Jess remembers what it was like to grow up in a so-called "broken family." She can still hear her classmates teasing her because her parents were divorced. She can still feel the emotional pain of being unable to decide which of her parents she wanted to spend her birthday and holidays with.
Now that Jess is an adult, she's re-living her experience of being a child whose parents split up because her own marriage is falling apart. She looks at her two daughters and worries about them. The last thing she wants is for her children to go through what she did from having parents who divorced.
Despite this, Jess also worries about what kind of life her daughters will have if she and her husband stay together. He has cheated with two different women. It's becoming more and more difficult for Jess to hide the arguments that she and her husband have about his lying and affairs. The big question on Jess' mind is this: "Should I stay in this miserable marriage for the sake of my kids?"
You may be living a similar nightmare. Your marriage or love relationship is in bad shape. You and your partner argue and fight frequently. Either (or both) of you may be cheating. The love seems to have left the relationship and you're trying to decide what to do.
And, you worry about your kids. You worry about how upset and possibly abandoned they will feel when either you or your partner moves out. You fear the potential long-term effects on your kids of not having a mom or dad live with them all of the time. You are anxious about how much emotional pain they will be in because of your breakup.
This decision about whether to stay in or leave your relationship is important. It is not just you and your partner who will be affected, it is an even more significant decision. These six questions can help you decide whether to stay in or leave your relationship:
1. What is the main reason why I am considering leaving the relationship?
Be very honest with yourself. For the moment, set aside your concerns about your children and get clear about your own wants, needs and feelings. If you had to point to one thing, what is the main reason why you're thinking about ending your relationship?
It could be general, like a lack of intimacy and closeness. It might be very specific, like his or her cheating that you just can't forget or forgive.
2. What is the main reason I feel like staying?
You might think that you already immediately know the answer to this second question. Even so, take some time to really think about it for an answer. When you hear yourself thinking something like, "I have to stay because ...." or "I don't have any choice but to stay," what is the main reason why?
It might be for the sake of your children, for financial reasons or because you "don't believe in divorce." It could be because you still love your partner and truly want to work things out. Get clear about what is behind your impulse to stay.
3. Am I or are my children in imminent danger if we stay?
This is an absolutely essential question to ask yourself. If your partner is abusive -- physically, sexually or emotionally to you or your children, now is the time to get to safety. It is not in anybody's best interests to allow abuse to continue.