How to Determine if you Should Stay or Walk Away

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I had a young woman ask my advice just the other day about her relationship.  She described a man who was treating her badly, hot one minute and cold the next.  According to her, they were often fighting and it sounded as if even the smallest things set him off.  Also, he had already broken up with her multiple times, only to change his mind a day or two later and tell her he’d made a mistake and wanted to see her again.  And when he was with her, he’d be fine for a short while and then withdraw, telling her he needed some “alone” time.


She said she didn’t want to turn her back on him, that she wanted to “do the right thing”.




Granted, there was a bit more to the story, but everything she described pointed to a rocky, volatile, unhealthy relationship with a man who was either very immature or had some very serious issues when it came to relationships.


So I asked her, “Based on what you’ve just described, why do you want to be in this relationship?”  Her response (which is not at all uncommon, unfortunately) was,  “Because I really love him.”


To this I responded, “Do you love him, or do you love the person you hope he could be?  In other words, do you just love his potential?”


I bring up this story because it raises a vital question that must be addressed before you go to all the effort of trying to save your relationship:


Is your relationship really worth saving?  


Many relationships are, but you need to determine if yours really is one of them.  If what this woman described was accurate, it sounded like a relationship that rated very low on the “worth saving” scale.  I would give it a “1” on a 1 to 10 scale, with 10 being “absolutely, positively, no doubt about it, cross-my-heart-hope-to-die” worth saving.  (Okay, that’s a bit dramatic but it gets the point across!)


The following are a list of scenarios that are either serious red flags or huge yellow flags in terms of relationships that really might NOT be worth saving.  If any of these describe yours, then you may be better off investing your energy elsewhere, because honestly, as much as it may be painful to end it, staying is likely going to be far more painful in the long run:


  1. Your partner has cheated on you several times, or is engaged in an ongoing affair and refuses to put an end to it.


Cheating on your partner is destructive to a relationship no matter how you slice it.  While “once a cheater always a cheater” isn’t always true, there is no truly good excuse for having an affair.  Don’t get me wrong here.  Infidelity doesn’t have to be an automatic reason to walk away.  Many couples not only survive an affair, but end up with a stronger relationship than ever.


But if your partner has a long history of being unfaithful, and/or doesn’t show any real interest in changing, then he is being incredibly selfish and disrespectful to you.  Not only does this damage or destroy any trust you might have had in him, but you could also be putting your physical health at risk if you stay in the relationship and your partner if sleeping around.


  1. Your partner is abusing you. Abuse doesn’t have to be physical violence. It can also entail verbal abuse, emotional abuse, or sexual abuse.  Abuse should never be tolerated and, particularly in the case of physical or sexual abuse, it could have a tragic outcome.  Many people, women in particular, die at the hands of abusive partners every day!  Get out now before that becomes you.


If you are tolerating ongoing abuse of any kind, then I strongly recommend you seek professional help (in addition to leaving and finding a safe place, even if it means a shelter if the abuse is violent) and find out why you have been tolerating it.  Clearly, if you continue to let it happen, the message you give your partner is that you deserve such treatment and don’t deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.


  1. You are in a relationship with an addict. Whether it’s alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, or pornography, addictive behavior is very destructive to any relationship.  The bottom line is this – you will never be a priority to someone with an addiction.  The object of their addiction is their real “partner”, and until they get help, it’s highly unlikely that will ever change.


  1. Your partner lies all the time. Trust and honesty are vital to a healthy, happy relationship, and they simply cannot exist if you are involved with someone who often lies.


  1. Your partner often treats you with disrespect or has no regard for your feelings or input. Mutual respect is essential for a healthy relationship.  If you stay, you will likely end up with a very damaged self-esteem and a lot of resentment and anger.  No matter how much you may love your partner, you are not being loved in return in this situation.


  1. Your partner has a pattern of being irresponsible. His behavior may have serious consequences for your relationship, and it may never be fulfilling or happy as a result.


  1. There is constant fighting. All couples fight on occasion.  That’s normal.  But constant fighting is not, and it’s also destructive and very stressful.  And if there are children in the picture, it is very damaging to their emotional well-being as well.  While .couples therapy may help, this might be a relationship that will never work.


If any of these describe you, you need to think long and hard about the cost of trying to save your relationship.  No matter how much you love your partner, these types of situations often don’t have a good prognosis.  Granted, with a serious commitment to appropriate treatment and/or professional help, there may be a future.  But the odds are not in your  favor, and the price you pay in the meantime may be severe.


That being said, if your relationship, troubled as it is, doesn’t fit any of these scenarios, keep on reading.  If your partner is reasonably emotionally healthy and stable (and you are as well), then keep on reading for the actions you can take to save your relationship (even if your partner is ridiculously stubborn!).    


Speaking of stubborn partners…..



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