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Should You Stay or Go?

Unsafe, unloved, & unsatisfied – when to become unmarried?

Source: Photo: iStock

Should you stay or go?

It is presumptuous to tell a person when to stay or leave a difficult relationship. It's a deeply individual choice and only you get to decide in the end if you were right or not.

That being said, let’s look at how things go wrong in a marriage or a committed relationship, and what goes into the decision to stay or go.

In my mind, it comes down to your core values, the ‘Three U’s’ and the nature of time.

Let me explain.

Core Values:

We live in a diverse culture.

Relationships inevitably hit bumps in the road because most people fall in love with the concept of being in love with someone rather than with the person. When we really become involved with someone, have children with them, or simply experience the ups and downs of life with them, we are challenged with falling in love with a person, rather than with an idea.

This may sound bizarre, but it is true. You must love a person who can grate on you, who you disagree with and who sometimes hurts your feelings. That is the person that needs your love if you are to stay loyal.

Furthermore, once you are in a relationship, that person can hurt you like no one else in the world. In other pieces, I described the power of the Field of Intimacy. We love and we are vulnerable. We are vulnerable both to the power of feeling good and the power of being hurt.

So, when you are confronted with the disappointment caused by your wife, husband, boyfriend, or girlfriend, it will be your core values that will keep you in.

  • Do you believe in the goodness of this relationship?
  • Are you committed to something that is sometimes less than gratifying?
  • Are you putting up with too much because you are afraid or immobilized?
  • Or do you dump things too quickly, lacking patience to make anything work?
  • Can you differentiate whether this relationship can be healed, or if it is forever damaged?
  • Do you have the courage to confront the problems one way or another?
  • And if there are children, will they benefit more from an unhappy intact family or a re-configured one?

If you are confused about these issues, consider getting some outside advice. These decisions are not easy.

The Three U’s:

In a nutshell, there are three basic categories of unhappiness in committed relationships. When a relationship goes awry, you may feel unsafe, unloved, unsatisfied or a combination of two or three.

  • Unsafe: Sexual, physical and verbal abuse is more common than most people realize. If you are being abused, the question of staying or going is starkly clear. Action must be taken. You will need to be protected. Consider getting help immediately. A good therapist can guide you. The police may need to get involved. And the perpetrator – your husband, wife, girlfriend or boyfriend – needs to know that change is required immediately. And in many cases, what he or she does is irrelevant, because there is no future when abuse is present in one’s home.
  • Unloved: There is nothing more diminishing than coming home to contempt. We all need to be loved and cared for. It is as basic as food and drink. The field of intimacy is challenging to relationships. And sometimes the cycle of a marriage leads to increased negativity and contempt.
    • For instance, why should I care about you, if you don’t care about me?
    • Why don’t you think about what I need?
    • Why are you so critical?

Too many homes are unloving, with a husband and wife simply going about the house like two stakeholders in a business. When you feel unloved every night, it is time to confront the situation. Children do not benefit from a cold and withholding household.

These cases are not hopeless, but they require attention, because a home without love is a place of sadness. Something we don’t want in this world.

If this is your story, get help. It might be fixable.

  • Unsatisfied: Then there is the most common problem: you or your partner is simply unsatisfied. Before breaking up a family or ending a perfectly good relationship, you must look within. We all love being in love with love. A relationship requires having love for a person, a real, live, inadequate person. As time grates away, as responsibilities impose themselves, it is easy to consider moving on. If there are no children and you truly believe that the relationship is unfixable, it is fair to consider going. But, if you have a family, or you have issues with satisfaction or commitment, the problem may not be your partner, but rather inside you. Please note that if you come from an intact family you are probably more likely to try to make it work. And if you were brought up in a divorce situation, your modeling may lead you to move on. Just know that you have choice. These are the relationships that are easiest to fix. And sometimes the ebbs and flows of relationships can be unsatisfying only to change a few months later.

Time is not a Friend:

Time is not a friend. That is the sad fact.

Couples tend to make two basic mistakes with regard to time.

One: Some people assume they have all the time in the world to work out their problems. This is understandable and is a form of avoidance or denial. If you are abused, for instance, the time is now for dealing with it. And, if you are simply unsatisfied, you may assume that you can change him or her over time. It rarely happens. Time marches on, you get older and your regrets get deeper. Today, we have amazing technologies for couple’s therapy, and it is worth confronting your issues without making it a referendum on the worthiness of your partner or you. Don’t let time seduce you into letting an unhappy relationship become an unhappy long relationship.

Two: And some people are so adverse to psychological pain that they need to confront each and every difficulty right now. When you have a baby, or job troubles, or even medical issues, the relationship will be challenged. This is normal and part of the ebb and flow of good marriages and relationships. Often times, there is an important bonding that occurs during these times that will actuality build the relationship for the future. Leaving a committed relationship needs to be a thought out decision (abuse issues fall into another category) and what feels unsatisfying now, may simply be a rough patch see in the rear view mirror six months from now.

Time is not our friend. It confuses us. Yet, we are not here on this planet forever. And we all deserve to be loved and validated. The fact that time flies by is part of life. So is the urgency of looking at your relationship and at yourself realistically, and then taking action that makes sense.


Do you stay or do you go?

Nobody can truly tell you.

  • Consider your core values.
  • Are you subject to one or more of the Three U’s?
  • And take the relentless progression of time into account.

We all deserve love. And your children do as well. Who knows, a great relationship may be right in front of you. Or, you may be in danger, and need to get help and get out.

And, then there are the problems in between – fixable and not.

Relationships are challenging, wonderful, heartbreaking and worth it.

These are tough questions. Think them through and consider counseling.

Use this moment of doubt to enact changes that may help you - and those you love.


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