When Enough is Enough Part 1: The Relationship on Probation

This 3 part series shows how to deal with a partner who can't or won't commit

Posted Feb 17, 2019

Luis Fernandes/Pexels
enough is enough
Source: Luis Fernandes/Pexels

The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.

-G. K. Chesterton

Have you ever wondered how to deal with a partner who can't or won't commit? Or perhaps you feel that the relationship is stagnating—so much so that you want to leave. In fact, maybe you've thought a lot about ending it.

Perhaps you had several heart-to-heart talks with your partner and gave him or her a heads-up that the relationship was coming to an end. But maybe it had no real impact. Perhaps he/she stonewalled, became overly defensive, or more distant.  If you are in this position, there is a way to take a stand that both protects you from further pain and maximizes the possibility of your partner realizing how much you really mean.

When Enough is Enough: A Three Part Series

In this three part series, we'll deal with how you can deal with a relationship that seems to be stagnating and not fulfilling. In Part 1, we'll look at some key signs that indicate that it may be time to take what I've called a cost-of-loss-stand. In Part 2, we'll describe how to bring up the issues that you're struggling with without blaming your partner. And some actions that clearly show that you are fully committed to leaving. Finally, in part 3, we'll consider what happens if your partner rises to the occasion or simply gets angry or gives up.

Part I: Putting your Relationship on Probation.

First, some background. Research shows that healthy spouses are realistic in considering the costs of losing their relationship. First is the major cost of a broken heart: the emotional, psychological, and physical pain of loss. There's also the high stress, depressive spiral, aches and pains, sleeplessness, appetite problems, loss of motivation, and other negative changes in brain chemistry that separation or rejection create. Even the immune system goes downhill.

Second for married couples, there are the economic and other real costs, including a lower standard of living and loss of time with the children. Many researchers believe that these exit costs serve as barriers to separation and therefore are major underpinnings of stability.

But healthy partners do not stay together simply out of fear or need. They have the emotional strength and self-confidence to leave each other, which creates mutual respect. These traits serve as reminders that loss could really occur, and that frightening possibility tends to keep the partners on their toes. Both know that they cannot get away with repeated disrespectful, thoughtless, meanness, or cold treatment of the other. In short, they do not take each other for granted.

While research has focused on how married couples view and use the costs of loss to promote better conduct and stability, the same may also hold true for longer-term unmarrieds. Being able to look ahead and assess the harsh realities a breakup would bring can help a couple to work through issues that inevitably erupt. Considering the cost of loss also helps them appreciate what they have in each other. I have seen this dynamic work beautifully in couples who have been together for a year or more who are not married. A cost-of-loss stand that shows your Beloved what life will be like without you can be the most powerful step to take when your relationship is draining, painful, and unfulfilling. This stand can propel your partner forward and help him break through his commitment fears.

When to Take a Cost-of-Loss Stand

The following thirteen markers indicate that it may be time to help your Beloved experience the cost of loss:

1. You have been seriously involved and in love with someone for a year or more, only to find that, while you are ready, he simply cannot or will not take that next step into living together or marriage.

2. Your partner does not respond to direct requests to fulfill your most important needs.

3. He does not change his behavior when you have The Talk, use Positive Paranoia, or put the relationship on probation.

4. You feel depressed or beaten down, and your self-esteem has taken a hit from being with this person.

5. You are embarrassed about being with him when he has given you so little for so long.

6. He has become emotionally distant and/or stops having sex with you.

7. He says he "just wants to be friends."

8. He says he doesn't love you.

9. You have "had it" and have been ready to leave multiple times.

10. You fight all the time.

11. He is verbally abusive toward you.

12. He cheats.

13. He says he's leaving you. You should seize control, protect yourself and any personal assets or credit cards, and do the leaving yourself.

The last six (bold) markers are definite indicators that the relationship is in its last days. Therefore, it's time for you to take a stand because in reality you have nothing to lose, except your dignity, your self-respect, and your precious, precious time. I know that you are probably afraid to confront him. Maybe you even feel terror or dread. Facing loss is one of the hardest things we ever do. So it is important to lay the foundation emotionally to give yourself motivation, determination, and the courage to move forward.


Do not take a Cost-of-Loss-Stand if you are in a potentially violent or physically abusive relationship. Or where there is alcohol and/or substance abuse. It could be very dangerous and your safety is of primary concern! For recommendations on how to handle this type of situation, see the Cautions section in my book, Sealing the Deal: The Love Mentor's Guide to Lasting Love. I devote considerable time there to help ensure your safety (and that of your children) if you're dealing with a violent partner.


Watch for Part II of When Enough is Enough