In this post, we will continue with the second 10 questions (question 11 to 20) you need to answer to find out whether you should leave or stay. Only go through these if the first 10 questions did not indicate clearly that you should leave. Remember, if one answer indicates you should leave, its value in answering your question takes precedence above your answers to all other questions! (For more detail on how to use this diagnostic tool, refer to part 1)
11 – Apart from moments of anger or sadness, do you feel comfortable and pleasant being around your partner, do you feel you need him/her, do you feel sympathy for your partner, and do you have the feeling your partner feels the same? This does not refer to whether you admire certain qualities of your partner, or whether you feel special about your partner valuing the same things, or about practical benefits which do not relate to emotional needs. It refers to a feeling of liking your partner, and having the feeling your partner likes you. If you doubt, just give a daily score of the feeling you have with your partner that day as measured in how “attractive” you think (s)he is, writing “U” for unattractive, and “A” for attractive. If you see a pattern of U’s, the answer is no. You can do this for how you think your partner feels about you too.
If “no”, with either you, your partner, or both of you not having or seeming to have this feeling for the other – leave. Sometimes you think there is love, because you think rationally you are the perfect match, but rational thoughts are not the same as feelings, and will not help you fill up the human need for feelings of loving and being loved. Maybe a “no” to this answer only comes after time, while before you felt not entirely right and took note of aspects about your partner you didn’t like, the realization you do not “like” the other may be triggered by an event that makes you see this is not a person you lovingly like.
12 – Are you prepared to invest more, give more, regardless of whether your partner will reciprocate? (“Investing/Giving” refers to doing small things to make your partner happy, like being kind when (s)he comes home in a bad mood; giving a compliment on something (s)he values, even when you are tired and dealing with your own issues; not picking on small details; doing a random act of kindness such as bringing something along which you think (s)he would be happy to receive; offering help when (s)he is busy; giving in on something you have argued about. Of course, in the long run we hope our giving will lead to something good, so “not expecting something in return” refers more to “not expecting something in return for every single act of kindness”.)
If “yes”, regardless of shared adversities and related conflicts with one another, your relationship may survive, but check the other diagnostic questions first!
If “no” – leave. If you only want to “give” when you expect something in return, then that’s a “no”. However, a “no” does not count if it is only due to your being utterly burned out, so wait till six months onwards, or until right after taking an extended break from the things that trouble you, and see if you still say “no”.
13 – Do you and your partner have an urge for some physical contact with one another? (This can be a desire for both giving and/or receiving kisses, hugs, cuddles, for stroking, for holding hands, for putting your arm around the other or your hand on their lap or having it done to you, having sex, and other ways of touching typical for relationships of which intimacy is part. Sex does not have more weight than other forms of touch in answering this question.) If there is a period with no physical contact, do you desire it to be over soon?
If “no” – leave. Not wanting to touch the other or being touched by him/her for months indicates you’ve truly grown very far apart. Touch is one of the ways people can find their way back to each other during turmoil in a relation. If there is going to be no touching, there will be no way to get back together.
14 – Do you have a unique form of sexual attraction to your current partner, stronger than you have experienced or can imagine having for someone else? (This question is not how much you enjoy having sex now, or how good the sex is: it is about the way the other interacts with you that makes you feel you’ve never felt or will feel this form of sexual attraction to another.)
If “yes”, and there are no other indications for leaving – stay. Your relationship has something special
If “no”, it is still possible to have a satisfactory relationship in the absence of other indications for leaving.
15 – Is your partner unable to admit to problems that make the relationship too bad to continue, despite your communication of these problems? Is your partner in eternal denial, or does (s)he feel sad, hurt, desperate every time you try to make her/him aware of the problem?
If “yes” – leave. It will only get worse. Be it alcoholism, substance abuse, excessive self-centeredness, disregard for his/her own health, refusing to partake in household tasks, being unemployed for a long time, having a mental issue, or something else. If your partner can’t even understand there is something so troubling you, that you’d rather leave, then it’s time to leave.
16 – Is your partner unwilling to change an issue about her/himself that makes the relationship too bad to continue for you, even if (s)he is aware of the issue? Does (s)he only ever have excuses for not changing her/his problematic behavior? It doesn’t matter whether your partner verbally admits (s)he is unprepared to change, or whether you meet eternal excuses, or whether this unwillingness to change is only evident from behavior not changing for at least 6 months despite her/his words saying (s)he wants to change.
