When is it time to throw in the towel? Knowing when to give up is an important life skill to master. You don’t want to be that sixty-year-old fourth-time divorcé hitting on young blondes at a nightclub. And you certainly don’t want to look like this. To stay true to yourself — not to mention to prevent looking like a total ass — it’s important to know when it’s time to cut your losses and fold.
For most things in life, a social timer outside of our control notifies us when to hit the road. Here’s an example. You find yourself hitting snooze for a 1pm seminar at Brown. The professor sucks, the lectures are boring. Yet you stay registered until the end of the semester. Someone else has set a date for exams, and so most likely, you just go with it and wait it out until the end.
But for matters of love and sex, there is no referee to guide us on when to call a time-out or game over. Often, it’s not a simple answer. When I get together with a guy, it’s because he has qualities that I find attractive – a great sense of humor, a caring demeanor, or sometimes, just a big dick. So breaking it off can be tough – even if it’s not going great, there are usually a handful of reasons that invite me to stay.
When I’m torn about when to pack my bags, I’ve learned to simply sit and listen. I do not turn to the rational to make my decision. Instead, I follow the nagging voice in my head.
Take the story of Parker, my lover last Fall. Generous in bed. Came over my dorm three nights a week. Things were going well. Until I went to reach for his hand. We had been walking to the Avon to catch a Friday night movie. And as our fingers interlaced, I could sense him tensing up. It bothered me. I heard this voice inside of me, begging me to leave.
When I told Parker that it was over, he didn’t understand. “But, we were having such a fun time. And I don’t think I ever mistreated you. I don’t get it.”
At the time, I didn’t get it, either. I could find no rational explanation. The pros outweighed the cons. But I chose to listen to my intuition that told me to leave. And now I realize what it was telling me: not being mistreated and being treated well are two totally different things.
My voice helped me fill in the missing pieces. From the outside, things looked good. But from the inside, something – maybe his robotic nature, his immaturity, or his ingratitude – told me that I’d be better off looking elsewhere. And I was! Because I let Parker go, it opened up room for someone new. Daniel, an international student from Mexico, was one of those rare, passionate breeds you can only find overseas. It was on our very first date that Daniel went to grab my hand. He was like Parker – sexy and fun – but was sweeter and treated me better. I thank my intuition for that.
With casual sex, the question of when to leave may prove just as difficult. I recently had sex with someone I met at Spats. He was very excited about pleasing me and we had a lot of fun. But there was something about our time that felt “off.” We were both telling jokes but he didn’t get my sense of humor and I didn’t understand his. I still haven’t made up my mind on this one, but I think my voice is telling me that my Spats man is a one-time deal.
Knowing when to leave a relationship is hard. As The Clash wisely phrased it, “if I go, there will be trouble/ but if I stay, there will be double.” In difficult times like these, my best advice is to remain quiet and listen to that nagging voice in your head. That’s your intuition and it won’t let you down.
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