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Stowe guests: How to make the decision to leave an unhealthy relationship by Lee Lam

In this instalment of Stowe guests, we are joined by Lee Lam who runs a business consultancy and personal coaching business. Lee works with a variety of different clients, personal and business, as an advisor, consultant and coach through four key programmes.

Lee Lam works with the Stowe office in Esher and today joins us to look at her advice on how to make the decision to move on from a relationship.

Making the decision to leave a relationship is emotionally traumatic and so it is natural to put practical obstacles in the way.  It is far simpler to think that it is too complicated to end a marriage than to see how clear the decision can be if you can quieten the external noise around you for long enough to pay attention to what is most important to you.

All too often couples stay together for convenience, for a stable life for their children or due to the lack of a better alternative.  Yet if the relationship has deteriorated where these are the only reasons for still being together, you can end up causing far more harm than good and instead of steadiness, you instead of providing uncertainty and emotional instability.

Successful relationships rely on a basis of compromise – the ability for either party to determine factors of how they interact with each other.  Each will make a certain amount of sacrifice or adjustment, based on the known needs of the other, yet not so drastic that it undermines something that is important to them.

A relationship has become unhealthy when, instead of mutual compromise, one partner requires compliance from the other. Using control and not influence is a key indicator that the power balance has moved too far one way, and any attempt for the other partner to redress the balance may be met with hostility (which can dangerously escalate).

Although you may think only of hostility and threats at this point, there are far more subtle ways that this can play out, with the use of guilt.  You may, for example, not get told to go out with certain friends but are made to feel guilty as you try to walk out of the door.  You may not be told to wear certain clothes, but they make their displeasure clear enough that you get the message anyway.

If this sounds familiar, you may still have an opportunity to bring balance back into the relationship but for certain, you cannot allow it to continue in this way for long before something needs to give.

Guilt about your decision may not just come from inside the relationship, but also from others.  You may be considering your children and how they would feel about the family being split apart.  This seems an obvious and necessary consideration, but you may find that you are also concerned about others such as family, friends, and your wider social environment, all of whom will have been subconsciously telling you their thoughts on marriage, separation or divorce, long before you ever thought you would consider it.

The influence these can have over your decision cannot be underestimated, hiding behind the practical obstacles that appear to be in your way. Are you afraid of letting yourself down, or just letting others down?

It is not just in marriage or relationships that you can lose a sense of who you are – it is possible that your life has always included others trying to mould you into what they want you to be.

But losing a sense of self within a relationship can be the catalyst that motivates you to work on getting to know yourself and learning about the kind of person you want to be.  You then realise that, by ensuring your own happiness and emotional security, you are a vital example and role model to your children and those around you of how to live life fully, making your own decisions and choices and taking power and control back.

The decision is only yours to make, and so give yourself time and space to think it through.   Put others’ expectations and beliefs aside, and ask yourself what you would want if there was no limits or impact on anyone else – if you could start from scratch, what would you do?  Whilst this may seem like an impossible wish list, it will provide critical clues as to the right direction and decision to make for you and your family.

You can find out more about Lee and her work at or email [email protected]


The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Stitchedup says:

    Clearly a gender biased article encouraging women to view themselves as victims. Clearly in the interest of family lawyers to encourage women to end relationships so the cash-in can commence. As a life coach i would have it would have been more appropriate to encourage couples to improve their relationships rather than destroy them.

    • Lee Lam says:

      Thanks for the feedback. I would like to think that the article is about empowering people – regardless of gender – to realise they have an equal say in a relationship they are a part of and I have worked with couples who have got to this point and have seen that there was something significant to be repaired of their relationship and have successfully worked on it. As I said, it is about restoring balance to the relationship and understanding if both parties understand and accept their responsibility in that. A relationship based on anything less is not healthy for either partner and we cannot ignore all possibilities in favour of others. But I appreciate the perspective you have given, so thank you.

  2. JamesB says:

    Not so sure about the rest of it, but the last two paragraphs are spot on.

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