Should You Stay or Should You Go?

This month’s newsletter article features a recent interview Lauren had with Reader’s Digest reporter Kaitlyn Chamberlain about how to determine whether to continue or end a relationship, partnership, or marriage.   


RD) How do you know if you should break up with someone? Are there questions you can ask yourself? Or a checklist?

LM) Knowing if and when to end a relationship can be difficult. It’s even more challenging when there are additional factors such as children, a co-owned property or business, and/or comingled finances.

A technique I use with individual clients and couples can help with the decision-making process. First, list all the positives (“Pros”) of the relationship. Depending on what’s important to you, these might be things like, “Help with household responsibilities”, “Combined financial resources”, “Mutual passion for adventure”, “Shared social circle.”

Once you’ve listed the positives, give each one a weight of 1 to 10 (1 is a low positive, 10 is the highest). Next, list the negatives (“Cons”). Examples might be, “Poor communication”, “Conflicting values around money and lifestyle”, “Lack of emotional connection.” When weighing the negatives, use the 1 to 10 scale, with 1 being a low negative, and 10 being what I call a “deal breaker.”    

RD) Is there really ever a "right time" to break up with someone?

LM) When there is consistently more conflict and pain than there is harmony and joy—and you’ve tried everything you can as a couple to identify and resolve the root causes of conflict (including getting professional help), then it may be time to consider parting ways. And in situations of abuse, people should remove themselves and get the support needed to stay safe.  

RD) What's the proper way to break up with someone?

LM) Ideally, with mutual respect and appreciation for the other person, and for the time you shared together. Over time, couples may grow apart, causing alienation, conflict, resentment, or incompatibility. If you do decide to end your relationship, instead of making the other person the enemy, adopt a mindset that you’re simply no longer a fit. This perspective lessens the drama, stops the blame game, and makes parting less painful. This is especially important when children are involved. 

RD) Why do people put off breaking up with someone? Why would someone rather be in a miserable relationship than end it?

LM) People stay in unhappy or toxic relationships for a number of reasons, such as fear of being alone, loss of financial security, concern for their children’s welfare, overwhelm about logistics, guilt, or reluctance to leave the familiarity of their comfort zone.