I wish I could make a checklist which you could use to determine if you should stay or leave the relationship you are in. Women begin therapy quite often looking for the answer to this very question.
Unfortunately, there is no such list. However, there are some things to consider which may help you move in the direction that is right for you. Below are just a few of the things to consider.
(You can also download a free copy of Should I Stay or Should I Go? from my website to get a little more detailed information.)
Is Leaving Even Within Your Value System? For some people leaving a long term marriage or relationship is not an issue. For others leaving goes against a life long promise they took very seriously, the religion they follow, or their sense of who they are as a person. If leaving isn’t an option for you then stop thinking about it! Don’t make yourself miserable by entertaining an idea that doesn’t suit you. Make the best of your situation. Get professional help. Make a life for yourself regardless of the condition of your marriage. You are an individual even within a couple. Celebrate who you are and enjoy being you.
Is This a Particularly Stressful Time for the Two of You? Marriages have their ups and downs. Just because you may have a longer downtime doesn’t mean it’s time to throw in the towel. Maybe you have a sick parent. Maybe one of you has lost a job or a child is getting married. Happy or sad, these milestones create stress and stress can affect a relationship. Take some quiet time to think about what’s going on in your lives Try to remember some of the up times. Do they seem possible again? Can you catch a glimpse of the good times even though things are hard right now? Have you talked to your partner about the current difficulties? Maybe you’ll see that what you thought was a relationship issue was really external stressors brought into your relationship.
Have You Tried Everything? Okay, so let’s say you’ve gotten to the point where you’re done and ready to end it. Please ask yourself if you’ve tried everything. The emotional turmoil of leaving a relationship is hard no matter what. If you are the least bit ambivalent because you haven’t done all you can, the process can be even harder on both of you. No one wants to look back and wish they’d done something more or something different. Let a professional help you work on new things to try if you’re not sure you’ve exhausted all avenues.
Are You or Your Kids Being Abused? If there is abuse then you need to protect yourself and your children. Although it’s hard, and maybe he does ‘love’ you, keep in mind love is a behavior. If his behavior is not ‘loving’ then maybe it’s not the love you need or want. You are responsible to keep you and your children safe. There is plenty of professional help out there for you and your partner. Maybe you can pull it together when the abuser has sought long term help (1 year at least). But for now, you need to go.
Are Your Needs Being Met? The definition of ‘needs’ is key to answering this question. Everyone’s needs are defined differently. Some people’s needs are met by getting access to clean water and physical safety. Some need a soulmate to connect with deeply. The spectrum is vast. To know if your needs are being met you must first identify what your needs are. Then you must do some soul searching to decide if that need not being met should end a marriage or relationship. Can that need be platonically met outside the relationship? Can you meet that need yourself? Can your friends or family meet that need? It’s up to you to determine if you can live with our without each of your defined needs and if it’s your partner’s responsibility to meet them.
Unfortunately, there is no rule book to follow when making a decision about continuing a relationship. We’re all different. What works for some doesn’t work for others. Marriage can be a challenge at times but it doesn’t mean you should end it when it’s hard. If you’re struggling know that you’re not alone. Get professional help if you need it. It’s time to feel good again! And you can!