When To Leave A Relationship & Grappling With The Question, ‘Do I Stay Or Do I Go?’

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heartbroken woman on couch with man

It's tricky to figure out when to end a relationship or if you should work on saving it.

"Should I stay or should I go?" If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me this question, I would be a wealthy woman.

First off, if you're asking yourself this question, I offer boundless empathy.

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Deciding if or when to leave a relationship is heart wrenching.

I know you. For the most part, you love the person you're with. Yet, you feel troubled by the relationship.

Maybe you don't love them and beat yourself up for feeling this way. You resist embracing the reality of considering a departure.

You judge yourself and think you should try harder, making sure you're taking responsibility for your part. You're the one who reads countless books, has been to therapy, and has hours of self-help under your belt.

We are often gripped by fear, shame, and bargaining when considering breaking up.

You feel ashamed to consider a life that feels better without your partner. You may have children and are wracking yourself with guilt about tearing your family apart.

Then, the tsunami of fear hits you so hard that it leaves you feeling paralyzed and powerless.

Perhaps, another year won't be so bad. You tell yourself your life is not terrible, so why should you have the audacity to complain?

Then, all those things happen again, causing you to toy with wanting to leave in the first place.

Leaving an unhealthy relationship can also mean liberation and survival.

Maybe an exit feels exciting and liberating, like you're dumping loads of burdensome baggage that's dragging you down.

Perhaps, leaving feels like survival, like you can finally reclaim honesty and trust after enduring betrayal from an affair.

Have you lost your self worth? Your joy? Your attractiveness? Your sexuality? Your purpose? Your passion?

You could keep working on yourself and see how your partner will shift, because you do. You could avoid blaming your partner for all of these things lacking in yourself. You could also believe in the saying, "The heart always knows."

Screw all of that!

What's relevant is that you feel this way.

Most likely, you've worked hard and gone above and beyond to make it this far. You've probably ignored and pushed aside unhappiness for longer than you can remember.

You're terrified of the unknown, the possible financial unraveling, your livelihood (if someone supports you), the possibility of being alone, a new home, and not to mention the inevitable, unrelenting grief and loss that come with the dissolution of a relationship.

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So, should you stay or end the relationship and leave?

First things first... Stop.

I don't mean stop asking the question. I mean "pause" in the question.

Once you contemplate it, the barrage of shame, fantasy, judgments, fears, and so forth will overtake you and sabotage the sheer validity of the question in the first place.

No matter how seemingly positive or negative your relationship is, if you ask the question, there's usually a good reason why.

Honor yourself by honestly understanding why you want to leave.

It's important to honor yourself here before you go off the rails about how, why, why not, how could you, and so forth. Allow yourself to be present in the utter mystery of the question and see what arises.

I'm not suggesting that you'll find the answer during the pause. The pause is where you become skilled in your ability to tolerate and metabolize uncomfortable emotions.

For example, think about fear.

You may get hit with the discomfort of anxiety as soon as your mind grapples with the thought of, "Should I stay or go?"

Don't let emotions distract you.

Typically, we first react to emotional overwhelm rather than stay focused on staying or going. We lose focus and then become a servant to our painful emotions.

Emotions become a distraction from the question we are trying to answer. Regardless of our relationship status, it's essential to learn how to tolerate the array of emotions circulating throughout our lives.

However, they're not wrong or unworthy and the goal is not to push them away. The truth is, it doesn't matter why we want to stay in or leave a relationship.

This is a very unpopular belief, so if you desire to leave, it's OK.

But, if you're going to stay, that's just fine, too. The exception is if your safety is at risk.

Unfortunately, you get stuck in limbo and a cyclical conundrum ensues. The only thing you can do is to own your choice,

Be willing to sit in the excruciating emotional discomfort, and act accordingly doing the necessary personal or logical tasks involved.

Trust me, I know this is far from pleasurable or comfortable. If it were, it would not be the most popular dilemma that shows up in relationship therapy and coaching.

But, there is a way through as long as you surround yourself with compassion and love.

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Keri Signoracci is a Therapeutic Relationship & Couples Coach with a background in psychology as well as extensive training in relationship coaching. For more information, visit her website.