‘Should I stay or should I go?’
How do you decide whether to end a relationship?
Most of us have been involved in a break up; whether we are the ones instigating it or being on the receiving end of it. There is no easy one size fits all approach when it comes to deciding whether you should leave or end a romantic relationship. So, How do you decide whether to end a relationship?
It comes with a mixture of complicated emotions, confusion, stress and it can create intense inner turmoil that may have a physical and mental impact on your ability to rationalise.
Going through bad patches is not uncommon and often, couples are able to reconcile their differences and make compromises. However for some, their relationships are just not meant to be; and it’s okay if they don’t.
Breakups are painful and one word that people often use when relationships do not work is ‘failure’.
We need to move away from the days of the blame game and feeling like failures. At the end of the day, it might be a case of accepting that this just wasn’t our time.
As highly emotional beings, we can often react based on our emotional mindset or how we feel in that moment. These impulsive responses may potentially cause more harm than good. It is hard to make decisions when we feel intense emotions such as anger or sadness so taking a step back would be beneficial before making a definite decision.
We may even feel like we have found the ‘One’ but for whatever reason, it just doesn’t fit/work. It doesn’t mean we don’t care or that we don’t love them; in fact it can often mean the opposite. Often couples may choose to end the relationship because they care greatly about their partners and would rather end the relationship than grow to resent them.
Nipping it in the bud early on may prevent further issues in the future.
Furthermore, relationships go through changes; moving in together, deciding to get married, having children, taking on a new job, or moving home. These are all transitional changes, and with this, comes challenges.
It is easy to follow the script and become complacent in relationships so when an issue flares up, it can put the relationship into a tailspin.
There are some important questions that you need to be asking yourself about how do you decide whether to end a relationship?
- Is this a new issue or it something which has been going on unresolved for a while?
- Is this something that can be fixed or worked through?
- Are you staying together because you want the relationship to work or because you are scared of being alone?
- Have you ran out of options or are you tired of trying?
It’s understandable that some of these questions are subjective and you may give different answers on different days.
Reasons why people may choose to leave
Joel et al., (2017) conducted some research to understand why people may want to stay in or leave their relationships. We have narrowed the list down and combined these with some of based on the most common reasons why people may choose/consider leaving or ending the relationship.
If there is a breach of trust.
If you or your partner has been deceptive, cheated, or suspected of cheating, this can severely impact the trust in the relationship.
If you have experienced this, you need to consider if this is something you can work on and build trust in or whether it is too painful to get past.
If there is a lack of support.
If you or your partner feel like there is little support from each other, then this could lead to feeling like there is a lack of interest or care in what the other is doing or what is important to them.
If there are emotional unavailability and partner distancing.
Not being able to be close to each other in a partnership is going to cause distance (not just physically but emotionally too). Not being provided with or be able to provide emotional support can mean that partners may not be fully present with each other and there will be an obvious sense of detachment.
If you aren’t being physically intimate.
Physical intimacy is important for bonding. It’s not uncommon to hit dry spells but being unable to recover from that, is likely to raise some concerns.
Sometimes, this does not mean that you don’t find you attractive or not want sexual intimacy, but there may be something going on which means that they are struggling with physical intimacy.
If you feel like you are incompatible.
They say opposites attract however sometimes differing in opinions, values, beliefs, and not ‘seeing eye to eye’ can lead to feeling like you are not fully compatible with your partner which may cause tension if you are unable to agree to disagree.
If there is a lack of validation.
If you are not feeling appreciated by your partner or vice versa, you may feel as though you are being taken for granted or that your opinions are not being heard.
If there are social inequity and discomfort with commitment.
Put simply, people invest in a partnership with another hoping to secure commitment and fairness. If the relationship starts to feel unbalanced then the equity in a relationship is not in sync and commitments are not going to be locked in.
If the loss of attraction.
Keeping the spark in a relationship can be hard sometimes, especially when we don’t feel that chemistry. When that is missing or not as strong, it can make us question if we could be attracted to somebody else.
If there is conflict and you cannot talk openly about your issues.
It comes as no surprise that if the communication style is not right, then there are going to be some conflict. If you spend a lot of time arguing and butting heads with each other, this may suggest that there are issues going unresolved.
The longer this continues, the more impact this is going to have and may end up feeling like World War Three. If you can’t talk despite trying repeatedly to address the issues, then perhaps your communication style isn’t working well for you both
If you don’t want the same things.
Sometimes, people change their minds about things or there are things that people are not willing to compromise on. One partner may want children, the other may not. This can lead to people feeling that their partners do meet their expectations and may feel like they are being denied what they really want.
Ways to explore the relationship before making a decision
- Write a list of the ways in which you feel the relationship isn’t working the way it used to (this includes both you and your partner’s flaws). This may help you understand what has caused the issues or where it started. You may be able to find some solutions there and then for some issues and others may need more work and time. (See our other blogs on Date Night Ideas and Ways to spice up your love life which might offer some guidance on ways in which you can explore your physical intimacy and explore new ways to spend quality time together).
- Communication is key in any relationship especially when things may not be completely stable. It is worth talking to each other using I statements. This will help both of you to understand how the other is partner is feeling.
- Listen to what the other has to say and give them the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings.
- Talking to a relationship coach or accessing relationship counselling can be a useful way of getting a neutral perspective to work through your issues. They will support you and whatever you think is best for you, whether you decide to stay together or not.
Many couples will stay together for the sake of their children (If you find yourself in this situation, you might find our blog post ‘Split Decision’ about how to talk to children about separation’ useful in this situation).
You are the role model for your children and it can be more harmful to children who have a tendency to pick up on the tension. Parents can set the standard by showing that even though they may not together, that they can still provide care and love without resenting each other.
Whatever you decide, remember that is YOURS and YOUR PARTNER’s decision about what happens. Try not to worry about what other people say or think you should do.
Ultimately, it is about your happiness, not theirs, so whatever decision you make, do it in the pursuit of your own happiness. People should contribute to your happiness, not be the sole reason for it.
Sometimes no matter how much people want to work through their issues, they just can’t. If this is something which is non-negotiable, then chances are, it may mean letting that person go. We hope that how do you decide whether to end a relationship?
If you are in this situation and deciding whether to leave a relationship, get in touch with My Family Psychologist and see how we can help.
We offer services in romantic relationships including couples’ therapy, relationship difficulties, marital difficulties, sexual difficulties, and mediation as well as services to address personal issues which may be affecting your relationships such as addiction, self-esteem, and body issues.
This may be a starting point for making the right decision for you and your partner.