To Stay or to Go ?
One of our greatest needs is to connect deeply with another, to be known and accepted by them and equally, to be respected admired and cherished. A reciprocal arrangement would be reasonable so that there is some kind of balance in the give and take that determines how intimacy is regulated in relationships.
Although chemistry provides fuel for the development of a bond, it is also loaded with hope and the often (unrealistic) expectation of having all our needs met in a relationship. When it is reciprocated, falling in love gives a spring to our step, a confidence and ease in our manner. It is as if someone has buffed the twinkle in our eye and eased the burden of our souls.
Initial Love Phase
This initial phase of a relationship can be incredible – some would describe it as addictive and when the intensity passes, it can either die out (and the relationship ends) or smolder away in the form of embers that are stoked up from time to time and the fire or passion is ignited again. In long term relationships, couples will often go through periods when there is nothing much going on between them and then something happens that will either draw them close again, or else they find themselves even more alienated from each other than before.
People stay together even if they’re not happy. They will say it just is not bad enough to leave. Yet there is an underlying dissatisfaction in their relationship. It is noticed it in the way they are with each other – nitpicking, putting down or insulting the other, ignoring requests, etc. The relationship limps along and unhappiness becomes parasitic as it robs one or both of their life force. It should come as no surprise that depression is a typical symptom of unhappiness in relationships.
When things go Sour
Sooner or later, and it may be years later, if things don’t improve one may leave the other. Two people do not really make the decision to leave at the same time even if they say that it is mutual. In fact, one may even spend considerable amounts of time being talked (or talking themselves) into staying even though they know it is over. Yet they find it hard to say the definitive words out loud because somehow it will make it a reality – that this relationship really is finished.
Therapists often work with clients (both couples and individuals) at a crossroads in their relationship. Behind all their anger, hurt and disappointment, therapists hear their fear and it is utterly understandable – that ultimately they will be worse off on their own. At least if they stay, they can stave off the feelings of loss (loss of children, home, financial stability, status, sense of belonging and purpose, etc). Lurking in the background may also be another fear – that if they do break up that they will never find another relationship again.
Bravery to Stay, Courage to Leave
Courage does not exist without fear and it does take enormous courage to leave a relationship especially when there is no third party involved. Conversely, it takes great bravery to stay and see if it can be repaired, bearing in mind that what worked before to ‘fix things’ may not work now. As we mature our needs change and it demands that we pay close attention to what they are now for both parties in order to give it the best chance of success.
Whatever decision you feel is the right one, it is a good idea to check in with yourself about what you want from an intimate relationship today (believe it or not, many people are not consciously aware of what they need for their own happiness, so it may take some soul-searching). Do you believe your current partner can satisfy some of them and realistically, will it be enough? Please bear in mind that if you have been feeling negatively about your partner for a considerable period of time, it is likely that your first answer will be ‘No’ and ‘No’. Give yourself a chance because an open mind will be a curious one – it may help to gently challenge your ‘No’ by asking yourself if you really believe it one hundred percent, beyond a shadow of a doubt. If you say ‘No’ to that, then it is a start.