In the previous post, we began to address the question: Should I stay or leave the relationship? The answer is neither straightforward nor black and white. It is complex and nuanced. Many of my clients do not know what to do, and they become trapped in the land of indecision. My goal is to help you make the decision to stay or leave from a place of clarity, not from a place of being stuck.
Overthinking the question of staying or leaving the relationship keeps you stuck and prevents you from knowing the answer. In today’s post, we will discuss what it looks like to do the work to find out.
Do the Work: How, Not What
Rather than focusing your attention on what to do, stay or leave, it is important to focus on how you make the decision. The how consists of the behavioral steps, which are setting boundaries, using your voice effectively, communicating your needs, and expressing your feelings. The how is the doing, the what is the thinking. If you do not take action in your relationship, you will remain stuck. Doing the work of applying those behaviors will guide you toward finding out if you should stay or leave.
It is not about what decision you are making; it’s about the process, the steps you take of how you arrive at a decision to stay or leave and how you do it. Then you have your answer.
If the other person in your relationship continues to not honor your boundaries and continues to control, manipulate, or hurt you, you can say, “You have crossed my boundary of ” or “You continue to hurt me after I’ve asked you not to ” or “You are still repeatedly doing after I have told you "no” or “If you do this behavior again, then I need you to move out” or “I cannot be in a relationship where you continue lying to me. That is not acceptable for me” or “This is my boundary, so if you do that again, I need to separate.” Furthermore, stop doing their work for them and stop carrying the emotional weight of the relationship. Stop allowing them to monopolize your time, energy, and attention. Some people are never satisfied no matter how much you try to love, help, and please them.
If you continue to give and they continue to take with no reciprocation, that tells you something.
When your voice, feelings, and needs are not mutually acknowledged, that tells you something.
If they continue to manipulate and control you, that tells you something.
If they continue to lie to you and twist the truth, that tells you something.
When you set boundaries and use your voice effectively, you are going to find out what is true in the relationship.
You will discover the reality of the other person’s behavior, whether it is a romantic partner, friend, work associate, church leader, or family member. Then you will know whether they are changing or not.
Will they stop keeping secrets from you, neglecting parental duties, cheating, engaging in addictive behaviors, abusing you, or whatever it may be that is hurting you? When you take action steps, it will reveal to you the truth about them, and you can make your decision from a place of reality after having witnessed the facts. You have been focusing on your healing journey, taking responsibility for your role in the relationship, and doing the necessary work. Have they? Only you can answer that question based on their actions, their behaviors.
Suffering and Stuck to Focus and Freedom
It takes tremendous courage to do the how and to apply the behavioral steps within your relationship. You face your fears. Many people do not take the steps because they are afraid to find out the truth about the other person in the relationship. They are ultimately afraid of losing the relationship. They are afraid the answer is going to be the painful answer of the person not being equally willing to do the work. This is a scary reality to accept.
However, you do not want to stay in an unhealthy relationship out of fear of losing the relationship. If you are staying because you are afraid, your choice to stay is not a true choice. You are staying because you’re stuck rather than out of the freedom to choose to be in a relationship with this person. That is not how you want to stay.
Leaving a relationship and creating a new life for yourself outside of the dysfunctional dynamic must be based on your choice and knowing that you have taken the steps to arrive at that decision as well as recognizing it is apparent the other person is not doing the necessary work to change, get help, or heal. You confidently believe that you are making the best choice for you instead of staying stuck in an unhealthy relationship where you are the only one doing the work, thus continuing the cycle of suffering.
Staying in a relationship must come from a deep inner knowing that you are making the best choice for you. You want to stay out of choice, knowing you could leave if you need to or want to, but you are staying because you choose to be with the person. You love the person, and they are also making the necessary changes to make the relationship work.
The ideal situation is one where we stay in our relationships and our relationships can be healthy. But not all relationships are healthy, and not all relationships are ones you can stay in.
Both decisions to stay or leave can be made in unhealthy ways, and both can be made in healthy ways. Therefore, leaving is not always the better way, and staying is not always the better way. You can stay from a healthy place or you can leave from a healthy place.
Remember, it is not about what decision you are making, it is about how you are making the decision and how you are walking it out. That is what influences whether the decision is a healthy decision that is best for you. How you do it is what is important.
As you grow and learn the truth, freedom emerges, and you can make major relational decisions from a place of empowerment and faith, not powerlessness and fear.
The joy for me as a therapist is seeing the transformation that takes place for people when they are committed to their healing and do the hard work to address their issues. There is hope. Healing for relationships is possible, yet not always, but healing is possible for you. Your healing is not dependent on the relationship.
**The content for this blog post has been taken from chapter 9 (Cuckoo Counsel, Who Hurts You and Who Can Help You) of Andrea’s book, The Cuckoo Syndrome: The Secret to Breaking Free from Unhealthy Relationships, Toxic Thinking, and Self-Sabotaging Behavior
The photo accompanying this article was sourced from iStock and is in the public domain.