How many people are in relationship limbo, not knowing whether they should stay in the relationship or leave it? I see them all the time, mentally adding up the positives and the negatives, weighing them up against each other, hoping to come to some logical decision about whether to stay or go.
Trying to weigh up the positives and the negatives as a means of deciding whether the relationship is good or not is never very effective. Some days it weighs in favour of one decision, some days another.
It doesn’t come down to whether the positives outweigh the negatives. It actually comes down to some simple, key points.
Mira Kirshenbaum outlines these in her brilliant book Too Good To Leave Too Bad To Stay (Plume, 1996), which I highly recommend if you’re in relationship
limbo, or what she calls ‘relationship ambivalence’. By examining these key points, and answering yes or no to some simple questions, you’ll get a
feel for whether you want to stay in your relationship and whether you want to do the work necessary to make it better.
Some of the key points include:
Does your partner respect you? And do you respect your partner?
Is there a power imbalance so your partner makes you feel humiliated? Or does s/he bombard you with obstacles so that you can’t get even your smallest needs met?
Have you given time for hurts to heal? Does your relationship have the capacity for forgiveness?
Has your partner breached a bottom line?
Is the relationship abusive?
Was it ever really good? If not, it probably never will be.
Are you both capable of change?
Do you actually like your partner, and does s/he actually like you?
Despite everything, have you still got more to give?
Your responses to questions like these will give you a greater insight into the decision you need to make than any amount of comparing the good and bad. As Ms Kirshenbaum points out, you can’t be like a lawyer piling up the evidence for and against, you need to be like a doctor making a diagnosis.
So, the take home message here is that if you’re in limbo unsure of whether to stay or go, focus on the few important issues rather than all the positives and negatives.
Once you’ve made your decision, stick to it and stop tormenting yourself with the constant weighing up of pros and cons. If you decide to stay, commit to that and making the changes needed (even if it’s simply letting go of stuff); and if you decide to go, pull the bandage off quickly, and go.