How do we know when to give up on a relationship?

By:Jessica Rosales
Photo by Sweet Ice Cream Photography on Unsplash

“Why are you giving up on us so soon?” my boyfriend asked me.

I was taken aback.

The thought of breaking up entered my mind long before we had this conversation. I had so many doubts about him and our relationship. He was impatient, belligerent, and refused to back down from a fight, even if he was the one at fault. He had a terrible temper that flared up at the smallest of provocations. And no matter how gently (i.e. non-aggressively) I touched on a problem or issue, it was almost always met with hostility — hostility that I didn’t deserve.

But I believed that with enough time and with enough effort, we could get past these issues. I loved him, after all. So I persevered.

I responded to his aggression with patience, and I countered his hostility with reason.

It wasn’t easy; it takes a lot of energy to be patient with someone who has wronged you yet refuses to acknowledge their faults.

This went on for months.

His aggression was slowly chipping away at me, but I remained hopeful he would change. And while I did see some improvements here and there, they were temporary and minor; they didn’t last and they never actually resolved the bigger issues. (Band-aids on bullet holes, if you will.)

My patience was running thin.

I no longer had the mental and emotional capacity to indulge his aggression. I raised my voice. I got angry. I fought back. And he could not, for the life of him, return the patience and understanding I had shown him all those times. It was then that I realized I was fighting an uphill battle all on my own.

Despite this, I couldn’t help but wonder: Could he still change? Could we still get this relationship to work? Maybe with a little more time and effort…

And then it hit me.

Time and time again, he pleaded for another chance — he promised he would change his ways, make amends, and do right by me. But time and time again, he did not deliver on those promises. We were stuck in a never-ending cycle of “second chances,” one that I perpetuated by granting him chances that he didn’t deserve. I felt like I was hanging onto the ledge of a building that was about to crumble down.

If he wanted the relationship to work out, things would have changed by then, but they didn’t.

The optimist in me believes that people can change — if they have a compelling reason to. And the masochist in me is willing to endure frustration and disappointment so long as there is a light at the end of the tunnel, however faint.

Could he have still changed for the sake of the relationship? Up until the very last moments preceding the breakup, I honestly wasn’t sure. I don’t think it’s possible to predict what someone is capable of doing when given a second chance — I still believed he could have changed.

But in the end, the breakup wasn’t based on probabilities and predictions of what could or what wouldn’t have happened. Ultimately, I decided that I had enough.

At my core, I knew that I had given it my all. And if that wasn’t enough, then at least I can move forward without any regrets.

Was I giving up too soon? In retrospect, I wonder why I hadn’t given up sooner.