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.
4. Am I willing to make changes?
If your relationship seems to be teetering on the edge of destruction, ask yourself how willing you are to change. In situations like this, it's common to believe that your partner is the one to blame for the problems. While there's probably truth to that, it's likely just as true that you also play a role.
Go within and find out how willing you are to shift your perspective and be responsible for your share of the dynamics that are tearing you and your partner apart. Are you willing to make some changes to your own habits and behaviors in order to turn things around in your relationship?
5. Is my partner willing to make changes?
Your partner also plays a role in your relationship troubles. Think about the actual words and actions of your partner. Has he or she indicated a genuine willingness to change? Have you seen any observable follow-through on promises?
This is especially important if your partner cheated. Be on the lookout for signs that he or she has stopped the affair and is being more open and transparent with you.
6. "What sources of support do I (and my children) have?"
Regardless of what you decide to do, make sure you have a support system in place. Think about the kinds of support you and your partner need so that you can make lasting changes that will improve your relationship if you stay together. Go ask for or arrange this kind of help.
Think about what you need to ease your transition from being in the relationship to being out of the relationship. Go to friends, family, professionals and anyone able to give you that support and ask for it. Think about what can help your children.
It's probably best if you don't see yourself as the only source of support for them right now. Find people that you trust to provide your children with a listening ear or a space to just let loose and maybe have some fun. Support is key. Give yourself the specific kind of support you need so that you can make the best decision for you and your family.
Make the best decision for your situation, yourself and your children. Relationship coaches and authors Susie and Otto Collins have written Should You Stay or Should You Go? as a guide to help you decide what your next step should be.
Originally published on YourTango.com; republished with permission.
Copyright © 2012 Meredith Corporation.
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