How to Avoid a Dead-End Relationship

by Dr. Neil Clark Warren, Clinical Psychologist and eHarmony Founder

How to Avoid a Dead-End Relationship

Do you know if your relationship is worth continuing? Wisdom in this arena involves a deep understanding of who you are and what you need from another person.

Being a wise dater also means recognizing when it’s time to end a relationship and move on. If both you and the person you’re dating agree that your relationship is casual, informal, and not likely to lead to anything serious, a decision about continuing to go out together is not critical. But if either of you is eager to avoid dead-end relationships and to find a lifelong partner, an early decision about whether to “continue the pursuit” becomes far more important.

A decision to stop dating someone is hard to make, but it should be made as early as possible. If a new relationship is likely to evolve in a negative direction, the earlier you can end it and move on, the better.

There are three reasons for this:

First, any developing relationship creates expectations and raises hopes, which contribute to a significant amount of emotional bonding. When a dating relationship goes on for very long, it often produces strong feelings. Should the relationship end, the person who holds these feelings will be deeply wounded. If a decision to discontinue a dating relationship is eventually going to be made, it is best to make it early on, before emotional ties grow to be advanced and complicated.

Second, a relationship that is going nowhere should be ended so both individuals can move on to better prospects. I have seen many relationships prolonged that should have ended far earlier—because the two people didn’t have the courage to stop the relationship when it was obviously heading toward stagnation. As time passes, these relationships become more and more difficult to terminate. They become like quicksand: the deeper you sink, the tougher it is to get out. Far too often, these difficulties are never corrected, and the couple ends up getting married. Many unhappily married couples have told me that they knew early in the relationship that it made no sense for them to continue, but they just couldn’t bring themselves to hurt the other person or to deny their own desperate desire to be married.

Third, ending a relationship sooner rather than later saves precious time. This is a vital issue for both men and women, particularly as age becomes a factor. I find that women are especially sensitive to wasting time and letting their biological clock tick. Why fritter away valuable weeks, months, or even years in a relationship that will end at some point anyway? It’s far better to move on in order to provide maximal opportunity to find someone who will offer you a long-lasting, inspiring relationship.

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