcohol use can make otherwise compatible couples feel like strangers over time.

Ruth, a 23-year old Web designer in San Francisco, CA, recently broke up with her boyfriend. "He's Christian and has a very strict idea of how people should live their lives," she explains. "I was raised Jewish. Over time, he started criticizing my religion, my ethical standards, and eventually my family. When he said we were all going to hell, I finally broke up with him," she says.

When do differences in lifestyle become irreconcilable? One sure sign is if they are the constant source of unresolved arguments. In a healthy relationship, mutual understanding should level out your differences, says Schur.

Me First
Schur stresses the importance of separating your personal needs from problems with the relationship. "It's a mistake to think, 'You're supposed to make me happy and fill all my needs,'" she says. Instead, focus on meeting your needs outside of the relationship. If you feel good about yourself (you're happy with your work or school, friends, and health) but your relationship is going nowhere, it's probably time to move on.

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