To Stay, or Leave?

06/08/2015 03:05 pm ET | Updated Jun 08, 2016

What do you do when your relationship isn't working? Whether you've been married for 15 years or dating for eight months, the decision whether to stay or leave is never easy. How long do you keep trying to make it right? And, when do you throw in the towel and walk away?

The answer to these questions is easier to find when we start at the end and work our way backwards. There's always the option to leave. Knowing that's the last resort, file that away in your back pocket and look at your circumstances with a fresh pair of eyes.

The issues that cause us to question our commitment to a relationship can range from dozens of minor problems that have reached a critical mass, to more serious matters of infidelity and betrayal. The first decision to make is to determine which battles are worth the fight.

Unresolved Issues/Problems

For issues involving ongoing irritations and minor problems, it's often wise to set a specific time period in which to correct the situation before ending the partnership. It's crucial to do as much as we can to improve our participation in this process before we walk away. This allows us the serenity of knowing we did all we could, and leaving is not for a lack of effort on our part.

Any work we do to improve ourselves and apply positive corrections to our behavior will provide lasting benefits. Regardless of whether our current relationship lasts, this necessary action secures our future success when we choose to love again.

It's tempting to point the finger at our partner for their mistakes and non-actions. It's so much easier to frame the relationships problems on them. Yet, the uncomfortable flip side to this tactic is that we become the victim, powerless to affect any change. It takes humility to recognize that in all of this mess, we were there, as well.

We're half of the equation. In taking responsibility for our part in this dynamic, we can utilize the relationship as a vehicle to correct our thinking and actions.


Infidelity within a monogamous partnership creates a critical fracture. Trust is the glue that keeps a couple together. When trust has been broken, it puts a huge stress on any forward movement toward resolution. Yet, there are couples that choose to take on this battle. They've determined the benefits of their partnership are worth the fight to restore what's good and workable at the heart of their union. This choice is solely dependent upon the external factors involved and the couple's unique personal dispositions. For others, infidelity marks the end of their relationship. To leave is the inevitable last resort. Neither choice is right or wrong. It's only a question of what works for the individuals involved.

When a couple sincerely desires to remain together after infidelity, there's much work at hand. Broken contracts of conduct cannot be mended unless both partners are willing and able to correct their former behavior. The partner who violated the trust must want to change, and do so. The partner who accepted this correction must begin anew, without the baggage of guilt and blame.

The Benefit Within the Issue

There is a gift that lies beneath the surface of the problem. This is the inherent beauty of the romantic relationship archetype. Within the turbulence surrounding our issue is the key to our greater transformation. And while it's not the way we'd prefer to get our information, we have to admit the conflict has gotten our attention. Something must be done. We're incentivized to do some digging.

Our problems exist as indicators of something we need to do, or change, in order to become the fuller version of ourselves. We can only ascend to that which we are. To do our inner work when demanded is essential.

And while our partner may have done some despicable things, something in our energy called in this specific person to enact the joint drama we're now experiencing. They aren't our lover by accident. Nor are we theirs by some random fluke of fate.

Before ending a partnership, ask yourself, "Is there is any connection to the current problem I'm facing and problems I've had in the past?"

If so, you're a part of the problem.

Which means you're a factor in its solution.

Finding Balance

Being in a partnership is like being on a teeter-totter. When one partner shifts, the balance is off. There's no correcting the problem from a locked position of imbalance.

The way to correct any imbalance is for you to make the shift. There's no unlocking the teeter-totter if you remain who you were, and with the perspective you had. Seeking higher ground mentally and emotionally is a perfect framework for gaining clarity on your own issues and behavior. Working to improve your thinking, communication and conflict resolution skills is the prize you get to keep and apply to all your relationships.

Shifting doesn't mean ignoring abuse or overlooking bad behavior. It means to energetically and mentally amend where you stand in the midst of this conflict. No matter what the situation the answers are always clearer from a positive, self-empowered place.

Doing everything you can to get your side of the street clean is a gift you give to yourself. Yes, your partner is also a recipient of your improved awareness. But they're not the sole reason for this exercise in personal betterment. You've acquired a skill set that's yours to keep and allows your love to flourish.

As you change for the better, so does your reality. As you transform to the higher cut of who you are, so must those around you. This is the key to unlocking the greater possibility within your partnership.

This adjustment does more than clarify the ultimate decision as to whether you stay or leave a relationship. It's often the shift that allows your partner to discover the greater version of who they can be, with you.