8 Questions to Ask Before Leaving Your Relationship
If you’re thinking about breaking up with your partner, you should consider these questions first.
Whether we’re socially isolating or living our fullest, best lives, some relationships start to feel like they’ve run their course. We start thinking about breaking up with our partner and moving on. And sometimes there’s good reason for that.
Sometimes the relationship is abusive or toxic. Sometimes there are differences that are too big to overcome. Sometimes there’s nothing really wrong, but you just know that there’s nothing left between you.
But sometimes you start thinking about a split because you’re bored. Things get stale and routine. It doesn’t feel fresh, exciting and new anymore. So you think you should break up and go in search of someone new.
Wherever you’re at, whatever the reasons you’re thinking of breaking up, ask yourself these questions first. Why? Because not only will they give you the clarity you need to make a firm decision but they’ll also help you as you navigate relationships in the future.
How do you currently feel in this relationship?
Many times, when we start thinking about breaking up with someone, we start looking for reasons to back up that decision. Or we look for things to persuade us to stay. Instead of doing that, though, try taking some time to assess how you feel.
Do you feel happy? Angry? Anxious? Scared?
Do you feel like something is off? Do you feel like the relationship isn’t moving as fast as you’d like — or slower than you prefer?
Don’t call up old memories that justify staying or leaving or feeling one way or another. Simply look inside and ask yourself how you feel right now.
What have you and your partner done to contribute to this feeling?
The current feeling(s) you have about your relationship are a result of the things you and your partner have done or not done in the relationship up to this point. Now it’s time to look at what you’ve both done to contribute to this feeling.
This doesn’t need to be a microscopic examination of every tiny thing either of you have ever done. But look at the broad strokes of the relationship.
Maybe you feel angry because your partner had an affair and anxious because you said you forgave them but you really haven’t. Or maybe you feel trapped because when you tried to break up with your partner before, they cried and swore they loved you and convinced you to stay.
Make sure you look at both yourself and your partner. Remember that relationships are a two-way street. Even if you think your partner is more responsible than you are, you still play a role in it. You need to own that.
Where are you honestly at in the relationship?
How you feel and where you really are in the relationship might not be the same. You might feel frustrated but not quite ready to end things. You might still love your partner but know it’s time to go.
Set aside the feelings and ask yourself where you honestly are in the relationship. Are you just done? You know you don’t want to stay and there’s nothing that could persuade you otherwise?
Are you thinking you want to leave but haven’t fully made up your mind?
Do you want to stay but feel like you’ve tried everything and the only option left is to leave?
This can be a hard question to answer. Aside from sometimes not being sure of the answer, we don’t always want to admit the truth to ourselves.
But this is perhaps one of the most important questions to answer because knowing where you’re at right now will make it easier to figure out how to move forward with whatever decision you make — even if it’s not the one you’d thought you’d make.
What will/could you lose if you leave?
Even in a breakup that’s necessary, even if the relationship is toxic or abusive, there’s something you’ll lose if you leave. It might be as simple and mundane as the loss of your partner’s income or it could be having to share custody of your kids, thus losing some time with them.
Consider all areas of your life where you might lose something. Friends, extended family, material possessions, career aspirations, anything at all.
Don’t get nitpicky over the definite losses compared to the possible losses. If it’s a possibility, put it on your list. You want to give yourself an honest look at the ways your life will change if you leave.
Keep in mind that not all losses are negative, too. For example, in an abusive relationship, by leaving you’ll lose the need to lie about how you get bruises.
Try to think ahead to several months or even years into the future, too. You might realize there are more things you’ll lose as time goes on.
What will/could you gain if you leave?
Now flip to the opposite side of the leaving coin, and start looking at what you could gain by leaving.
Again, look at all areas of your life. Will you gain more friends? The ability to go back to school or get a better job? Would leaving result in moving closer to family?
Remember to include emotions too. Would you gain more happiness? More safety? Security?
Consider health gains too. Leaving a cheating partner, for example, could mean you gain the peace of mind of knowing you’re not at risk for STIs anymore.
Maybe you’d gain more money by not having to feed a nonworking partner. Maybe you’d gain more time by not having to clean up after a partner who’s a slob. You might gain deeper, sounder sleep by not sleeping next to someone who snores, tosses and turns all night.
Don’t worry about whether one thing seems insignificant or not breakup-worthy by itself. You’re not going to be using any one thing to make your decision. You’re making these lists to give yourself a broader view of reasons to leave or stay.
What will/could you lose if you stay?
Now you’re going to turn the questions around. If you stay in this relationship, what might you lose?
Do you have friends or family who might turn their backs on you? Would you have to give up a job, an education path, a lifelong dream? Would you have to give up a friend at your partner’s request?
If you’re thinking about a breakup, then you must feel that there’s something you’re either missing out on or would end up missing out on if you stayed in this relationship. So what is it? Be honest with yourself and add it to the list.
Maybe it’s love. Maybe it’s good sex. Maybe it’s just that you’d have to give up a specific sexual act.
It could be anything.
What will/could you gain if you stay?
If you decided to stay, what might you gain? This can be one of the toughest questions to answer because you can spend hours searching for an answer only to come up empty.
But before you decide to move forward with a breakup, it’s important to see if there’s anything left to save. This is why you need to search for answers to this question. You need to know if there’s anything you might gain from staying in this relationship.
Don’t worry if the only answers you come up with seem selfish, too business-like, or otherwise unromantic. If the only thing you come up with is that you’d have extra money because of your partner’s income, write it down. If all you’ve got is that you wouldn’t have to let your kids go every other weekend, that’s valid.
Your reasons don’t have to make sense to anyone else, and they don’t have to be approved by others. So don’t worry about how your answers might make you look to someone else. You’re the one who has to stay in or leave this relationship, and you need to make that decision based on what matters to you.
Can you transform this relationship so it gives you what you need? How?
So now you know how you feel right now. You know what you and your partner have done to get to this point. You know whether you’re leaning toward staying or going, and you have a few lists of pros and cons to both staying and leaving.
Now you’re going to look at all that and figure out if there’s anything you can do to transform this relationship so it gives you what you need. When you look at everything you’ve come up with, you might find that you can talk to your partner and make some real changes to your relationship.
Of course, you also might discover that what you came up with has made it clearer than ever that ending your relationship is the right move. But even if that’s what you conclude, you’re now making the decision with clarity. You’re also clearer on what you want and need so you can actively seek those things in your next relationship.
Take your time
You’ll probably find that answering these questions takes more than just a few minutes. That’s okay. It’s a big decision and one that should take time.
Don’t rush it. Take your time, be thorough, and know that you’re making the right decision.
It’s better than looking back later with regret and wondering if you should have done something differently.
Wendy Miller is a freelance relationship writer & meditation teacher. After years of settling for abusive and otherwise toxic relationships, she got fed up. Using meditation and other tools, she got to work on healing herself, setting boundaries, and only engaging in relationships (romantic and otherwise) that bring her joy. She wants to help other single parents find the love they seek, including and going beyond romantic love. She lives in Florida with her two sons, where she homeschools while solo parenting, while surrounded by what feels like a zooful of animals.
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