You’ve been in a relationship for a couple of years and things are OK. You’re comfortable with each other. When you really think about it, it’s more of a functional relationship than one characterized by passion and fulfillment. You don’t hate each other, but you’re not running home after work either. You’ve basically become roommates and it works for you — until you meet someone who turns your world upside down. What should you do if you’re in a committed relationship, but you fall hard for someone else?
Don’t feel guilty. We’re here to tell you there are times when it’s perfectly OK to follow your heart. Here are seven totally legitimate reasons to leave your partner for someone else.
If you didn’t pursue this person, you’d regret it for the rest of your life
There are some people you meet who give you the feeling you were meant to be together. Even if the timing is bad, everything within you knows this is the right person for you.
Bonnie Ware, an author and former palliative care nurse, said one thing that struck her about working with patients just a few months away from death was they had lived a life full of regret. One of the top regrets her patients had was they didn’t have the courage to live a life true to themselves. Instead, they chose to live a life that others expected them to live. Learn from her patients and have the courage to live without regret when it comes to your life and your relationships.
Your current relationship just doesn’t work for you anymore
You only have one life; don’t stay in a relationship that isn’t meeting your needs. If you’ve tried to work things out but you and your current partner still aren’t seeing eye-to-eye, it’s time to say good-bye.
Dr. Wyatt Fisher, a Colorado-based marriage counselor in private practice, told The Cheat Sheet the best course of action is to end the current relationship and then take a break from dating before moving on with someone else. “If you feel you have tried your best to improve the relationship but it still isn’t a good match then it’s probably time to end it. However, give yourself three to six months without any relationships to ensure you’re learning from the previous relationship and not jumping right into a new one as a rebound,” said Fisher.
You’ve carefully weighed the pros and cons
If you’ve taken time to weigh the pros and cons of staying versus leaving for someone else, and it becomes clear you’re better off leaving, it might be time to make a move.
According to relationship expert and chief editor of Flirt.com, Alex Reddle:
You need to give some serious thought about what you would have to lose by staying in your current relationship, compared to what you would lose if you decided you didn’t want to swap partners and your soulmate slipped from your life. If you’re under the impression that you’ve met your soulmate, consider the aspects of this new relationships that make you think this way. If you feel there are strong and reciprocal feelings, then you shouldn’t be swayed by any sentimental attachments and go for it.
It’s obvious you and the new person are a good match
One reason you might be thinking about leaving is that you and your current partner are moving in opposite directions. Perhaps you have different life goals or very different values. If the person you are considering starting a relationship with wants the same things in life, you’re off to a good start. Dr. Fisher said one sign someone is right for you is if your goals and values align.
“You can usually tell the new partner isn’t a rebound relationship if they possess qualities you’ve always desired in a person and they share your same core values. Couples who have the most in common tend to last the longest,” said Fisher.
You’re no longer in love
There’s a difference between caring for your partner and being in love. You might care for your partner and wish him or her the best, but that’s not enough to sustain a fulfilling relationship. If you’re truly not in love anymore, it’s time to face reality and stop holding on to the relationship out of guilt, fear, or sentimental feelings.
If you’re married and have children, deciding whether to leave or go can become a lot more complicated. Relationship expert April Masini had this to say, “If you’re in a troubled marriage or relationship, and you were already looking for an exit door, staying in the bad marriage is worse for the kids than leaving would be, consider this potential soulmate as a partner.”
You’ve had an opportunity to get to know the new person
The difference between a rebound relationship and true love is that a rebound is usually based on fantasy. You may not know much about the new person, so you fantasize and fill in the blanks about what a relationship with him or her would be like. However, if you’ve had a chance to know the person you are considering a relationship with, chances are it’s more than just a passing infatuation.
“If you are drawn to someone you have been close to for a long time, you will have had more of a chance to connect with the ‘real’ person as oppose to your fantasy. Bonds that have stood the test of time are often the ones that are less likely to be rebounds and more likely to be authentic and fulfilling relationships,” said Daniel Sher, a clinical psychologist and consultant for Between Us clinic.
Making sure the new relationship has staying power
Once you have decided to take a step forward and leave your partner for someone else, the real work begins. With patience, understanding, and work, you and your new partner can have staying power. Here are some ways to make sure it lasts:
Take things slow. Psychotherapist and relationship expert Keba Richmond-Green said it’s important to move slowly. Rushing ahead with your new relationship can crash and burn. “Take time to get to know the person before you become intimate. When sex enters any relationship the dynamics of the relationship change. Lines often get blurred and we see things from different perspectives and motives. Women and Men both view sex differently. Make sure this is where you want to be before getting physically involved,” said Richmond-Green.
Maintain the relationship. Keep doing the things that made you fall in the love in the first place. Don’t get so comfortable that you stop trying to make each other happy. “To nurture the new relationship, avoid the mistakes that led to the first relationship crumbling. It’s easy to get used to your partner, and stop doing the things that matter. Mindfully work on making the new relationship better,” said David Bennett, counselor and co-founder of The Popular Man.
Forgive yourself. At the end of the day, you have to do what’s best for you. If you’ve been feeling guilty or sad, it’s time to forgive yourself and start living your life, said Richmond- Green. “It is very possible that someone or several people were hurt in your decision. Own up to your role in the situation, take responsibility, [but] forgive yourself … make a conscious decision to be the best person you can be for your new partner and yourself,” said Richmond-Green.
Follow Sheiresa on Twitter @SheiresaNgo.