Now that it's breakup season (late November until Valentine's Day) a lot of people may be debating whether or not to end their relationships. If you are feeling torn, the following information may help you with one of the hardest decisions you will ever make.
I originally got into breakup coaching back in 2013 to help people recover from their breakups or divorces. Shortly thereafter, men and women started contacting me because they needed help breaking up with their partners. What I did not expect, however, was how many people would reach out who feeling torn about whether or not they should end their relationships. Although I know first-hand how difficult it can be to have mixed feelings about whether you should stay or go, each relationship situation is unique so the decision-making process is a very personal one, that can be complex and multifaceted. As such, I found it fascinating when a few months ago, I came across a study that precisely speaks to this stay/leave dilemma in this article "Science Reveals 50 Reasons Why Couples Stay Together Or Break Up."
50 REASONS WHY COUPLES STAY TOGETHER OR BREAK UP
In an article titled “Wanting to Stay and Wanting to Go: Unpacking the Content and Structure of Relationship Stay/Leave Decision Processes,” researchers at the University of Utah, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Toronto, found the top 50 reasons why couples stay together or split up. They came up with a list of 27 reasons why people would stay in a relationship and 23 reasons why they would leave.
Samantha Joel, the lead author of the study and her colleagues were surprised at how many people had mixed feelings about their relationships. “What was most interesting to me was how ambivalent people felt about their relationships. They felt really torn,” she said in a statement.
THE PROS & CONS of DATING VS. BEING MARRIED
I found it particularly fascinating that the researchers found individuals in both dating and married situations gave similar reasons for wanting to leave a relationship, but there were significant differences in wanting to stay between the two groups. "For example, those in a dating relationship considered staying based on more positive reasons, including aspects of their partner's personality that they like, emotional intimacy and enjoyment of the relationship. Meanwhile, those who were married stated more constraint reasons for staying, like into the relationship, family responsibilities, fear of uncertainty, and logistical barriers.” Some of the main reasons to leave included issues with a partner's personality, breach of trust, and partner withdrawal.
It is also worth noting that there are both pros and cons for wanting to stay and wanting to go. For example, not all reasons to stay in a relationship are positive (fear, obligation, etc.) and not all reasons for wanting to go are negative. This further complicates the decision-making process.
Over the years I have heard clients describe their feelings of indecision as being extremely difficult, anxiety-provoking, and sometimes even emotionally distressing. Learning that there were 50 reasons to want to stay and want to go validates how complex and difficult this decision-making process truly is. Since all relationships have their reasons to stay (both positive and negative) and reasons to want to leave (also positive and negative) feeling grounded in which direction to take is complex and multifaceted.
MY 3 SUGGESTIONS
In addition to this insightful research, here are 3 suggestions I have found to be extremely helpful for my clients who feel torn about whether or not they should stay or they should go.
KNOW YOUR CORE VALUES
In many ways, this research is very much in line with a method I have been using to help my clients gain clarity on their relationship. However, if you are feeling ambivalent about your relationship, before weighing out all of the positives and challenges of staying or leaving, its essential to know your "core values" and to know what you want most in life. It is often through
So much of our happiness and satisfaction in life comes down to whether or not we are living in alignment with our highest values. If you don’t know what makes you happy, and/or are not communicating your needs, you may be projecting your personal dissatisfaction onto your partner or relationship.
If you need help discovering your core values, here is an online values assessment by Dr. John Demartini that I recommend most often.
WEIGH OUT YOUR OWN REASONS
Make the effort to get clear on what’s working in your relationship for you and the challenges that are not working for you. Then ask yourself if you’re able and willing to communicate those challenges to your partner and start working on improving them. If you have trouble pinpointing your reasons, Joel's 50 reasons may help you gain clarity. You can read all 50 here.
COMMUNICATE YOUR CONCERNS & DOUBTS
If you are seriously considering ending your relationship, I strongly encourage you (if possible) to communicate your concerns and needs with your partner. Too often I see devastating aftermath of not communicating with the partner that is being broken up with. While the person considering a breakup has time to process the ending of the relationship, the other person often has no idea and feels blind-sided by the one-way decision.
As difficult as it may be, letting your partner in on the fact that you have concerns and/or doubts, will allow them to process the ending of the relationship for themselves. That said, I have also seen cases, where the “breakupers ” have sincerely felt like their partners would not let them break up with them, so the only way to get out of the relationship was to end it abruptly.