Sometimes when I’m sitting with a woman in my office hearing tales of woe about a relationshipsgone bad, I just want to sing her that little verse.
But, sadly most women don’t know when to cut and run and when holding on can make all the difference. And, truth be told, I can’t always predict that either. A woman’s gotta know for herself.
So, here a few considerations when you’re trying to figure out whether to hold or fold your rocky relationship.
Have you tried everything you can in your own personal power to make things different?
Is your knee jerk reaction, ‘Of course! And, I can’t get him/her to do a dang thing different!’? If so, then you’re barking up the wrong tree. You most certainly cannot make your partner do anything different and if you’re badgering, bullying, yelling, and intentionally pushing buttons because you’re angry, you already have the experience that that method doesn’t work.
The key here is your personal power. The only thing you have control over is you. All relationships have circular patterns – you do this, your partner does that, and so on. What’s your part of the circle that isn’t working so well? How can you make a change?
Often when the women I work with use the skills I teach about how to change slightly to create a circle that works better, their partner magically comes right along.
If you’re not sure how to make things different on your side of the circle, get some help. Harriet Lerner’s new book ‘Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and the Coupled Up ’ is a great place to start.
Is there emotional or physical violence?
You may not want to call what’s happening in your relationship violence, but if it’s there it’s leaving its mark. Physical violence involves any part of your partner’s body touching yours in an unwanted and hurtful manner. Violence can also be held in words, and if you or your partner are calling names, making threats, using intimidation, or purposefully attempting to emotionally wound the other, then you’re on rocky ground.
There certainly are circumstances of those in violent relationships working it out and moving into a healthy peaceful future. However, that takes a lot of intervention and change, and both parties need to commit to putting the effort into making that happen.
Usually when there’s violence in a relationship of any kind, that’s a fold ’em sign. It’s easier said than done for many reasons, but violence signals the time to run, don’t walk.
Have there been affairs or betrayal?
It’s so easy to say, ‘if you ever cheat on me, I’ll leave you’, but unless you’ve had a partner who has had an affair (or other type of betrayal), you don’t know how you’ll respond.
I’ve worked with many couples where betrayal on one or both sides has occurred and the hold or fold question really comes down to several factors:
1. Can the one betrayed ever see the possibility of moving on from this event? I don’t mean forgetting, but not living the rest of your relationship with the betrayal and lack of trust front and center. Sometimes the betrayer can do everything right to heal the betrayal, but the one betrayed simply can’t move on. If move on isn’t possible, that generally signals the end of the relationship.
2. Will the betrayer take responsibility, become transparent, and do all right actions to rebuild trust and heal the relationship? If no, then that’s a walk away sign. If yes, there’s likely hope.
3. Can the couple work on healing what might have been factors in the relationship that contributed to the betrayal? It’s tempting sometimes to sweep uncomfortable feelings and events under the rug, but the problem still remains and will crop up again.
A great resource for betrayal issues is ‘After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful’ by Janis Abrahms Spring.
Are you staying because you feel trapped?
There are lots of reasons why women feel trapped in a relationship: financial, lifestyle, health or medical, children, religious, and the big one – good old guilt.
Each woman’s situation is different and bears investigation. If you feel trapped, then it’s a good idea to find someone to help you take a look at your whole picture. It’s hard to see options out of a tricky situation when you’re living in it. There may be options that you haven’t considered.
This is not an exhaustive list of all the situations that can create the ‘should I stay or should I go’ (I guess I’ve got song lyrics in my head today) question. These are simply the most common ones I see in my work with women and couples.
Here’s the rock bottom truth: if you’re asking the question, then you know the answer. You might not like the answer. You might be afraid of others not liking your answer. But, your answer is always the right one for you.
Was this helpful? Have you ever had to end a relationship that wasn’t working? How did you do that?