There are few decisions more painful or complicated than deciding whether to stay or to go.
Loving someone consumes us and envelops our life.
We give our heart, our body, our mind, our time, and our energy to another person.
If we’re lucky, they become our best friend. If we’re lucky, they love us back and treat us well and are kind and faithful and honest and giving.
But love is not usually forever.
And, somewhere along the way, we get that nagging feeling that we’ve reached a roadblock, a dead end—something that tugs at our sleeve and whispers in our ear, “Go.”
Sometimes it’s for obvious reasons, and it’s not so much a question of whether we should go but how and when to go. Maybe the relationship is “toxic” or abusive. Maybe there’s a clear gap in compatibility. Maybe one of you wants kids and the other one doesn’t. Whatever the reason, it is clear and straightforward and simple.
But other times, it isn’t so clear, and we spend minutes or hours or days or months—or years—agonizing over the decision. Because there doesn’t seem to be any good, clear, get-out-now sign to leave.
Which is what I was struggling with when I stumbled upon a chapter in Cheryl Strayed’s book tiny beautiful things. The book is a collection of her best “Dear Sugar” advice columns. It is full of human honesty and compelling wisdom, and I have turned to it again and again in times of suffering and doubt.
In this chapter, Strayed addresses a question about how to know whether to stay or to leave.
Her response is powerful and eye-opening and oh-so-painfully true:
“Go, even though you love him.
Go, even though he’s kind and faithful and dear to you.
Go, even though he’s your best friend and you’re his.
Go, even though you can’t imagine your life without him.
Go, even though he adores you and your leaving will devastate him.
Go, even though your friends will be disappointed or surprised or pissed off or all three.
Go, even though you once said you would stay.
Go, even though you’re afraid of being alone.
Go, even though you’re sure no one will ever love you as well as he does.
Go, even though there is nowhere to go.
Go, even though you don’t know exactly why you can’t stay.
Go, because you want to.
Because wanting to leave is enough. Get a pen. Write that last sentence on your palm…Then read it over and over again until your tears have washed it away.”