If you are human and if you are an adult than at some point in your life you have probably experienced a rough relationship or a rough spell within a relationship. I am sure you are one of many people to ask yourself whether you should fight to save your relationship or flee. This is an important question to ask yourself. This is a hard question to ask yourself
It is important to note that no relationship is perfect. Relationships cannot be perfect because people are not perfect. If a relationship has people in it, there are going to be issues – at least occasionally. Therefore, the question to fight or flee cannot be dependent on the presence or absence of issues, but rather, the nature of the issues that are present.
First it is important to define the issues. What is going on? What are the rough realities?
- Infidelity? (aka: cheating)
- Dishonesty and Lies?
- Financial Issues?
- Employment Issues?
- Parenting/ Child Rearing Issues?
- Lack of love/ support?
- Lack of physical attraction?
- Abusive behaviors?
It is important to note that the issues listed above could manifest as mild or severe, which may greatly change the situation you are in.
Before I go into the issues in more depth, please note – if you are in a very unhealthy relationship that you and/ or your partner has decided is not worth making the effort to save do NOT stay together because you have children. The only thing worse than children growing up with divorced parents is children growing up believing that it is normal for the home to be a combat zone. Your children WILL learn from your patterns and the way in which you model relationships. If you love your children enough that you want them to grow up and have a loving relationship, then that is what you must model. Staying in an unhealthy relationship teaches children that relationships are supposed to be dysfunctional. It is better to model taking care of yourself, as this will be an important lesson for your children. Do you want your children to grow up and be in an abusive or volatile relationship? If you do not, then make sure they are not growing up witnessing one.
Did your spouse/ partner lie to you or cheat on you? These tend to be issues that tend to gravely damage relationships as they are a violation of trust. Trust is at the foundation of a healthy, stable relationship. If your ability to trust has been violated, you need to ask yourself if you believe the trust can be rebuilt. If there is no way the trust can be rebuilt, you need to strongly consider whether the relationship is what you want long-term. Can you live with not trusting your spouse? Do you believe you would be able to build trust with someone else if you left your partner?
Perhaps you are fighting over employment or financial issues. Are you upset with your partner for not holding a stable job? Are they capable of holding a job? If they are capable, why is it not working? Do they need a psychological evaluation? Do they suffer from ADD or AD/HD? (This is a condition that can often be diagnosed later in life when an individual cannot seem to maintain appropriate employee behaviors.) Are they willing to work harder or get help in order to find steady employment? Does your spouse spend too much? Are they driving you to financial ruin? Is your spouse willing to see a financial advisor and stick to mutually agreed upon spending and savings plans? How bad is your financial situation? Is it worth losing your relationship over or can it be resolved?
You now claim that you have grown older and your spouse has aged and gained weight and you are just not attracted to them anymore. Is this a good enough reason to leave a relationship? I would usually argue that this is NOT an okay reason to leave a relationship. We will all change over time and we are all going to have bodies that change and are no longer radiating the beauty that we did when we were younger. Love should not be that fickle. Love should see past our bodies and our aging, and look at the content of the character of the person we fell in love with. If you leave someone because they aged and your hormones calmed down, I would argue that you are doomed to have a series of relationships that will fail for the same reason. The only thing I would worry about is if your spouse is truly not taking care of themselves (i.e.: they have become an alcoholic, smell like alcohol all day, refuse to get help and are unhealthy) – If this is the case, they need to either make healthy changes, or expect that you will leave in order to allow yourself healthy choices.
Are you sensing a lack of love or support from your partner? Is this something you can speak about and work out? Can you seek counseling? Is is that they really do not love or support you, or do you need to work harder to spend more time together? Perhaps you are so caught up in your daily lives that time slips away. Is the lack of feeling support intentional or just the symptom of two people with busy lives. It is important to further define these issues as they could be more easily resolved than you think.
Is your spouse abusive? If they are, I would caution you to be very very apprehensive about promises to change behavior. When someone is abusive, promises are NOT enough, you need to see PROOF of changed behavior. When abuse is in the picture it may be wise for the person being abused to leave the home, at least temporarily, until the abusive behavior has ceased. NO ONE DESERVES TO BE ABUSED – EVER – NOT EVER. If you are in an abusive relationship (verbally, physically, or sexually) leave – LEAVE FAST. You may not have to leave permanently, if your spouse can prove they have received help and changed. Make your spouse prove for at least six months that there have been changes BEFORE you even begin seeing them again in a casual way. Wait out at least a year of changed behavior before you move back in. Too many abused individuals do not wait for proof of change and when they return the abuse escalates – in the tragic instances the abuse goes too far and lives are lost. DO NOT STAY in an abusive relationship if you have children – children should not grow up believing that abuse is the norm. None of us want our children in bad relationships, so do not model for them that it is okay to be abused.
When relationships work they are amazing, when they do not they can be horrid. I truly believe that it is better to be single forever than to be in a bad relationship. I actually think this is a healthy belief that tends to allow people to attract healthier relationships. If you understand that single is better than a bad relationship, perhaps you will not worry so much about being single. If you are okay with being single, you will feel less pressure to be in a relationship, which means you can wait for a wonderful, healthy, stable person. When you do find a good relationship, work hard to nurture it, to manage conflict and to grow together. The good relationships are not those without conflict, but those with two individuals committed to working through issues as they arise.
Today, 341 days ’til 40, I will not take my relationships for granted. I feel blessed to have a loving family and I know it takes all of our effort to maintain our healthy relationships. As I have been in bad relationships in the past, I know how blessed I am to have a loving relationship. I will continually remind myself how lucky I am and show that appreciation to my spouse. Love and support is a gift.