Should You Leave?
Lessons from a leaver.
Leaving anything and anyone is hard. Jobs, friendships, houses, towns, and of course romantic relationships. Boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives. When things are rough, the questions begin to fester in the back of our minds. Should I leave?
The short answer is, I can’t tell you if you should leave. Only you can make that decision. But, if that question is popping into your head, then something is wrong. Something needs worked on. You need to make some decisions and changes.
It could be as simple as a conversation that needs to be had with your partner. It may be as complicated as months and years of working on a relationship. You may end up leaving anyway. Even after you work on it.
I was with my ex a total of three different times. Once in high school, once right out of high school, and again about 13 years later. The last two times we were in a relationship, I left him. He was lazy in the relationship, downright abusive at times, and in all reality, each time we got back together, he pretended to be somebody he wasn’t.
The guy I got into the relationships with was sweet and charming. He listened and was fun to hang out with. That guy had a job and worked hard. He cooked and cleaned. He said he had a lot of heartache and his exes didn’t appreciate him and all he did. But it was always a facade.
That’s not to say there weren’t huge red flags all over the place in the beginning. Both times we got back together, he’d take off for a few days at a time. No calls, no anything. Once, I found him several towns over with an obviously underaged girl on his lap, playing cards. I was the asshole for finding him and not giving him his space.
I had the flu one winter. Body aches, fever, feeling like a was going to die. We were living together at the time and he brought the mail in. As I sorted through it, I picked up a gossip magazine that his ex-wife subscribed to, excited to have something fluffy to read that didn’t require too much of my brain.
The way he reacted, we may as well have been kids playing in the sandbox and I stole his favorite toy. He was livid! How dare I open HIS mail! That was HIS to read first!
Of course, I teared up. Out of shock, frustration, hurt, and feeling like I was going to keel over from fever. I fell into the couch and apologized, before curling into a ball and dozing off.
He woke me up a while later with a big smile and a bowl of soup. Then he handed me the magazine like nothing happened. I was too sick to care enough to be snarky about it. I just accepted his peace offerings and moved on.
In that moment, the Should I Leave? alarm never went off. As happened with so many other moments with him over the years. Events that should have set off red flags and warning bells were overlooked. Maybe because I believed that he’d been treated so poorly by his exes. Or maybe I just wanted it to work with him this time. Or maybe I was too tired to deal with it.
The last time we were together, it took me nearly five years to actually see and listen to the warning signs. I felt stuck, but it never occurred to me that I could just break up with him. That I could leave the relationship. I still recall the day it just clicked for me. I didn’t have to be with him. I was in control! It was like the scene at the end of Labrynth when Sarah has her realization and tells Jareth, “You have no power over me.”
After that, I started taking actions to prepare for the breakup. Going over my savings, budget, and schedule. I set a date to tell him, but if I recall, an argument moved that date up a few weeks.
Of course, he changed back to that charmer. Telling me all the things I wanted to hear. Promising things I knew he would never follow through on. This wasn’t our first rodeo. I knew I had to stick to my guns. Phase him out, as cold as that sounds.
Sometimes answering the question of whether or not you should leave a relationship isn’t that black and white. Especially when your lives are intertwined through finances, kids, housing, and the like. But you know what’s best for you. For your situation.
Whenever I’ve been in that Should I Leave mindset, I always turn to Mira Kirshenbaum’s questions from Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay. It’s perfect for people in a relationship they are ambivalent about leaving. Like me, Kirshenbaum’s questions will not tell you what to do. However, they will give you a framework in which to make decisions upon.
Look, if you spend more time not talking or arguing or staying away from one another, you need to figure out something different. Maybe work on communication, go to counseling, set ground rules. Or leave. Only you can decide.
The one exception to this is if you’re being abused, leave! Now! If your children are being abused, leave! Now! I’m talking emotional, physical, sexual. ANY abuse, then you need to leave!
But, if you’re in a relationship without abuse, then take some time. Answer the questions, set a date to decide one way or another and stick to it. You deserve happiness whichever you choose.