Center for Shared Insight, PC

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

April 26, 2017
Posted By: Kristen Hick, Psy.D.
couple looking at one another

Even in the best of relationships, at some point, you might question whether you should stay committed or leave your relationship and possibly start over with someone who might be an even better fit. This may happen in the first few months when you are still understanding whether someone is an ideal partner, or years down the line when you start to experience dynamics like drifting apart, dwindling intimacy, or a general misalignment of values and interests. It’s normal to question whether you are as happy and fulfilled as possible, and sometimes even wonder if there is a better partner out there for you.

When you are contemplating a separation or break-up, and weighing the pros and cons of staying in or ending a relationship, consider these important questions.

Am I reacting or responding?

Sometimes, a major disagreement, heated fight, or negative situation can trigger a desire to draw back and want to leave a relationship. Question whether you are reacting to a specific situation in your thoughts around leaving or if you are truly thinking through and thoughtfully responding to a relationship dynamic that is impossible to fix.

Sometimes, break-ups, especially for newer couples, are triggered by a negative event that quickly spirals into one partner wanting to end the relationship, instead of exploring how they could navigate the challenges associated with the situation on hand. For example, if a new couple prefers to spend most of their free time together, yet one partner enjoys staying out late with friends on the weekend and the other is more of a home-body, this misalignment could escalate and cause unhappiness for both parties in the relationship. Instead of thinking through a compromise and committing to a plan to overcome different social preferences, this situation could end up as the scapegoat for a relationship ending. This knee-jerk type reaction might not result in a break-up if each party slowly evaluates and responds with ideas to overcome differences. In every relationship, there will be challenges to work through. For additional insight, see our recent blog post on growth mindset.

What is my part of the problem?

It’s easy to point the finger and make statements like, “If only my partner were [insert any desire], then this relationship would work better for me". Instead, consider how you might be judging unnecessarily, and how basing decisions on superficial qualities may override a clear decision-making process. Instead of pointing the finger at your partner’s limitations, ask yourself how your needs might be creating the problems that you witness.  

One example that may arise is that your partner isn’t as diligent about saving money as you are. Overtime, this can be a true cause of frustration and friction. Yet, instead of labeling him or her as “financially irresponsible” or “frivolous”, consider how you might also have unrealistic expectations about saving money and might put too much emphasis on financial stability contributing to your happiness.

Honestly assess whether your own unrealistic expectations create a lens in which you are seeing problems with your partner that could be overcome by simply re-evaluating your own needs and desires. Ask yourself whether this misalignment is truly a deal-breaker or something that can be overcome with thoughtful boundaries and mutual goals.

Is my unhappiness truly due to the relationship?

So often, we place tremendous value on our primary romantic relationship directly corresponding to our level of happiness. We put pressure on our significant other to do and say all the things we need to be happy. The truth is that our relationship is just a small contributing factor to what makes us happy.

Our personal goals, professional aspirations, family dynamics, health, friends, and many other things all contribute to our happiness. Sometimes, our relationship can be the scapegoat for our unhappiness and we are quick to point the finger at our partner when really it might be our job, health, or other life dynamics that are truly limiting our fullest potential. Evaluate and isolate any feelings of unhappiness you might have to determine whether they are really due to your partner’s behavior.

For example, if you have a demanding job that takes a lot of your time and mental/emotional bandwidth, and your partner tries to plan activities during the workweek for you two as a couple, you might start to resent your partner for contributing to your sense of burnout and fatigue. You might tell yourself that he or she needs too much of your time and discard the relationship as too time-consuming, or your partner as too needy. However, the true issue might really be a need for better work-life balance, healthy boundaries, or a job transition that doesn’t demand as much of your time and energy.

If you aren’t all in, you are not in.

The simple answer to the question “should I stay or go” can be summarized in an idea that spans across many aspects of life. Ask yourself whether you are truly committed or simply interested in the relationship. If you aren’t all in, most likely you shouldn’t be in at all. Half-hearted efforts are doomed to fail and your energy would probably be better invested elsewhere, where you feel a strong conviction to work toward a mutually-healthy and fulfilling partnership.

If you are contemplating a breakup, divorce, or ending a long-term partnership, let the team at Center for Shared Insight, PC help guide your decision-making process. Individual therapy can do wonders for sorting through relationship challenges. Contact us for a free consultation.

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