If “yes” – leave. Of course, what you’d like her/him to change has to be realistically attainable, well-defined, be of genuine importance to you, and measurable, as well as requiring a certain deadline. If you’ve already waited very long for a change, you are only more easily inclined to wait just as long again, and this waiting can continue for eternity as you’ve already invested so much time that you feel reluctant to walk away. To avoid the waiting trap, let your partner sing the given deadline with the goal on it. If unwilling to sign, it indicates unwillingness to change.
17 – Can you let go of this issue you have with your partner that makes you want to leave, can you forget about it, stop being bothered by it, stop caring?
If “yes” – stay if there are no other indications for leaving.
If “no”, it seems that you can absolutely not live with it, and need to leave, but you first should figure out the answers to question 15 and 16 and 18 before actually deciding to leave.
18 – Can your partner change her/his problematic behavior or the issue you have with her/him? To answer this question, first you need to be sure you’ve tried everything. Some people just need to be aware of the issue you have with them, and they can change it. Others need well-defined instructions on what to do and what not to do. Still others need to be convinced how important the issue is for you. (If you ask them: “how important do you think this is for me on a scale of 1 to 10?”, and the answer is less than 10, then (s)he doesn’t understand its importance the issue has to you.) Still others, even though they know how important an issue is to you, need to first be told what benefits changing it will have for their own life. And some need therapy to change the problematic issue. (A good therapist is one who has a clear plan to help you achieve your goals, uses different methods depending on the problem, and more often than not manages to send you off with a good feeling. A bad therapist is one where after 4 sessions you see no improvements or even get worse, the therapist is not interested in the details of your life, is exclusively focused on what happened but not on your feelings, desires, and possibilities, and has a single approach to deal with everything.)
If “yes” – stay on the condition there are no other diagnostic questions indicating you should leave.
If “no”, yet no other diagnostic question indicates you should leave, stay.
19 – Has your partner crossed a definite line that really matters for you, has (s)he passed a breaking point? (This can really be anything and is very personal: it can range from spending a large sum of money without informing you, having an affair, being humiliated in front of people that matter to you, living way below your standard, having to deal with a recurrent depression of the partner, having the mother in law moving in: it really can be anything, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be any of these. Try to imagine any kind of scenario of your partner doing something, or not doing something, or something applying to your partner that would make you want to leave.)
If “yes” – leave if it happens more than once. If possible, first you have to give a chance to your partner to indicate where the line is that will end the relationship! (Cheaters usually know that cheating will hurt you, but they do not necessarily assume it is a step too far which is so seriously hurtful to you that you would end the relationship because of it. They need to be told; if they then do it again, you know that in their heart they do not care enough about the relationship to continue.) If you stay despite your partner crossing a definite line, you are giving yourself a psychological trauma, because you will feel like an accomplice to something done to you which you find very hurtful and completely unacceptable. You will feel at least in part responsible for the pain your partner caused you if you do not come up for yourself. The resulting self-loathing is very similar to that of victims of sexual abuse: they too often feel responsible for what happened simply because they did not manage to stop the other from crossing the line. Unfortunately, to know your own breaking points, you first have to discover them through trial and error. Remembering your first relationship, you may remember seeming oblivious of your own breaking points, thinking your feelings for the other were unconditional, until the point the breaking point was reached that ended the relationship or made you seriously loathe yourself when you stayed. You didn’t create your own breaking point; instead you discovered it, while neither of you previously knew that would be the breaking point that could end the relationship or leave you with a trauma if you stayed in it.
20 – Is there a clearly definable, insurmountable difference between the two of you which prevents you from living the life you want to live the rest of your life? (There can be many differences between a couple in energy levels, character, speed of doing things, ambition, handling of money, intelligence, political views, money earned, pragmatism, sexual lust and preferences, yet these differences aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive! Often differences between people aren’t really insurmountable: usually the major problem is that the negotiated deal to solve the difference is not entirely fair to one of both partners, or is based on the assumption it is insurmountable without actually having communicated sufficiently to see there is a common middle ground.)
If “yes” – leave. Should you stay, you will find yourself ending up in a mental zone of unhappiness that will make you regret you stayed. Often this gap between two people drives people apart long after it first arose as something small and had a time to grow into something insurmountable. Occasionally, a change in life phases can suddenly set this off (such as retirement, with one having always envisioned moving to a sunny place, but the other having different plans.)
Haven’t got your definite answer yet? Continue with part 3!