At some point in any relationship that lasts beyond the biologically wired honeymoon phase, doubts might set in on whether to continue or not. These doubts may have already been there from the start, or sneaked in over time, or may have been triggered by something that happened in your relationship more recently.
Sometimes there is something really bugging you and it just doesn’t go away no matter what you or your partner tries. On the other hand you can see (s)he isn’t a bad person (or at least not entirely), and you’ve already spent and invested so much time of your life in that person, which makes it so much harder to decide which one is best: leaving or staying? Weighing off what is bad and what is good doesn’t make deciding easier. And it may even seem that no matter what you will choose, you will not end up happy. The doubts and the indecisiveness you may find yourself in are the perfect recipe for an unhappy life, because ultimately it is exactly the desire for basic happiness and life satisfaction which we hope to fulfill by making the right decision. We can eternally ponder which decision is right, and in doing so merely get stuck in worries, yet not any closer to the desired feelings. Add some kids to the mix, and the choice may become even harder. Which parents want their kids suffer from their divorce? But at the same time, which parents want their kids to grow up with their own dysfunctional relationship as a role model for their child’s future relationships. Which parents want their lifelong dissatisfied life as a couple serve as a role model for their kids on how to live their lives when they grow mature? For kids, it’s not necessarily the worst thing if their parents break up. However, this does not mean that a break up or divorce does not have any impact on kids! It just means that being raised by parents in a troubled marriage with a bad family atmosphere impacts kids just as much as divorce, or even more so, only in a different way. Therefore, you should only let the quality of the relationship decide over the outcome. Even if you do not have kids, ending a long-term relationship is not usually a decision you take lightly and doubts may set in on what is the best thing to do.
It’s an internal struggle too recognizable for many. So rather than spending your energy on doubts for years to come, it’s better to figure out the simple truth. Can your relationship be saved? If yes, then stop doubting and start working on it! Or – in the long run- will you be happier when you leave? If so, then it really is time to change your life and to go your separate ways… The right knowledge to make an informed choice may be of tremendous benefit in getting rid of those unhappy doubts and replace them with a reasonably happy life.
So how can you tell which choice to make?
Basically, the answer is already in you. It is just that you are approaching the search for that answer in an unfruitful way. And that’s where the diagnostic tool proposed by relationship counselor Mira Kirshenbaum, as written down in full detail in her book “Too good to leave, too bad to stay”, can help you find that answer. You can find that diagnostic tool on this blogpost.
The principle is as follows: based on others who faced the same issue, were the majority of them happy or not after they left their partner? If after leaving, in the long run they were happier with their lives than those who stayed in face of the same issue, follow the lead of those who decided to end the relationship. If after leaving, they ended up worse than those who stayed when facing the same issue, then by all means – stay. Stay even if your relationship isn’t perfect, because honestly, every relationship has its hardships. Of course, the ultimate choice is up to you, but the advice given here is based on the knowledge of how others fared. All you need to know is whether the hardships you are enduring can be overcome or at least be lived with, or whether they will really drown you. (And while you are at it, try to apply these diagnostic questions both ways, to find out whether your partner will drown when staying with you.) As you will notice, and as Mira remarks in her book, everything boils down to two aspects:
(1) Do you feel safe with your partner? Safe to expose yourself – safe to trust?
(2) do you feel reasonably happy? Can you still enjoy life? Are you generally satisfied?
If your answer to any of the following diagnostic questions indicates you should stay, this is only on the condition that none of the other answers indicates you should leave.
Most importantly, if any single of the following diagnostic questions indicates you should leave, then leave! This is a diagnostic questionnaire, and if just one of the answers to these questions indicates leaving, all other answers are irrelevant.
If not a single of the following questions indicates you should leave, then stay! All problems that can make a relationship toxic are listed here: if none of these are a problem in your relationship, you actually have a healthy relationship, even if it isn’t the perfect bliss you imagined that the one true love would feel like.
So here are the diagnostic questions that should get you over your doubts on continuing or not:
Part 1: questions 1 to 10
Part 2: questions 11 to 20
Part 3: questions 21 to 30
Part 4: questions 31 to 36