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How Do I Know If I Ended a Relationship Well?

A client recently ask me this question. She was doubting the way she handled ending a relationship with a friend that was in constant need of her and not respecting her boundaries and time. As I thought about the question, another question came to my mind: Were my client’s actions in-line with her value-goals?

She said yes. She wanted to build reciprocal friendships and hadn’t been particularly successful at this in the past. The relationship she ended was one-sided and she was trying her best to break this pattern of energy-sucking relationships.

So why might have my client been questioning her view point? On reason is that it’s uncomfortable to hold a new boundary and try out a new behavior. Many times we have large aversions to trying things new, which really means: we hate being unsure or uncomfortable. We don’t like to be anxious, fearful, or sad and have become experts at avoiding these emotions.

Yet the only way to learn something new is to try it out. Sometimes we screw up and sometimes we do a great job, but many times we really underestimate the discomfort of doing something new. If it were easy to end relationships or pick really good ones, we would all be super happy and everyone that we hang out with would be our best friend.

Ha! I don’t know about you, but the last time I met a new person, I couldn’t foresee the future and I couldn’t immediately tell how close we would become. It takes time to get to know someone one, especially if we are going to truly like or dislike them and not just at a surface level (i.e. I love Tom’s shoes or I think Linda’s dog is not well behaved vs. I think Jonah’s level of mistrust in people is really dragging down our relationship).

There are many reasons to end relationships:
• They’ve served their purpose and are no longer needed;
• You’ve come to an impasse morally, philosophically, or behaviorally;
• There’s abuse in the relationship or it’s become toxic;
• You don’t like who you are around someone;
• And plenty of others.

The long and short of the primary question of this blog is a value goals check. Does the reason I am ending the relationship serve my greater life purpose and goals? Would I tell a close friend to end the relationship if they were in my shoes? If the answer is yes, then sounds like you are off to a good start.

Secondly, how do I feel about my actions while I was ending the relationship? Would I teach a small child to act in a similar way? These questions help clarify how to end the relationship and whether your social signaling was in-line with your value system.  If you didn’t do a great job this time, no sweat, you’ll have a life time to practice.

How Do I Know If I Ended a Relationship Well?

Hope Arnold

Hope is a Radically Open DBT Senior Clinician and 1-day trainer for Radically Open LTD organization. As a self identified overcontrolled person, she works to help her clients learn to relax, take themselves less seriously and be the person they want to be. Perfectionism, anxiety, rigidity, detailed focus, risk aversion and loneliness are some of the areas that overcontrolled people struggle to navigate. In her writing Hope uses humor and real life stories to help overcontrolled individuals make the changes that will bring happiness to their lives. Hope is licensed as a LCSW in Colorado, Texas, and Virginia. She has a private practice in Denver, Colorado.

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APA Reference
Arnold, H. (2019). How Do I Know If I Ended a Relationship Well?. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 10, 2020, from


Last updated: 23 Apr 2019
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