Mr Right or just Mr Right Now
If your relationship is in turmoil, a new book says that in just six easy steps you can work out whether he's the one for you
January is often a time when we re-evaluate our life. Chances are that if you’re in a relationship or marriage that’s not always fulfilling, you might be wondering whether it’s going to last. Here, psychologist and marital therapist Beverley Stone explains how her six-step programme can help anyone resolve such a dilemma.
There are all kinds of reasons why a relationship can get into trouble or start to fail — just as there are lots of reasons why people start to think about leaving their partner.
Perhaps you’ve been together for several years but wonder whether he’s really the man for you. You may be worrying about your biological clock and whether you’ll find someone better in time to have a baby.
Should I stay of should I go January is often a time for re-evaluation… which could mean getting out of an unfulfiling relationship
Maybe your children have flown the nest and you’re unsure what really binds you together. Maybe you’re with someone who’s making you miserable and undermining your confidence. Or you’re having an affair and are no longer in love with the person you live with.
Whatever the scenario, ending a failing partnership or instigating changes in an unhappy relationship can be incredibly difficult, often requiring weeks, months — even years — of tortured indecision.
I have seen many women — and men — lose a big part of themselves by staying too long in unhappy relationships. The ‘should I stay or should I go’ conundrum leaves them suffering symptoms of stress, such as palpitations, sleeplessness, exhaustion and headaches.
Finding the strength to turn around and leave an unhappy partnership can be very hard. But if you don’t face up to the challenge and take some risks, you’ll never get out of the vicious cycle — and your life will remain unsatisfying. In fact, it can get worse as you become increasingly angry or depressed that the time you have to enjoy a better life is running out.
You may feel trapped by indecision, but if you work through my six-step programme it should help you to start making concrete choices. Should you move on, or should you work to improve things and stay with your partner Your decision starts here.
Step 1: Start being yourself, not the person everyone else wants you to be
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Do you often stop yourself saying what you really think because you know that the people around you won’t like it If your partner asks you to do something you don’t want to do, do you give in, just for a quiet life
Habitually hiding your opinions and needs to please others will eventually have an impact on your self-respect, happiness and even your very existence. Whether you stay in your relationship or go, if you’re to live the life you want to lead, you’re going to have to start doing things differently.
To find out if your relationship has any potential, you need to experiment with new behaviour and agree with your partner that you’ll start telling each other what’s really on your minds in a calm, rational way. If your relationship rebalances itself then that’s great.
If, on the other hand, your being authentic makes your incompatibility with your partner even more obvious, then it’s time to leave.
Step 2: Don’t worry what others think
anyone else says, thinks or does, it’s important to realise that it’s
your decision alone. For example, if a friend implies your decision to
leave your husband is immoral, you can laugh because you think she’s
stupid, cry because you value her opinion of you, or shrug indifferently
because her opinion means nothing to you.
Alternatively, you can consider it as an interesting point of view.
to consider people’s opinions merely as their point of view will help
to dissipate some of the crippling anxiety you feel about your situation
and help you to remain logical and calm. You’ll be in a better position
to resolve the difficulties between you and your partner that way.
Step 3: Resolve your split personality
When it comes to making difficult decisions, two conflicting inner voices usually come into play, which makes it doubly difficult to settle on what to do.
First, there’s Confident You, the positive, encouraging, risk-taking side of your personality that tells you that whatever happens, whatever decision you take, things can only turn out for the best.
But then there’s Cautious You, the voice that tells you that you might be making a big mistake, that your situation is hopeless.
When you’re not conscious of this inner conflict, your thoughts tend to vacillate between that part of you that wants to ‘fly’ and the part of you that ‘nails your foot to the floor’ by telling you that you are not up to it.
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To dissipate inner conflict, allow the
Cautious You to speak to the Confident You. Take a piece of paper and
start writing. Let Confident You begin with the words, ‘I resent the
fact that you . . .’ When Confident You has finished the point, write
Cautious You’s response. Keep this dialogue going until you’ve covered
all your negative and positive thoughts about your situation, and it
comes to a natural conclusion. You’ll find the two extreme points of
view quickly merge into a mutual understanding and you’ll have clarity.
Step 4: You’re not as trapped as you think you are
Have I convinced you that you can start taking steps towards making a logical decision about your situation Or are you still paralysed by the fear of rocking the boat, of being alone, or finding somewhere else to live
To help you jump your fourth hurdle — to be aware that you always have a choice and that you’re not as trapped as you think you are — try telling yourself, ‘You can do anything with your life. You can even change your name and move to California.’
When I offer this statement to my clients who are struggling with their relationships, their replies are predictable. They say something like: ‘I can’t do that. I’ve got a partner and two children to support.’
‘Well,’ I say, ‘you can put your two children in care and divorce your partner.’ At which my clients look horrified and respond: ‘I can’t do that.’
In your face
80 per cent of men believe break-ups should be done face to face, according to Cosmopolitan magazine
But I tell them they can. People do
both, don’t they So try saying the sentence again using the words ‘I
won’t’ rather than ‘I can’t’. After a little resistance, they try, ‘I
won’t put my kids in care and divorce my partner.’
remarkable how the atmosphere changes as my clients begin to realise no
one’s coercing them to support their family. They choose to. They want
When you think like this you’ll see that
the prison you thought you were incarcerated in is actually of your own
construction. You can leave any situation at any time — if you really
On realising this, and buoyed by their new-found sense of freedom, many people decide to stay in their relationships in a more genuine, involved way.
Equally, if they decide to leave, by changing their ‘can’t’ to ‘won’t’ — they see that they have genuine choices. You’re never as trapped as you think you are.
Step 5: Live by your own values
Still don’t know how to make your decision to stay or leave Maybe you’re continuing to expect an ultimate rescuer to provide you with an instant solution.
Well, there is no absolute answer, no right or wrong, no higher authority to which you can turn, I’m afraid. There is no right answer.
Your job is to be you. You cannot continue to be forever trying to live up to other people’s values, standards and expectations. So stop being afraid of getting it ‘wrong’. Waiting for the perfect way to leave or the perfect way to speak your mind can result in putting things off until tomorrow.
Step 6: Consider what you’d do if you knew you had only six months to live
What would you do with the rest of your life if you were given just six months to live
You’d certainly be clearer about what you valued and wanted; you’d be able to decide and act. If you chose to continue in your relationship you’d challenge and change everything that bugs you. You wouldn’t be worrying about the discomfort of a couple of evenings arguing.
And, if you decided you wanted to finish the relationship, you wouldn’t hesitate to leave. Either decision would be easy because you would have ‘nothing left to lose’.
Considering the prospect of having just six months left is a good way to put things into perspective, clarify your values and encourage you to do what’s important to you, rather than getting it ‘right’ in other people’s eyes.
Life is too short to be in an unhappy situation. So begin your journey to move or improve your relationship now.
Adapted from Stay Or Leave Six Steps To Resolving Your Relationship Indecision by Beverley Stone, published by Watkins at 8.99. To order a copy at 7.99 (p&p free), call 0843 382 0000.