Long-term partnerships, such as marriage, are especially difficult because of the complexities involved. Your personal connections have the power to either lift you up or pull you down.
The question is, what if you fall someplace in between?
What if your relationship is a 7 on a 1 to 10 scale of good, bad, or ugly? Should you remain in the relationship, making a lifelong commitment to it? Would staying there be a better option, or should you seek something that has the potential to be even better?
This is what ambivalence feels like. You're unsure about everything. Is what you have well enough? If so, why waste time and energy looking for something better when you may never find it? Or maybe you're putting yourself through a lot of stress because you're afraid of meeting a long-term partner who will make your life better. It's a hard decision.
Thanks to a great book, it's possible to get over your feelings of indecision in romantic relationships. By Mira Kirshenbaum, and it's titled Too Good to Go, Too Bad to Stay. My perspective on long-term partnerships totally shifted after reading this book many years ago.
To begin, the book shows readers the incorrect path to take when making this choice. Making a decision by weighing the benefits and drawbacks of remaining or leaving is the incorrect approach. It goes without saying that everyone does it this way. It may seem reasonable to weigh the benefits and drawbacks before making a choice, but doing so will leave you with incomplete knowledge.
Every relationship has advantages and disadvantages, so how can you tell whether yours is doomed, acceptable, or even wonderful? The disadvantages urge you to leave, while the advantages urge you to remain. Furthermore, you must forecast future advantages and disadvantages, so how can you forecast the future of your relationship? Who's to tell whether or not your issues are short-term or long-term?
The balance-scale method should be abandoned in favor of a diagnostic approach, according to Kirshenbaum. Instead of attempting to put your relationship on a scale, figure out where it stands.
As a result, you'll have the knowledge you need to make well-informed decisions and understand why you're making them. It is a sign that your relationship is in trouble if you are ambivalent. Finding out what the illness is and how it manifests itself would be a good place to start.
The author provides a set of 36 yes/no questions to ask oneself in order to conduct a relationship diagnostic. There are many pages of explanation for each question. To be honest, the diagnostic process takes up the vast majority of the book's pages.
Each inquiry is like going through a wringer in your relationship. The following question will be asked if you've made it through the filter. If you don't make it through the screening process, your relationship should come to an end.
The advice that you should remain together can only be obtained after passing all 36 criteria. It is recommended that you depart if even one filter catches your attention.
This isn't as bad as it seems since you'll be able to get past most of these filters with ease. I predict that just about a third of the questions will need considerable thinking.
Assuming criteria such as "Does your spouse beat you?" aren't an issue, good luck! As well as the question, "Will your spouse be departing the nation alone?" quickly and easily. If this isn't the case, you don't need a book to know that things in your relationship are bad.
According to the author's findings, couples who had a state of ambivalence about one of the 36 issues were more likely to remain together than those who had made a choice.
After then, the author kept tabs on how those connections evolved over time. Years later, does the individual who made the decision on whether to remain or go still believe s/he made the right one? What would have happened if the couple had remained together? Would their relationship have improved or deteriorated into resentment? And if they ended things, did they discover fresh joy, or were they plagued by regret for the rest of their lives?
To me, it was like turning the page on time to see what could happen next. Because the suggestions are based on the author's observations and professional judgment, I don't suggest following them blindly.
However, none of her findings surprised me; they were all very logical. I doubt you'll be shocked to learn that dating a drug user almost always ends in heartbreak.
Then then, what about a partnership with someone you despise? A long-distance relationship may be an option. Or are you interested in a partnership with a workaholic who earns 10 times as much as you do? Do you want to discover how long-term partnerships fare compared to those that terminate in divorce?
According to Kirshenbaum, when a break-up is advised, it's because most couples who decided to remain together were unhappy, whereas most couples that departed were happier as a result of the break-ups. When making a choice to remain or go, consider your own long-term happiness as well as your own personal satisfaction, not your (ex-) partners.
If you're in a situation where you don't know whether to leave or remain, this book is a great resource. Most of the filters won't bother you, but there will be a few that make you stop and ponder.
However, I suggest this book not just to those who are unsure of the state of their relationship but also to those who already have a good relationship but want to improve it even more. By reading this book, you will be able to identify the weak spots in your relationship that may lead to a divorce and take steps to strengthen those areas.
The following are my descriptions of the book's diagnostic points, not the author's actual words:
Would you be glad to finally be able to quit your relationship if God or some other supernatural entity informed you it was OK to go? If your shared religious beliefs are the only thing keeping you together, it's time to call it quits.
Stop torturing yourself with negative thoughts and choose to be happy instead. Even if you're physically together but not emotionally, you're not fooling any heavenly beings or anybody else around you by doing this. Take off, leaving hypocrisy in your rearview mirror.
