You love each other. You hate each other. You just don't give a sh*t! Is it time to pull the plug? Or is it time to roll up your sleeves and try to make your relationship the happiest-ever-after?
If things run hot and cold in your relationship, it's easy to see how you could become confused, depressed and drained about the future. But do you really want to walk away?
Of course, some relationships are truly destructive, emotionally abusive or empty, and they have to go. But these days, breaking up and divorce have become so socially acceptable, many couples who could've worked things out wind up dissolving their unions. If you are seriously involved or married, there may be a big price to pay for this. As a couples therapist and love expert, I've seen too many people regret ending their relationships. Usually the breakup itself is extremely painful, as both partners suffer with financial setbacks, depression, loss, bitterness, cruel fights over who gets what and—if they have kids—children's adjustment problems.
After a breakup, it's not uncommon for people (especially women) to wind up alone and unhappy for years. And if they continue to blame their significant others, they usually end up making the same mistakes again and again with different partners. If you have any doubts about this observation, check out the divorce rates for second and third marriages. They are off the charts!
So before you leap out of a serious relationship, contemplate these 15 questions. The last five are especially important. Be as honest as you can, and ask your best friend, advisor, sponsor or therapist to help you answer them honestly:
1. Have you searched within to see if you have given your all to this relationship?
2. Did you set aside time to be alone as a couple, in order to deepen your bond and friendship?
3. Were you clear and up-front in explaining what you wanted and needed from your partner?
4. Did you make a serious attempt to provide what your partner wanted and needed?
5. Have you noticed and appreciated the helpful or caring things he/she has done?
6. Have you tried to see your partner's point of view, perhaps even acknowledging that the things your partner complained about were legitimate, and something you needed to be working on?
7. Have you tried treating him/her lovingly, the way you would like to be treated?
8. Have you checked to see if your partner is growing as a person?
9. Have you worked on forgiving and being forgiven in the relationship?
10. If you or your partner had an affair, is it this event that is the primary reason for the breakup? Even affairs can be forgiven, if there is true remorse. Many times, with the proper counseling, a relationship can actually get better after an affair.
If you only have time to answer 5 questions, these are the most important ones:
1. Did you express more gratitude or more criticism in the relationship?
2. Did you tell your partner directly that the problems in the relationship were so severe that you wanted out?
3. If there were sexual problems, did you try your best to work on them?
4. Did you spend quality time really listening and paying close attention to your partner?
5. Have you seen a couples therapist or counselor and given it your best shot?
Bottom line: If you cannot answer "yes" to at least 10 of these questions—especially the last five—reconsider ending the relationship. Go into couples therapy (I'd be happy to refer you to a ProConnect member in your area) and work on the issues/behaviors in the questions you said "no" to. You may be able to save yourself (and your kids) from huge emotional and financial heartaches.
As the poet Rainer Maria Rilke said, "Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart. And try to love the questions themselves."
And don't forget to sign up for my FREE ongoing support. You can learn EXACTLY how to repair your relationship, rekindle the passion and—if it comes to thatrecover from heartache by subscribing to my Dating Tips & Relationship Advice Newsletter, absolutely FREE!
Wishing you love, Dr. Diana
Diana Kirschner, Ph.D. is a frequent guest psychologist on The Today Show & best-selling author of “Love in 90 Days” (dating advice book) out now in paperback with a new chapter on "Dating Games Men Play." Love in 90 Days was the basis of her PBS Special on love. Connect with Dr. Diana through her FREE relationship & dating advice newsletter.