The decision about whether one should stay or leave is one of the most consequential and painful any of us has ever had to make. On any given day, millions of people worldwide will be secretly turning the issue over in their minds as they go about their daily lives. Their partners besides them, possibly having little clue as the momentous decision weighing upon them. The choices perhaps more common now than it ever was.
We expect to be deeply happy in love, and, therefore spend a good deal of time wondering whether our relationships are essentially normal in their sexual and psychological frustrations or a beset by unusually pathological patterns which will impel us to get out as soon as we can.
What films and novels we’ve been exposed to, the state of our friends’ relationship, the degree of noise surrounding new sexually driven dating apps, not to mention how much sleep we’ve had, can all play humbly large roles in influencing us one way or another. Awkwardly, it seems that no one else actually really minds what we end up doing which gives the decision of degree of extensional loneliness it might not always have possessed.
Historically, the choice was, in a sense, a good deal easier because there were simply so many stern external sanctions around not leaving: religions would insist that god blessed the unions and would be furious that they’re being torn asunder, society strongly disapproved of breakups and casts parties into decades of ignominy and shame, and psychologists would explain that children would be deeply and permanently scarred by any termination in their parents’ relationship.
One by one, these objections to quitting have fallen away: religions no longer terrify us into staying, society doesn’t care, and psychologists now routinely tell us that children would prefer a broken family to an unhappy one. The burden of choice therefore falls squarely on us. The only thing determining whether to stay or to leave is how we feel which can be a pretty hard matter indeed to work for ourselves.
Our feelings having a dispirited habit of shifting and evading any efforts of rational qualification. In the circumstances, it might help to have a set of questions, devil’s advocate in nature, to fall back upon a kind of checklist to dialogue within one’s mind in the silent hours of the morning, from the chill vantage point of the spare room couch.
How much of our happiness can be tightly attributed to this particular partner, and how much might it, as we would risk discovering five years and multiple upheavals later, turn out to be an inherent feature of any attempt to live in close proximity to another human?
Though it is, of course, always essentially their fault, what tiny proportion of the difficulties might we, nevertheless, be contributing to the discord? In what modest way might we be a little hard to be around? Consider the annoying traits in all previous partners we’ve had and people we’ve known that our current partners happen not to have.
What do we manage not to fight about? Start to probe at any new infatuations or crushes, largely by getting to know them better. Observe closely how many intelligent people the single types around us, especially those hooked up to those dating apps actually manage to encounter day-to-day.
Try to have another conversation with your partner on which you don’t accuse them of mendacity, and instead simply explain, quite calmly, how you actually feel and how sad you are at quite a few things. Reflect on how’d you really feel like a child. If henceforth, you were to have two tiny bedrooms, two new step-parents, and possibly a few more new half-siblings. Compare with the scratchy reality of the current set-up. Question how normal it is for any couple to have a great time after about twenty-two months. Ask yourself if you’re ready to face the risk of perhaps achieving no more than exchanging a familiar kind of unhappiness for a new and more complex variety of unhappiness. Wonder whether you really want to choose hope over experience.
Then, if you still have the impulse to leave, the chances of subsequent regret lessened to at least a touch, a heavy heart, and a caution mind, leave.