Knowing when to work at a relationship is a bit of minefield. Should you stay? Should you go? If you stay, should you just wait to see if things get better in time? Should you try to get your partner to change? Should you keep talking about the issues in the hope that it triggers understanding, remorse, resolve to change, and subsequent action? Should you stay because it’s better than going back out there and starting over? Isn’t something better than nothing even if something brings your self-esteem to the floor? How do you know when to work at your relationship?
The decision is driven by a variety of motivations, with some of these actually being smokescreens for fear, plus you’d be surprised at how many people want to work at a relationship that they know on a fundamental level is actually not right for them, whether it’s down to conflicting values (incompatible), conflicting behaviours (eventually incompatible if not resolved), or unhealthy behaviour that’s staying unhealthy (still incompatible).
- You might, for instance, decide to stay because you reason that you’ve been there for X years so it’s too late to turn back now – the whole not wanting to lose your ‘investment’.
- You might decide to stay because you remember how things used to be and even if that time was a long time ago, you want to try to get it back.
- You might decide to stay because something happened that dealt a blow to the other party which changed their behaviour. It hasn’t always been this way and there was a time when you had a pretty healthy relationship.
- You might decide to stay because you realise that you’ve accepted something for so long (being casual, putting up with abuse, repeated cheating) that to leave would be like “Oh my God, I put up with [insert whatever it is) for X years!” and you don’t want to face that outside of the relationship and may even wonder who will want you now.
- You may feel like you’re dependent on them and to start over would create, for example, an emotional and financial hole. Particularly if you feel like you’re “too old” to start over, staying will seem attractive.
- You might stay because you love them even if you don’t love your relationship and how your life is very much.
- You might stay because you think that this is all that you’re worth.
- You may have children together and worry about what leaving may do, or be afraid of being just like your own parents.
- You may be afraid of ‘failure’ and feel like not continuing to work at it is an indelible black mark against you.
How do you know when to work at your relationship? When both parties are willing to work together and when you’re willing to also address any issues you may personally have.
Working at your relationship involves working together to find a solution you can both positively live with – compromise. If your solution involves you losing yourself, that’s not compromise – it’s loss. ‘Work’ is also not waiting for the other person to change…