Does it not pose a problem for you to meet your requirements in the relationship? The more effort it takes to meet your wants, the more damage it will cause to your relationship. Leave now.
How much do you like your spouse, and how much does your partner like you? If you can't stand each other, you're not meant to be.
There's no sense in sticking around if the chemistry isn't there.
5. Does your spouse's conduct make it difficult for you to remain in the relationship, and do you feel that your partner is reluctant or unable to change? Intentions aren't nearly as important as results.
The only way to make your spouse stop behaving in an unpleasant manner is for him/her to change permanently. For instance, "I'll be gone in 30 days if you don't stop smoking." Tolerating the unacceptable can only lead to diminished self-esteem and a perception that you were a better person in the past.
When you gaze into your partner's eyes, do you see yourself? To use a metaphor, if you don't have a deep connection to your spouse, you'd be better off dating someone else.
Does your spouse appreciate you for who you are as a person in addition to your relationship? When there is a lack of mutual respect, it is time to go on.
(8) Is the person you're with a significant resource for you in some way? If your spouse doesn't provide much value to your life and you have nothing to lose by splitting up, go ahead and do it. Being on your own costs nothing, whereas finding another person who can serve as a resource does.
Is there a history of forgiving in your relationship? If you can't let go of your grudges and forgive each other, love will fade away. Leave now.
Do you like spending time with your partner? A dead relationship is one that isn't enjoyable to be in. Leave now.
What are your hopes and ambitions for your future together, as a couple? If you don't want to spend the rest of your life with your partner, there's something really wrong with you. It's time to take off.
A partnership should enrich your life, not diminish it, as these questions demonstrate. You should, at the very least, be happier in the relationship than you are alone.
In many cases, a difficult divorce with complex child custody arrangements may nevertheless lead to long-term happiness even if a break-up leads to it, whereas remaining in a failed relationship almost certainly precludes it, says Kirshenbaum.
Some of the diagnostic criteria, such as advising leaving even if you think it's salvageable, may sound harsh. To have a relationship, you need to put in some work and be fully committed on both ends. It's too heavy for just one person to lift.
In spite of your best efforts, such initiatives are almost always destined to fail. Even if you succeed, the cost may be so great that you grow to regret the time and energy you put into them in the first place.
The time you spend attempting to maintain a relationship that makes you unhappy may be better spent finding a new partner (or just living alone). Giving yourself to someone who is more open to what you have to give and who appreciates you for it will do you better than keeping it to yourself?
Spending more time arguing than exchanging love with your partner means you may be better off finding a partner who will give you more in return for less effort.
These diagnostic inquiries may also be used for other kinds of human interactions, such as those with your employer and coworkers.
Although the physical desire may be skipped, other factors such as respect, enjoyment, and similar objectives can't be ignored.
A partnership should enrich your life, not diminish it, as these questions demonstrate. It's important that you be at least as content in your relationship as you were before you entered it.
A divorce with complicated child custody arrangements may be the inevitable result of an unhappy breakup, but Kirshenbaum says that in many cases, this may nevertheless lead to long-term satisfaction while continuing an unhappy relationship almost certainly would not.
When it comes to suggesting departing in circumstances where you may think it's salvageable, some of the diagnostic criteria may appear excessively severe. To have a relationship, you need to put in some work and be fully committed on both ends. It's too heavy for just one person to lift.
A miracle rescue (like turning around an abusive relationship) is possible, but most efforts of this kind fail, and even if they succeed, it may be at such a great cost that the effort was ultimately not worth it.
Instead of spending all your energy trying to save a relationship that's bringing you down, you might be happy in a new one (or living alone). When it comes to giving yourself away, it's far better to find someone who respects you for who you are and who is open to receiving what you have to give.
Spending more time arguing than sharing love with your partner is a sign that you should leave your relationship and look for one that offers more shared benefits for less effort on both of your sides.
Use these diagnostic questions in other human interactions, such as those with your employer and coworkers, to see what insights you uncover.
Forget about physical attraction; mutual respect, enjoyment, shared objectives, and acceptable conduct are all totally appropriate in a relationship-centered work. If your employer ignores you when you try to discuss your career path with the company, one of you is in big trouble.
If you're considering ending your present relationship, don't focus on finding a new one. If it's obvious that your present relationship has to end, then make it so.
The abilities you need to find a new companion can only be honed once you are alone again. While you're still in a relationship, it's difficult to gauge your odds of finding love again.
Because you'll be seen by others around you as unavailable while you're still involved in a relationship, you won't be in a position to know where you stand until you're out of it.
With the right diagnosis, you may come to realize that your relationship is really too wonderful to end. Depending on how long you live in that environment, it may or may not alter.
There are too many variables for you to manage. But at least you'll have a technique for determining whether you can commit to your relationship right now or if you should be making preparations to leave it.
In every relationship, make the decision to pursue your own happiness as a minimum.