Dealing with relationship uncertainty is never easy, and the constant thought of ‘should I stay or should I go’ is enough to drive you crazy. However, like it or not, your relationship uncertainty can sometimes help you find the answer you are looking for.
I recently wrote a post on Instagram about the pain and confusion of trying to decide whether to stay in or leave an intimate relationship. I encouraged those who are at a relational crossroads to honor the complexity of a decision like this and eschew the allure that easy answers exist somewhere, yet to be discovered. The post received quite a bit of traction, and I was moved by the support people offered each other in the comments section.
I decided to tap into the collective wisdom of the community by posing this follow-up question: “If you’ve stood at a relational crossroads, what helped you get clear?” This community of 76,000+ people from around the world shared hundreds of heartfelt reflections.
I ran an informal “qualitative factor analysis” and identified ten themes. Below you will samples of each theme, edited only for clarity.
If you, or someone you love, are standing at a fork in the road, trying to discern whether to remain in a romantic relationship or leave, I hope these perspectives offer direction, validation, and/or a clear path to the choices that feel most aligned. Take only the suggestions that resonate with you and leave the rest behind!
Focus on Your Values
A lot of people highlighted the need to turn their attention inward, to reflect on who they are and what matters most to them.
- Asking myself the question, “Am I showing up to the relationship the way I should?”
- What version of myself do I want to be? That’s really what different partners bring out in us.
- I stopped focusing on my partner and asked myself if I could be who I wanted to be in the relationship.
- It is 10 months after my husband’s affair. I am trying to stay and build back better than it ever was. The key is
working on ME first, more than ever before. I am working on me to know if I still want US. If it is worth all the excruciating efforts to work on us and forgiving him. I am trying to figure out if I want the US that I am starting to see.
- Focusing on my core values. I’m such a fighter for our own integrity.
- What are my values? Does this relationship support and enable me to live according to them?
- Realizing that sometimes it’s simply a choice, not a ‘wrong choice’ or a ‘right choice,’ and that it was in my hands to make a beautiful future from that choice.
Assess the Relationship Climate
Many respondents talked about taking an honest look at the quality of the relationship.
- Early on, I ask what he wants. If there’s no alignment, I politely move on. It gets easier.
- Pay attention to how the relationship feels most of the time. What is. Not potential.
- Deciding on non-negotiables.
- Acknowledgment of lack of feelings/attraction for him.
- Observing how he was showing up for others, as well as for me.
- What helped me leave was realizing the patterns in behavior and the old saying, “Actions speak louder than words.”
- I reflect on how I feel looking at the person.
- If you feel dread/fear/negativity more than joy/laughter/love, it’s time to leave.
- When I’ve shared my doubts, if the other person isn’t willing to engage in the conversation, I don’t hesitate to go.
- Are we both willing to do the hard work? Are our core values aligned? Can we be humble?
- Love. Knowing we have a true, passionate love that can’t be found elsewhere. But love alone isn’t enough, so now we are working on our communication, attachment, etc.
- Asking myself, “Is our relationship built on trust, respect, kindness, and generosity?”
- How I feel in their presence on a daily basis: dimmed or brighter?