By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD
Feeling lonely is painful. But being part of a couple when you feel that way makes the loneliness hurt all the more. Still, deciding to end your relationship can be difficult; and it is a personal decision that no one can make for you.
There are ways, however, to think about it that can help you figure out the best path for you. And answering the following questions might just put you on that path:
Do you have fond memories from the beginning of your relationship? If you have happy memories of your partner, this is a very good sign. It means that you are open to feeling positively toward him or her. Needless to say, this can be helpful in trying to rebuild a happy relationship.
Is it healthy for you to work on this relationship? If your partner is someone who can be supportive, caring, and embraces the same values as you, then having him or her in your future might be a good idea. However, if your partner is critical, abusive, or self-absorbed, you might be better off finding someone else who is more nurturing.
This question can be tricky if you think your partner is going through a difficult time in life. Perhaps he or she is ill or overwhelmed by some major life stressors. In this case, you need to think about how invested you are in the relationship and the likelihood that he or she will recover. In certain circumstances, though, you might believe it is a good decision to stay even if it puts a major strain on you. As I said, this can be tricky.
Are you willing to work on the relationship? If you really want to repair the damage and you are both willing to work on it, then perhaps you can find your way back to a happier relationship. However, sometimes people are unhappy, have been unhappy for a long time, and just don’t have it in them to try anymore. While they might like it if the relationship returned to what it had once been, they don’t have any hope for this happening and are not willing to put in much effort. If this is you, then it is time to let go. Give yourself and your partner a chance to find happiness in someone else’s arms.
Are you staying for the children? The decision to end your relationship is often more difficult when you have children. There is nothing wrong with trying harder for the sake of your children – it can be a good motivation. However, if your relationship is bad and you expect it to remain so, then staying for your children is not necessarily in anyone’s best interests. Given that children learn how to be in a relationship from their parents, you might be modeling too much of what you would prefer they don’t do in their future marriage; such as being too argumentative or too distant, not working as a team, not being truly caring toward their partner, and remaining helplessly in a very unhappy situation. So it’s essential that you consider carefully whether staying together really will be better for your children.
If your relationship is deeply troubled, there are no assurances that you can repair it. But, you don’t need to know this before trying. You just need to know whether you are willing to really listen to your partner, make every effort to understand him or her, and attempt to work things out together. Then, as you move through the process of trying to reconnect, you will find out whether you should stay or go.
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