considering a breakup

Deciding whether or not to stay in a relationship is complicated. If you are considering a breakup it can be difficult to know whether or not you should keep trying or call it quits and move on.

To stay together or not?

This is a common question for couples when they first come to couples counseling. Oftentimes couples seek a counselor because their relationship has been problematic for a while. That built up to them thinking about a breakup or divorce. They may be fighting a lot and failing to understand each other. Their relationship may feel distant and disconnected.

Sometimes people seek counseling because one or both of them feel betrayed and they don’t know if they can overcome that. When a relationship is challenged in this way, it’s natural to wonder if it is time to end it with a breakup or divorce.

Common mistakes when considering a breakup

How do you know if you should call it quits? Sadly, this question has no simple answers. However, there are guidelines and questions to ask yourself that might be useful in your attempt to find a solution.

First, there are a few common mistakes that couples make when faced with the decision of staying or leaving:

  1. Leaving the relationship before determining what doesn’t work and why.

If we don’t first clarify why the relationship isn’t working, we may end up stuck in the same patterns and continue to have problems with a different partner. It’s very important to understand the nature of the problem. Identity patterns and determine what aspects of those patterns you are responsible for. Striving to understand the nature of the problems makes it easier to know what is possible for the relationship.

  1. Believing that if it was the ‘right’ relationship, it would be easier.

When a couple is encountering problems, they sometimes think it means that they are not right for each other. This can result in leaving the relationship too early. It also means they are likely to face the same problems with a different partner. The idea of the ‘right’ partner is one of the big myths of relationships. The truth is that all relationships require work.

  1. Thinking, “If we haven’t found a solution by ourselves, then it doesn’t exist.”

When we are inside a relationship, emotions and personal histories can blind us to what is actually happening and why. A counselor, someone with an outside perspective, can help couples find solutions that they might not think of on their own.

Should we work on it or not?

Even if they don’t have the above misconceptions, many couples find themselves caught in a cycle of negativity that they don’t know how to stop. As time passes the cycle gets more intense.

Deciding to stay

For some couples, the start of counseling is really hard, but once they begin to recognize the cycle for what it is and learn ways to step out of it, begin feeling better and more hopeful. They can see that, while there are still issues that need to be addressed, they are now on a path to creating a better relationship together. Finding a way towards achieving very specific, attainable goals can give them the motivation they need to renew their interest in working on the relationship.

Deciding to go

For other couples, the pain and dissatisfaction have gone on for so long that it has maxed out their energy and motivation for working on the relationship. For these couples, the burnout is too great, and ending the relationship might be the best choice.

Another thing to take into account is change. Sometimes, due to personal growth and life circumstances, the partners’ needs and wants change. What they originally wanted from the relationship no longer applies to who they are. For those couples, ending the relationship may be the best option, so that both people can find partners that better fit their value ending the relationship may be the best options and life goals.

Questions to ask yourself when considering a breakup

To help clarify your thoughts on where you are in your relationship, here are a few questions you and your partner can ask yourselves:

1. What are the main challenges that we face in the relationship? What’s missing in the relationship?

The more specific you can be about this, the easier it will be to work on those things with your partner.

  1. If there’s a way to overcome these obstacles, do I want to pursue it? How motivated am I to work on this relationship and how motivated is my partner?

If you could overcome these obstacles – would you feel happy and content in your relationship, or would you still feel like you don’t know if it’s worth it? Try to make it clear. Rate your motivation on a scale of 1-10.

  1. Is the pattern that I have with my partner familiar to me? Is it possible that I’m repeating something that I’ve encountered or may encounter in other relationships?

For example, if your partner complains that you are critical of them, and you’ve heard this before then it’s best to work on this pattern first instead of moving on to another relationship that might bring out the same issues.

  1. What can I change to make this a better relationship? Am I willing to do that?

Of course, both partners need to work on the relationship in order to make it better. That being said, sometimes when one partner is very committed to making that change, it can influence the other partner towards being more committed.

  1. In good moments between us, how much love and affection do I feel towards my partner?

All couples go through highs and lows. In your good moments do you feel close to your partner and in love, or do you feel distant? In other words, how much “glue” does your relationship have? Again, try rating it on a scale of 1-10.

  1. What is the cost of me leaving?

If you and your partner are married, have children together, or have been in a relationship a long time these are factors to heavily consider.

Outside help

When we are under stress and feel challenged by our relationship, it can be difficult to answer these questions. If you are considering a breakup or divorce, it’s worth taking advantage of all the resources out there. A couples counselor or an online course can assist both of you in getting a better understanding of your relationship. Individual counseling can help to give you space to reflect. You’ll be able to see with clearer eyes what is happening in your relationship so that you can determine the best course of action.