How much should we do? When is a relationship too bad or too unrewarding to stay in? The consequences of adults making these decisions are often enormous, and if we add kids or a business into that equation the high stakes go even higher.
Sometimes they come alone and sometimes they come as couples, but over time I’ve been asked to help with this question a lot. In fact I had just sat down to write this and someone contacted me about this very subject before I was even done this second paragraph –thereby changing it into what you’re now reading.
Whether as a couple or a single, this is one of the most difficult questions we face because there are simply too many variables.
Are we being unreasonable? Is this just a phase? Will the person change? Will we really be better off without them? Is it too late to re-start? Will anyone else want us after the breakup? If someone does, could they be worse than our current partner? Could more of the problem be about us rather than them? Or would we be better off alone? And how can we sort out that tangle of ideas?
These are all very reasonable questions, but the reason we often see-saw back and forth on our answers is because as our mood fluctuates so does our perception of the rest of our life. Yet no one wants to make a major life decision about a life partner based on a temporary mood, hence people’s desire to seek help in thinking through all the variables.
I have yet to meet anyone who came to me already taking into account all of the variables involved. In most cases people leave out huge impacts without ever really noticing they are inevitable.
The good news is that the serious consideration of these ideas generally leads to much happier lives regardless of the outcome. Some couples rekindle their love and very enthusiastically choose to stay together despite gigantic sacrifices, while others happily head their own way with the loving support of each other. Some form relationships with others, some stay happily single, depending on what suits each individual.
These can be legitimately seen as daunting decisions, but their importance does not mean we are prevented from engaging with these ideas in a positive way.
This isn’t about whether the relationship is good or bad or whether it lasts or not, it’s about whether each individual can actually thrive in the circumstances they are in, or if those circumstances need to change. Either way, couples are not in opposition, they are searching for answers that work best for all involved. With that as the objective, the entire process is far less emotionally wrought and far more empowering.
We shouldn’t assume that big, scary, complicated decisions will lead to big, scary and complicated outcomes. Even getting married is big, scary and complicated for most people, but that doesn’t mean the marriages can’t be good. Likewise, ending a relationship can also look big and scary and complex, but that does not mean that both people can’t end up happier in the end.