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Relationship Uncertainty: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Relationship Uncertainty

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!

Related: 10 Most Common Reasons Why People Decide To Leave A Committed Relationship

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.
relationship uncertainty
relationship uncertainty

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?

Related: 9 Times When Leaving The Person You Love Is The Right Thing To Do

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Alexandra H. Solomon, PhD

Alexandra H. Solomon, PhD, is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Northwestern University, a licensed clinical psychologist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, a regular contributor at Psychology Today, a popular resource on Instagram. the creator and leader of the Intimate Relationships 101 E-course, the host of the Reimagining Love podcast, and the author of Taking Sexy Back: How to Own Your Sexuality and Create the Relationships You Want (February 2, 2020; New Harbinger) and Loving Bravely: 20 Lessons of Self-Discovery to Help You Get the Love You Want (2017; New Harbinger), which was featured on the TODAY show. She is an international speaker and teacher whose work has been featured on six continents. You can visit her online at Author posts