“Should I stay or should I go?”
If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me this question, I would be a wealthy woman.
First off, if you are asking yourself this question, I offer boundless empathy—I know you.
For the most part, you love the person you are with, yet you feel troubled by the relationship. Maybe you do not love them and beat yourself up for feeling this way.
You resist embracing the reality of considering a departure. You judge yourself and think you should try harder and make sure you are taking responsibility for your part. You are the one who reads countless books, has been to therapy, and has hours of self-help under your belt.
You feel ashamed to consider a life that feels better without your partner. You may have children and are wracking yourself with guilt about tearing your family apart. Then the tsunami of fear hits you so hard that it leaves you feeling paralyzed and powerless.
Perhaps another year won’t be so bad.
You tell yourself that your life is not terrible, so why should you have the audacity to complain? Then the thing or things that cause you to toy with wanting to leave in the first place happen again. Maybe an exit feels exciting, liberating, and like you are dumping loads of burdensome baggage that is dragging you down.
Perhaps leaving feels like survival. Going can also feel like you can finally reclaim honesty and trust after enduring an affair’s betrayal. Have you lost your self-worth? Your joy? Your attractiveness? Your sexuality? Your purpose? Your passion? I could tell you to keep working on yourself and see how your partner will shift because you do.
I could tell you not to blame your partner for all of these things lacking in you. I could say, “The heart always knows.” Screw all of that. What is relevant is that you feel this way. Most likely, you have worked your ass off above and beyond to make it this far. You have probably ignored and pushed aside unhappiness for longer than you can remember.
You are terrified of the unknown, the possible financial unraveling, your livelihood if someone supports you, the possibility of being alone, a new home, and not to mention the inevitable, unrelenting grief and loss that come with the dissolution of a relationship.
“Should I stay or go?” If you are asking yourself this question, stop. I don’t mean stop asking the question—I mean pause in the question. Once you contemplate it, the barrage of shame, fantasy, judgments, fears, and so forth will overtake you and sabotage the sheer validity of the question in the first place.
I don’t care how seemingly positive or negative your relationship is. If you ask the question, I believe there is a good reason why. It is important to honor yourself here before you go off the rails about how, why, why not, how could you, and so forth.
Allow yourself to be present in the utter mystery of the question. See what arises here. I am not suggesting that you will find the answer in the pause. The pause is where you become skilled in your ability to tolerate and metabolize uncomfortable emotions.
Take the example of fear. You may get hit with the discomfort of anxiety as soon as your mind grapples with should you stay or go. Typically, we first react to the emotional overwhelm rather than stay focused on staying or going. We lose focus and then become a servant to our painful emotions—emotions become a distraction from the question we are trying to answer.
Regardless of our relationship status, it is essential to learn how to tolerate the array of emotions circulating throughout our lives. However, they are not wrong or unworthy, and the goal is not to push them away. The truth is, it doesn’t matter why we want to stay in or leave a relationship.
I realize this is an unpopular belief. If you desire to leave, it is okay. If you’re going to stay, that is just fine too, although the exception is if your safety is at risk.
Unfortunately, we get stuck in limbo, and then a cyclical conundrum ensues. The only thing we can do is own our choice, be willing to sit in the excruciating emotional discomfort, and act accordingly, doing the necessary personal or logical tasks involved.
Trust me; I know this is far from pleasurable or comfortable. If it were, it would not be the most popular dilemma that shows up in relationship therapy/coaching.
I assure you there is a way through, and I send you compassion and love.