Should I Stay or Leave? The Ultimate Relationship Conflict

Tender touchSo often during my over 30-year career as a therapist and coach, I am asked the question, “Should I leave or stay?” Individuals and couples are conflicted because:

  • They still care about the other but there is no real love or passion;

  • Feel guilty;

  • Are worried about the effects of separation and divorce on their children,

  • Don’t want to repeat the patterns they experienced growing up with divorced parents;

  • Are anxious about what others might think of them and feel ashamed to be divorced;

  • Are apprehensive about what would happen financially and whether they could be self-supporting;

  • Are reluctant to pay for the high emotional and financial costs of divorce;

  • Wrestle with the effects of infidelity and whether he or she can ever trust and forgive the partner;

  • Are confused and uncertain whether the partner can remain faithful; or

  • Are fearful that they will never find another person to love and marry them.

To stay in a loveless relationship or to be abused in any way emotionally or physically is not healthy for any individual. The key factors in deciding to stay really have to do with the constellation of patterns that have existed for some time. For instance, have your emotional needs been absent for a long time? Do you long for someone who is affectionate with you verbally and physically? Yet, this is not nor ever has been your mate…he or she is not overly affectionate. Does your partner have the capacity to love you in the ways you desire? You may have thought by staying in a relationship in which you are the model of love; sharing freely and openly your thoughts and feelings, being demonstrative by saying and showing you love him or her, doing thoughtful gestures that meet the others wants and needs – that he or she would eventually change. You may have believed that ultimately your partner could change to show love in the ways that you desire if you could love that person enough (or for some, complain enough).

The reality remains if your needs are unmet and your partner is not willing to do all he or she can to fulfill them or lacks the desire to change; you are probably wasting your time. What you see while dating or prior to a committed relationship is, unfortunately, what you get later. Resentment, criticalness, and dissatisfaction with your mate build over time, exacerbating, even more, your sense of hurt, feeling unprioritized and unimportant, sad, and angry. These feeling are even more poignant and consuming if there have been incidents of infidelity.

However, on the other hand, if your partner does desire to and is willing to work on your relationship, anything is possible. Even if passion has been absent for some time, as long as there is some amount of love or caring, there is hope. Relationships can be revitalized and a greater sense of closeness can be achieved through:

  • Determining and attaining the level of commitment that each partner has to be open, honest, and giving his or her best effort to change oneself (too often couples erroneous believe that if the other partner changes, everything will be alright);

  • Exploration and clarification of the needs of each partner;

  • Learning how to communicate on an authentic and deeper level of their thoughts, feelings, needs, and wants;

  • Increasing awareness and skills to provide emotional and physical support;

  • Letting go of anger, hurt, sadness, betrayal, and disappointment;

  • Forgiveness of self and mate;

  • Sexual and physical connection;

  • Having fun and enjoying common activities; and

  • Ability to have gratitude for your partner and your life.

Yes, as long as you mutually want to work on your relationship, your relationship can be stronger, more loving, and happier than ever. If you or your partner are unwilling to do everything possible, to be honest, committed, and tender with each other, then either you are probably doomed to a life of being unfulfilled, becoming more sad and bitter and/or becoming unfaithful or being cheated upon by your mate. Your decision to leave can be a celebration of your honoring, loving, and valuing yourself and your commitment to creating your own happiness rather than settling for what is safe. The choice is up to you…Either decision can create the life that you deserve and dream of!

Mamiko Odegard, Ph.D. is the founder of ACT ON LOVE, a life coach, author of Daily Affirmations for Love, and married for over 40 years to the love of her life. Dr. Mamiko has helped thousand of individuals and couples in her over 30 years as a psychologist and individual and marriage therapist. She can help you dramatically and quickly change your life and relationships through her empowered coaching, VIP Intensive Retreats including her revolutionary 48 Hour Love Makeover Program and Concierge Program.