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Should I stay or should I go? How do you decide whether to end a relationship

How do you decide whether to end a relationship: As part of our Stowe guests programme, we are joined on the blog by Luisa Williams, CEO & Founder from My Family Psychologist with her advice if you are uncertain whether to end a relationship. 

Ending a relationship

Most of us have been involved in a break-up. Whether we are the ones instigating it or on the receiving end of it. 

There is no easy one size fits all approach when it comes to deciding whether you should leave or end a romantic relationship. It comes with a mixture of complicated emotions, confusion, stress and it can create intense inner turmoil which may have a physical and mental impact on your ability to rationalise. 

Going through bad patches is not uncommon and often, couples are able to reconcile their differences and make compromises. However, for some, their relationships are just not meant to be and don’t survive. 

Break-ups are painful and a word that people often use when a relationship does not work is failure. But we need to move away from the days of the blame game and feeling like failures. At the end of the day, it might be a case of accepting that this just wasn’t our time. 

As highly emotional beings, we often react based on our emotional mindset or how we feel in that moment. These impulsive responses may potentially cause more harm than good. It is hard to make decisions when we feel intense emotions such as anger or sadness so taking a step back would be beneficial before making a definite decision.  

We may even feel like we have found the ‘one’ but for whatever reason, it just doesn’t fit/work. It doesn’t mean we don’t care or that we don’t love them. In fact, it can often mean the opposite. 

Couples may choose to end the relationship because they care greatly about their partners and would rather end the relationship than grow to resent them. Nipping it in the bud early on may prevent further issues in the future. 

Furthermore, relationships go through changes; moving in together, deciding to get married, having children, taking on a new job or moving home. These are all transitional changes, and with this, comes challenges. 

It is easy to follow the script and become complacent in relationships so when an issue flares up, it can put the relationship into a tailspin. 

Question yourself

There are four important questions that you need to be asking yourself,

  1. Is this a new issue or something which has been going on unresolved for a while? 

  2. Is this something which can be fixed or worked through? 

  3. Are you staying together because you want the relationship to work or because you are scared of being alone? 

  4. Have you ran out of options or are you tired of trying? 

It’s understandable that some of these questions are subjective and you may give different answers on different days. 

Most common reasons why people decide to end a relationship

Joel et al., (2017) conducted some research to understand why people may want to stay in or leave their relationships. 

Based on this and some of the most common reasons I have encountered working with clients here are some of the most common reasons why people chose to end their relationship. 

A breach of trust 

If you or your partner has been deceptive, cheated or suspected of cheating, this can severely impact the trust in the relationship. 

If you have experienced this, you need to consider if this is something you can work on and build trust back or whether it is too painful to get past. 

A lack of support 

If you or your partner feel like there is little support from each other, then this could lead to feeling like there is a lack of interest or care in what the other is doing or what is important to them. 

Emotional unavailability and partner distancing

Not being able to be close to each other in a partnership is going to cause distance (not just physically but emotionally too). Not being provided with or be able to provide emotional support can mean that partners may not be fully present with each other and there will be an obvious sense of detachment.

If you aren’t being physically intimate 

Physical intimacy is important for bonding. It’s not uncommon to hit dry spells but being unable to recover from that, is likely to raise some concerns. 

Sometimes, this does not mean that you don’t find you attractive or not want sexual intimacy, but there may be something going on which means that they are struggling with physical intimacy. 

If you feel like you are incompatible

They say opposites attract however sometimes differing in opinions, values, beliefs and not ‘seeing eye to eye’ can lead to feeling like you are not fully compatible with your partner which may cause tension if you are unable to agree to disagree. 

A lack of validation 

If you are not feeling appreciated by your partner or vice versa, you may feel as though you are being taken for granted or that your opinions are not being heard. 

If there is social inequity and discomfort with commitment 

Put simply, people invest in a partnership hoping to secure commitment and fairness. If the relationship starts to feel unbalanced then the equity in a relationship is not in sync and commitments are not going to be locked in. 

A loss of attraction 

Keeping the spark in a relationship can be hard sometimes, especially when we don’t feel that chemistry. When that is missing or not as strong, it can make us question if we could be attracted to somebody else. 

If there is conflict and you cannot talk openly about your issues. 

It comes as no surprise that if the communication style is not right, there is going to be some conflict. 

If you spend a lot of time arguing and butting heads with each other, this may suggest that there are issues going unresolved. 

The longer this continues, the more impact this is going to have and may end up feeling like World War Three. 

If you can’t talk despite trying repeatedly to address the issues, then perhaps your communication style isn’t working well for you both

If you don’t want the same things 

Sometimes, people change their minds about things or there are things that people are not willing to compromise on. One partner may want children, the other may not. 

This can lead to people feeling that their partners do meet their expectations and may feel like they are being denied what they really want. 

Explore the relationship before making a decision

Write a list of the ways in which you feel the relationship isn’t working the way it used to (this includes both you and your partner’s flaws). 

This may help you understand what has caused the issues or where it started. You may be able to find some solutions there and then for some issues and others may need more work and time. 

Communication is key

Communication is key in any relationship especially when things may not be completely stable. It is worth talking to each other using ‘I’ statements. This will help both of you to understand how the other partner is feeling. 

Listen to what the other has to say and give them the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings. 

Talking to a relationship coach or accessing relationship counselling can be a useful way of getting a neutral perspective to work through your issues. 

They will support you and whatever you think is best for you, whether you decide to stay together or not.  

Final thoughts on how do you decide whether to end a relationship

Many couples will stay together for the sake of their children. (If you find yourself in this situation, you might find our blog post ‘Split Decision’ about how to talk to children about separation’ useful in this situation.)

You are the role model for your children and it can be more harmful to children who have a tendency to pick up on the tension. 

Parents can set the standard by showing that even though they may not together, that they can still provide care and love without resenting each other. 

Whatever you decide, remember that is YOURS and YOUR PARTNER’S decision about what happens. Try not to worry about what other people say or think you should do. 

Ultimately, it is about your happiness, not theirs, so whatever decision you make, do it in the pursuit of your own happiness. 

People should contribute to your happiness, not be the sole reason for it. Sometimes no matter how much people want to work through their issues, they just can’t. If this is something which is non-negotiable, then chances are, it means letting that person go. 

Get in touch

If you are deciding whether to end a relationship, get in touch with My Family Psychologist and see how we can help. 

We offer services in romantic relationships including couples’ therapy, relationship difficulties, marital difficulties, sexual difficulties, and mediation as well as services to address personal issues which may be affecting your relationships such as addiction, self-esteem, and body issues. 

This may be a starting point to making the right decision for you and your partner. 

Visit the My Family Psychologist website here.

Family law advice 

If you would like any advice on ending a relationship and the family law implications you can find about our legal services here or please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist family lawyers here. 

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. Jayasty says:

    Great insights and relates to my personal life. Will work on the advice shared here.

  2. Mary Smith says:

    Thank you. For writing such a beautiful article about Should I stay or should I go? How do you decide whether to end a relationship

  3. Steve Ross says:

    I completely agree with what you have written. I hope this post could reach more people as this was truly an interesting post.
    Check my blog about Top 3 Reasons Relationships Fail
    Hope this will also help. Thank you!

  4. Mary H. Joyce says:

    Thank you so much for your informative article. Please share more articles like this it really helps the user.

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