by Wendy Olsen
One of the most common questions clients want to sort out for themselves when they darken my doorway is, “should I end my relationship?” This is a complicated question and I rarely give a direct “yes” or “no” answer. Over the years I’ve had a change of opinion regarding when I believe it’s best to extinguish the romance or continue to fuel the fire. This comes in part due to further training and in part due to further personal professional experience. For the purposes of this article, I will try to distill my perspective into a few succinct bullet points. Hopefully, some will find it helpful if they are at a point where they feel the need to ponder the question: “Should I stay or should I go?”
- LEAVE if you feel threatened or are being abused. If there is danger, find someone you can trust and work with them to help you create an exit plan. Here are some resources: http://www.thehotline.org/ http://www.ncadv.org/protectyourself/GettingHelp.php
- If you don’t believe that your partner has your back, if you don’t feel or have never felt respected LEAVE.
- If you or your partner have a history of infidelity and/or deception and no real signs that that is changing or no expression of a desire to change LEAVE.
- Over the course of your relationship, you have felt hurt or alone more than you have felt loved and connected LEAVE.
You may notice that the list is short and not-so-sweet. Many may say, “well, that didn’t help me at all. I still have the question, but none of your no-nos list described my situation.” That is precisely the point. Relationships have a whole lot of gray areas. There are many cases where one couple decides to continue to give it the ole’ college try and others decide to walk away. Perhaps a list of “you’re good where you’re ats” might prove helpful.
- If you believe that your partner loves and respects you and in the case of your world blowing up around you or falling at your feet, your partner absolutely has your back, then STAY.
- You like your partner and your partner likes you. You feel chemistry with your partner. You trust your partner. STAY
- You have financially entangled lives. You have children. All of the above positive points are true for you. STAY
Clearly, if the question of staying in a relationship or leaving a relationship has reared its ugly head there is some difficult stuff going on. According to the Gottman Institute, 69% of marital disagreements are unresolvable even for happily married couples. Take some time to sit down with yourself and/or your partner and take a look at your relationship and what it has going for it. Literally, write down what’s working and what is a concern. If you have the core “stay” characteristics going for you, you’re in pretty good shape. However, if there isn’t a basic love, respect, and safety at the core of your relationship, seek professional help and see whether you can right your marital/couple ship. Except in the case of danger, there is no one characteristic that should determine staying or leaving a relationship. All things should be weighed in making this decision. My intent was to provide some ideas about strengths and weaknesses in relationships. There are a lot of great resources available to help people with these decisions from relationship experts to self-help books. If you’re at a crossroads, know that there are many sources of information and support available to you. The aforementioned Gottman Institute has a lot of great information on their website. Hold Me Tight by Dr. Susan Johnson and Not, Just Friends by Dr. Shirley Glass are resources I refer clients to often. I wish you the best in your love and in your life.
Wendy Olsen is a Marriage & Family Therapist, specializing in Sex Therapy. You can find more of her advice at http://www.talk2wendyolsen.com