"Should I stay or should I go?" As a Relationship Coach, I get asked some version of this question almost every single week.
We've all been there.
You're dating someone in college, with graduation just around the corner and you can't tell if the things that keep getting in the way of a great connection are relationship "glitches" or if you should take them as serious "red flags" and cut your losses now.
Or after trekking through the ups and downs of an 18 year marriage, one day you find yourself staring out the window, envisioning a life without all the power struggles, minus the alcohol draped over so many of your conversations, thinking that you probably made a big mistake not leaving 5 years before when your gut was telling you this was not the person you could spend the rest of your life with, happily.
I've been in this place myself, many times. I've helped countless clients navigate these periods in their relationships, using powerful processes along with artful questioning to look honestly at what is causing the painful dynamics. We go deeper to flush out any old, unrealistic beliefs about marriage, intimacy and what is required in any long term, committed relationship. These Coaching practices can help bring more clarity and reassure a client that staying with the process itself, will more than likely lead to a clear decision.
Except when it doesn't.
Which is all the time.
Why? Because so much of what is going on as we walk, one foot in front of the other, through this journey called "life" is exactly what needs to be going on for us to be confronted with the personal healing we need. Dare I say all of it?
And that means, we can try to "think" our way, "test" our way, "question" our way and even "feel" our way toward answers and if we aren't quite ready to face the ways we are called on to be more "awake" in this world, we will stay, consciously or unconsciously, in the confusion. Period.
This week, I realized that I've made a huge shift in the way I support individuals wrestling with the question, "Should I stay or should I go?" After several minutes of listening to the "story" and after a few thought provoking questions thrown in, like, "How do you want to feel on a daily basis?" and "What's more important, your sense of self-worth or remaining married?" I stop there now.
Anyone still living the question of "staying or going" is experiencing inner turmoil. They are scared you are going to tell them that they obviously should go and equally frightened you're going to suggest that they stay! I remember a ridiculous conversation I had with one of my closest friends, while I was wracking my brain about whether to finally leave a 5 year relationship myself! If she leaned toward me leaving, I'd share an additional incident that shed my partner in a better light. When it sounded like she was encouraging me to stay, I'd throw out the fact that certain behaviors had become "unbearable" and that I refused to live like that any longer.
Sound familiar? My clients do this with me, too. They're hurting, confused and most of the time, not ready for a real answer, even though they say they want one. The fact that they have hired me to begin the process, trusting that I will hold their hearts, honor their fears and yet still ask them to commit to new, healthy actions means a part of them is truly ready to take some risks.
I do two things and two things alone now, with clients wanting a "stay or go" answer:
We shove everything unsavory about their partner over to the side and look hard at where they, themselves, are not only out of integrity in their relationship, but at the many ways that they have decided their behavior is a direct result of "reacting" to their partner. Then they make a commitment to themselves, that they will start showing up as the person, woman/man, partner, friend, lover that they envision themselves to be, NO MATTER WHAT.
And second, I tell them this - "You do this, you set the intention to be a person of integrity and show up authentically, taking each day, one at a time and changing your own habits and patterns so you become the partner you want to be, and you'll have your answer. Focus on a personal path of integrity.....and organically, "you're gonna know."
This week, after spending a good chunk of the year doing exactly that, my BFF was blindsided with some actions from her spouse that cinched the deal. She could never decide if it was "bad enough." They've been living apart now for 2 years. Back and forth she went until this year, when I asked her to simply focus on changing everything she was doing that didn't make her proud of herself and then to let go of the outcome. I wish the clarity hadn't been delivered on such a painful platter. But she has her answer and spent no time wondering "what part might be hers."
Stay or go? Get into integrity and live your life in a way you can be proud of. Don't worry - you'll be shown.