Should You Stay In A Bad Marriage?

It’s not as easy as you think.

Everyone and their mother – and, for sure, all Indian mothers – would tell you this is a no-brainer.

Of course you’re going to stay in this relationship – no matter how suicidal you are.

The East would say, “Listen to your head and do what feels practical and takes everyone else’s happiness into account. Don’t kill your family by being so selfish and thinking only about yourself.

Yet, in America and much of the Western world, which values individual happiness, this isn’t going to fly.

In these parts, we hold happiness to be paramount.

Relationships are dynamic here. If they don’t work, they end. People move on in search of other people who will make them happy.

The West would say, “Listen to your soul and do what feels right.  Don’t kill yourself by hiding from the truth.”

Culturally, different parts of the world would answer this question differently.

I’m not going to refer to any cultural norm. Instead, I’m going to encourage you to consider these 7 questions instead.

If you’re in an unhappy relationship and feel stuck, here are 7 questions to consider.

1. Does hope exist for improvement?

Is there something that you haven’t tried?

Being realistic, can your relationship improve?

I’m not asking you to hold onto an impossible dream based on delusional thinking.

I’m asking you to inspect your relationship to see if you, your partner or any circumstance can change for the better?

Is there a chance for change, a new beginning, or either of you showing up differently?

2.Can either of you change?

Now, in part, this is a trick question because you might think the problem is your partner.

“If he only changed, things would be different,” you’re thinking to yourself. More than likely it is him but it’s also you.

The big difference between him and you is that you can’t control him or how he shows up in the relationship.

So really, the only question is, can you change?

Are you willing to change?

Are you willing to do what it takes to make the relationship work, even if you aren’t the problem?

3.Do you value other people’s happiness more or less than yourself?

This is not a trick question. Many people answer this question differently, and different cultures may have different answers.

I don’t think there’s a right answer. Your society and your culture might be telling you to do one thing but you might personally have a different value system.

If you value maintaining the status quo and keeping others in your life happy, you might have to stay in a dysfunctional relationship.

If you value yourself and your personal happiness, it might be time to call it quits.

4.What is the worst that can happen if this relationship ended?

Think about your situation and imagine the worst case scenario occurred.

Your marriage ended.

Think about all the people you would disappoint, sadden and anger.

Visualize your entire life falling apart, like the rug is being pulled out from under you.

Everything crumbles and your world, as you know it, no longer exists.

Now what?

Can you envision this space? Are you still breathing? Are you “okay” here?

Check in with your body and yourself to see if you can be in this space.

5.Could you tolerate unhappiness in this relationship and find happiness in other parts of your life?

If you are going to stay in an unhappy relationship, then what else can you focus your time and energy on?

I know this isn’t ideal but it is practical.

What else can keep you going? Your kids? Your dreams? Your career?

What else can bring you joy? Your spiritual practice, being in the moment, friendships or travel?

6.Are you willing to work on the relationship?

“Working on the relationship” doesn’t mean that suddenly either of you change and become different people.

“Working on the relationship” means not falling to your default behavior and doing what you would usually do.

It’s handling situations differently.

It’s communicating with each other.

It’s respecting each other.

It’s spending time with each other.

At the tail end of a relationship that is falling apart, these are all the things that you don’t really want to do. So, are you willing to do it?

Are you willing to work on the relationship when your partner is absent, uninterested or unwilling?

7.How much would you regret this relationship in 10, 20 or 30 years?

Think down the road and imagine having survived this relationship for a number of years into the future.

You could take it as far as your deathbed.

Can you see yourself having survived this relationship?

Can you stomach the idea of having to stay put in a dysfunctional relationship for years of your life?

Can you find peace today if you decide to stay?

Seeing yourself in the future and imagining how it will be can give you clear answers about what to do today.

Staying in a bad relationship is never easy. Your values, circumstances and priorities are different from anyone else in the same situation.

Ultimately, you know what’s best for you and you’ve got to make a choice that you will live with the rest of your life.

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