When I meet with clients, we create action plans in order to make decisions and to set and achieve goals. This week a client asked, "Is there a way to know if I should keep working on my relationship or if I should jump ship now?" Unfortunately, there are no formulas when it comes to love.
Part of the difficulty in deciding if you should stay or walk away from a relationship is that every person has his or her own criteria for what works and what doesn't. Couples have their own set of rules. Some people have open marriages -- others enjoy bickering -- while some couples do everything together and others have separate hobbies and interests.
There are very few universal rights and wrongs in the world of relationships other than those covering violence or abuse.
So with all the gray area of possibilities when do you know it’s time to move on?
There are no quick and easy answers, however, here’s a questionnaire that can help clarify your feelings and point you in the right direction.
- Do you need your partner to change in some significant way for you to be happy in your relationship? (For example, become emotionally available, gain sobriety, develop a few extra IQ points, lose weight, increase ambition, end all outside relationships, or become monogamous?)
- Would you leave your partner if you could easily replace him or her?
- Do you feel better when your partner is away or busy?
- Do you feel dread or annoyance or walk on eggshells when your partner comes home?
- Are you embarrassed by your partner in some way?
- Are you anxious about your partner's temper or moods?
- Would you be upset if five years from now you are in the same relationship, exactly as it is today?
- Do you distrust your partner?
- Do you have a difficult time remembering your partner's good qualities?
- Do you mainly focus on your partner's shortcomings?
- Do you find yourself wishing your partner would cheat, meet someone else, or do something so outrageous that it would make it easier to break up with him or her?
- Do you ever secretly wish your partner would have an accident so you can be free?
- Do you ever wish your partner would leave you?
These questions may seem extreme but they are common thought processes for those who feel trapped by their relationships. If you have answered yes to even one of these questions, chances are, your relationship isn't working for you.
You can stay the way you are and do nothing, or you can examines these five healthy alternatives:
- You can work on the relationship together to try to create something better.
- You can change your own behavior to see if the dynamic improves.
- You can focus on your partner's good qualities and find acceptance for what isn't quite right.
- You can end the relationship.
- You can appreciate the hidden gift the union offers while letting go of an unrealistic relationship ideal. A hidden gift can be that of belonging, feeling of family, security, companionship, shared history, stability, financial teamwork, friendship, fitting-in society through couple-hood, or having someone to care for and who will care for you over time.
A relationship can be a powerful thing, even if it isn't a Hollywood romance.
You may notice I didn't say to stay in the relationship and berate yourself or your partner for the duration. I also didn't say you must leave or that you must make a quick decision. Keep in mind that if you decide to walk away you should sit with your decision for a while. Don't let anyone rush you. Give yourself the time and space you need.
In the end it is up to you to find your own happiness. You are in charge of making that happen for yourself - not your partner. Waiting and hoping your partner will change so you can be happy is a dead-end street.
It always is.