Unless you’re Mitt Romney or Donald Trump, firing people is an unpleasant task. There’s nothing fun about telling someone to hit the road. But if you are in an unfulfilling love relationship, and you can’t let go, why are you allowing yourself to be held hostage?

Yes, I know people are creatures of habit and old habits die hard. I meet a lot of people who are unhappy in their relationships, with their jobs, or even with where they live.  Apparently, it’s easier for most to wallow around in a bad situation and complain than to be proactive and do something about it. We all know we can’t change other people, but oh how we will try. The reality is: All we have control over is our own thoughts, perceptions, and actions. So if you are doing a dance and not enjoying it, why are you still dancing?

Unfortunately, we live in a society where people wait until things become unbearable or they are absolutely miserable before they are motivated to make a change. Our TV shows, books, films, and even music still perpetuate the ‘happily-ever-after’ fairy-tale romance or terribly tragic endings. But life does not have to imitate art. There is a lot of gray area in between, and you can leave a relationship that’s gone from nourishing to toxic with love and grace instead of drama. Okay, breaking up is hard to do, I’ll admit, especially when you still love someone. I’m sure you still love your parents, but eventually you left home didn’t you? If you didn’t you should probably stop reading here.

Contrary to what most popular religions have taught us, we are not put here to suffer because some silly bitch picked an apple off the wrong tree thousands of years ago. Life is meant to be enjoyed and we are each responsible for our own happiness. I’m not suggesting you randomly kick your lover or spouse to the curb every time the going gets rough – no relationship is without its challenges – but if you’re miserable more often than you’re happy, it’s time to change something.

So how do you know when it’s time to move on? This is the method I use: When I start to feel bad or unsettled too much of the time, I start keeping track of the happy days and the not so happy days. Unhappy days might consist of crying when you go to bed, crying when you wake up, sleeplessness, an inability to get out of bed, cutting yourself off from society, watching too much TV, eating bad food, not eating at all, listening to too many sappy love songs that make you want to cry or puke, drinking too much; I could go on, but you get the point. When the not so happy days outweigh the happy days, I start making lists of what’s good and what isn’t. If the good is good enough to fight for and it outweighs the bad, perhaps I can change my expectations or communicate differently.  I ask myself, ‘Do I have unrealistic expectations of this person based on what I know or don’t know about them?’  ‘Have I communicated my needs clearly and honestly to this person?’ If I have appropriate expectations and have communicated clearly, but I’m still not happy, the next step is to change my actions and reactions. It’s like changing the dance steps.  If my partner is as vested as I in continuing the dance, he may notice that I’m done waltzing and prefer to tango, and he’ll follow my lead. The bottom line is that if I take responsibility for my own happiness, I can’t blame anyone else if I keep doing the same dance even though it’s not fun anymore. It’s about making healthy choices, loving yourself, and self-preservation.

Here’s the deal. You came into this world alone, you’re going out alone. You don’t have to spend your entire life alone, but if you don’t love yourself and care for yourself, who’s going to do it for you? The relationships that are most likely to succeed are formed when two healthy people unite. Two halves do not necessarily make a whole; they might just make two disjointed halves. Become a whole person first, and you will attract another whole person. Imagine what can happen when two whole people bond and take on the world together. It’s like having superpowers.

If you decide to leave, avoid playing the blame game or telling your friends about the monster you just dumped. It may make you feel better for a moment, but it does you no good in the long haul. There were reasons why you were attracted to this person and why the relationship worked. As time goes by, we learn more about our compatibilities and incompatibilities. People grow, change, and evolve, as do circumstances. Look back on your experience and learn from it. Look at your lists of the good, the bad, and the ugly, and use them to attract the right person and situation. We need to be clear about what we don’t want in life to know what we do want. There are no failures, only lessons. Endings are a part of life and with every ending comes a new beginning. Just look at a forest that has had thousands of mature trees wiped out by a fire, and observe the flora and fauna that emerges beneath the ashes just one year later. It’s a beautiful sight.

To summarize, I’ll use this analogy: You might have a mild toothache and know the tooth needs to be pulled. You could ignore the problem and wait until it becomes abscessed, and then pay the price in cash and pain for an emergency extraction.  You may dread going to the dentist and you know it’s going to be painful to have the tooth pulled now, but you will feel SO much better once it’s out of there. Yeah, you’ll have a gaping hole in your mouth where the tooth used to be and you may not be able to really enjoy eating for awhile, but in time it will heal. And before you know it, you’ll be back at the table ready for a feast, but this time it will consist of all of your favorite foods.