Learn when to stay and when to walk away from your relationship
By Adam Segal
I am constantly trying to sort out whether I want to stay in my relationship or end it. We’ve been together for five years but soon after our first year together, I started wondering whether or not he was right for me. I compare him to other people, imagine what it would be like to be with different kinds of guys, and am afraid that I’ll miss out on something better if I stay locked into this relationship. There’s so much about him that I love—of course he’s not perfect, but we have such a nice thing going. These nagging questions are driving me bonkers. My friends have told me that I’ve done this in previous relationships: talked to them frequently about my confusion until either I’m fed up and leave, or the other guy jumps ship because of my shaky attitudes. I’m tempted to end things and look for a partner who feels more ‘right,’ but think there’s a good chance I’ll just start the same pattern again. How do I sort out my confusion and just move on—with or without my guy? –Omar
The feedback you’ve received from friends is invaluable and I’m glad you’re listening: they’ve observed you over time and recognized that uncertainty seems to be part of how you engage in your relationships. There’s no doubt that constant ambivalence can feel crazy making, but it can also be a very safe and comfortable state—if you’re always questioning, then you aren’t fully committing and therefore would have less to lose if things don’t work out. Instead of simply wishing the ambivalence would go away, try considering what you get out of being in limbo and what would be scary about letting that go.
The reality is that, yes, there always could be someone else out there who is a better fit, but this possibility has become an obsession and is likely distancing you from your fella. What your question reveals most to me is a certain amount of fear. You sound terrified of making a mistake or of having regret at some point down the line. Choosing a partner for the long term is, no doubt, worthy of serious reflection—unless the Buddhists are right, we only live once and we certainly want to make the most of our time here. Knowing this can help us live with purpose, but we can experience this reality as immense pressure to get it ‘right,’ making the stakes feel very high. The problem is that fear cuts us off from our hearts and makes life feel like a perpetual emergency.
The simplest thing I can suggest is this: do not let fear be what ter). There is no man who will come along and eclipse your fears with his absolute perfection. Your task here is to see what it’s like to fully connect with your guy in a loving way without the safety of the ambivalence. Only then will you know how you truly feel.
ADAM SEGAL, writer and therapist, works in private practice in downtown Toronto. Ask him your relationship or mental-health questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.