There are times in our lives when big decisions have to be made and the consequences faced, however grim they may be. How many of us can actually say we enjoy this process? Not many, I guess. However, doing this is part of life and the alternative is probably worse. As humans, we have become used to dodging and avoiding the pain associated with this process and even an assumption that it will be difficult can have us procrastinating and finding excuses, hoping the issue will solve itself.
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There is one area of our lives where we tend to do this more than others. Where we feel completely helpless and decisions are hard to make on a functional level. We can spend days, weeks, months, even years deliberating over what is best to do and even when an end finally comes to the process, we deliberate more about whether it was the right decision! Never are we at our most indecisive than when it comes to the relationships we have in our life. We very often fly in the face of the obvious and good sense by staying in a situation that we know is not the best for us.
Is it that we are eternal optimists and we always have hope that situations and people may change? In some cases, this might happen but mostly it doesn’t and the longer time goes on, the bigger the problem gets. In fact what we tend to do is start berating ourselves for not being able to make a decision and end up believing that the incompatible person in front of us is as good as it gets and we deserve nothing better.
In research, published in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science, researchers conducted a series of studies. For those who were on the fence about ending things, there were three reasons why they decided to eventually stay: emotional intimacy, investment, and a sense of obligation. At the top of the “leave” list were: issues with a partner’s personality, breach of trust, and partner withdrawal. Most people, again according to the research, find it difficult to leave a bad relationship. I quote:
According to the lead author, psychology professor Samantha Joel, most people have standards and dealbreakers that often go out the window when they meet someone. And, from an evolutionary perspective, our ancestors probably believed it was most important to find a partner than finding the right one. They also went onto to discuss the role of loss in losing a long-term partner. In effect, anyone in this situation is living a fantasy. A fantasy that means that reality is being denied. In this case, reality means starting again, being alone and dealing with the unfamiliar. The same study goes on to suggest asking yourself the following questions if you are on the fence about staying or going. Answering these should give you all the reality you need!
Have I been feeling unsafe, intimidated or threatened in this relationship?
Have I been criticised, degraded or disrespected on a consistent basis?
Have I been regularly interrogated about who I talk to, where I go, how much money I spend and related issues?
Have I been walking on eggshells because I’m fearful or uncomfortable speaking my mind in this one-sided relationship?
Does my partner always blame me or others for their problems or things that go wrong?
Is my partner excessively possessive, calling or texting constantly, visiting expectantly to check up on me?
Am I feeling “sucked in” to this relationship and can’t come up for air?
Does my partner make me feel inadequate?
How am I helping the other person grow in their life?
How can I end this relationship without leaving doors open?
What did I learn from this relationship?
How did we grow from this relationship?
How is this ending going to improve my life? The other person’s life?
Does my partner keep their word or promises?
Does my partner take responsibility?
Do I want them holding my hand on my death bed?
Can my partner become financially responsible?
Does this person make me happy or would I be happier by myself?
Have I asked for my needs to be met directly and respectfully or have I assumed my partner can take a hint?
Am I expecting my partner to be the only one who changes or have I also looked at myself?
What’s the true motivation behind ending a relationship?
What am I missing?
Do I want to break things off because I don’t want to move forward with them?
Am I interested in starting something with someone else?
Am I being fair to them or am I stringing them along?
Will this decision make me feel better about myself?
Am I running away from facing my deep fears?
Do we have the same values and goals for the future?
Am I just angry right now or do I want to breakup for real?
Does this person bring me joy?
Will I regret this five years from now?
Have I tried everything?
Am I ready to walk-away or am I going to end it and get back together?
Can I handle being single?
The decision to stay or go is never an easy one and consequences will follow whatever you decide. It is always effective to look at the issues from a realistic viewpoint. If you are not happy and you cannot fix it with your partner, the way is clear.