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Should You Make Up or Break Up?

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I've often joked that if life existed on other planets, there's a quick way to assess if aliens are a more advanced life form than us. No, it doesn't have anything to do with asking to see their technology. We simply need to find out if there's dating on their planet. If aliens don't have dating, it is proof they are a far more evolved species.

Dating can really suck!

I believe that often people even stay in bad relationships longer than they should because the fear of the pain of dating is scarier than the pain of a bad relationship! People prefer to cling to the familiar -- even when it's painful -- rather than attempt to stretch themselves with the hope of expanding their happiness.

Before I encourage you to take the leap into the great unknown, I want to encourage you to take a good look at where you're at right now. And I don't mean looking at your partner through a magnifying lens. I mean looking at yourself in the mirror.

If you break up with your partner without really looking at yourself in the mirror, you could be on your way to duplicating your love problems in your future relationships just like in Groundhog Day -- over and over.

Remember: You are the common denominator in all your relationship problems. Wherever you go, your pesky repeated issues go -- until you shed a blazing light of insight upon them.

With this in mind, here are eight empowering insight generators to help you decide if you should break up or make up!

1. Set aside time to talk with your partner about your childhoods -- the good, bad and dysfunctional. Recognize there's often a "repetition compulsion" at the root of ongoing conflicts. Openly discuss the popular psychological belief that you choose your partner because they subconsciously represent the best and worst of your parents. Your subconscious's goal is to recreate unresolved childhood issues and then hopefully mend them. Explore how you might more lovingly help each other unload emotional baggage for good.

2. Swap same-value complaint cards with your partner like same-value baseball cards. Start by sharing a tiny, annoyingly irksome complaint about each other's habits. Afterward, build up to a huge complaint. The reason it's good to swap? Both of you must empathize with how it feels to be told you're annoyingly irksome. Plus, you'll both feel an equal sense of "growth opportunity" because you will both have an equal amount of issues to work on for the sake of happily-ever-after love.

3. Is there something you're hurt about or worried about and you haven't told your partner yet -- and now it's hurting your love because you expect your partner to be a mind reader? Hate to break it to you, but even mind readers are not mind readers. Speak up! If something is on your mind, share it. One of my favorite quotes is from Emile Zola: "I came into this world to live out loud!" Your love life is only as strong as your open communication.

4. Is your partner getting on your nerves because of static clinging? Do you take enough breaks and give each other enough space? The best relationship is one that does not foster too much independence nor too much dependence, but exists in the healthy interdependence zone.

5. Are there deal breakers you're just realizing you have? Are these true deal breakers, like: "He's a cheater," "He's a liar," "He hits me," "He's a gambler," "He's a jobless mooch," "He doesn't want to have children and I do" and "He has an addiction he's not dealing with." If your partner has a real deal breaker, that is a good reason to leave the relationship. However, be aware that sometimes what you think is a deal breaker could be turned into a "deal bender." Some examples: "He stonewalls when he's upset," "He's not physically affectionate enough" and "He's too much of a couch potato." If your issue is a potential "deal bender," be sure to share your concerns.

WARNING: If you don't talk about your fears and needs, you can risk becoming a "negative evidence collector" by continually looking for evidence of your partner being no good, even when there's no good reason for it. Stop having a silent fight with your partner. Start having an open, warm conversation instead.

6. Are you sweating the small stuff so much that you're harming your relationship? Even though I'm telling you to talk openly with your partner, I want you to do this within a moderation zone. Set the following intention: "I will not complain about anything to my partner for the next three days." Would this be a hard intention for you to fulfill? If so, maybe you're looking at your partner through an incredibly negative lens because you're overworked and under-exercised. Take a yoga class. Meditate. When you're stressed, moodiness and irritability increase -- two love busters you want to avoid!

7. Love shoes? Love love? Well, if you want to get both more shoes and more love, then put yourself in your partner's shoes more often! You will understand how your partner feels and feel more love for your partner, instead of feeling like he's a big creepy jerk you need to break up with. As Steve Covey so wisely put it: "Seek first to understand, then to be understood."

8. The philosopher Aristotle believed there are three kinds of relationships, and only one brings true happiness. There's a relationship of pleasure -- which quickly summed up is sex-mates -- and not fulfilling in the long run. Then, there's a relationship of utility -- where partners use one another for beauty, money or status -- that is also not fulfilling for the long haul. The final type is the relationship of shared virtue. This is when you understand each other -- and you want to help each other grow into your best possible selves. Aristotle deemed these partners soul mates or "soul-nurturing mates." He believed being with someone who helped you grow into your best possible self was not only what long-term happily-ever-after love was all about, but also what a long-term happily-ever-after life was all about. For this reason, you must recognize that it's appropriate for a love relationship to have some challenge within it to help you to grow. Like Jack Nicholson's character in As Good As It Gets said: "You make me want to be a better man." Are you and your partner in a relationship of shared virtue where the challenges can be wonderful growth opportunities?

Finally, keep in mind a favorite quote from Leo Buscaglia, who said: "A great deterrent to love is found in anyone who fears change, for ... growing, learning, experiencing is change. Change is inevitable."

Karen Salmansohn, founder of www.notsalmon.com, is a best-selling author with over 1 million books sold, known for creating self-help for people who wouldn't be caught dead reading self-help, because her psychological research is merged with stylish design, feisty humor and unusual metaphors. The Bounce Back Book is now going into its 8th printing and praised by Tony Robbins. (Click here for more about it!) And Oprah.com has repeatedly recommended her book Prince Harming Syndrome -- which applies to healing from both Princess Harmings and Prince Harmings. (Click here for more about it!)

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