Updated: Aug 26, 2022
Deciding whether to separate from your partner is a HUGE decision. There are so many variables to consider: the children, how it will impact you financially, the logistics of where you'll all live after. In fact, it can be so daunting that sometimes we choose to stay in relationships that don't serve us simply because it's easier than sifting through all the uncertainty involved in CHANGE.
My goal with these questions is to bring you out of the hellish loop of uncertainty and back into your own experience, to bring you back to your own intuition. So you can consider what really matters. Know that limbo is the hardest state to be in. Once you've made a firm decision, you can work on the logistics of it.
The following are some questions to ask yourself to determine if now is the right time to move on.
Questions to assess whether you're ready to separate:
1. How long have you been thinking about this and WHEN?
Do you only consider leaving DURING a big fight or is it steadily on your mind? If you only consider leaving during a fight, it could be your triggered response to the discomfort of arguing. You may feel helpless, like you really want to connect and be in a different space with this person but you just have no idea how to. My upcoming course on how to stop fighting will help with this! However, if you think about leaving on a consistent basis, if the idea came to you in a calm moment and you just realized… I don't want to do this anymore. That could be your intuition speaking.
2. Is there ONE thing you need to change and then things will be better - like "if my partner got a job, I would be satisfied" or "if we had more sex, I'd be satisfied"? Or does it feel like nothing your partner does will change your mind?
If there's just one thing you really need your partner to work on but they're not doing, it means there is a lot about your partner and relationship that you do enjoy. However, if you've reached the point where even if they fix all the issues on their end of the relationship and you work on fixing the issues on your end, you still have no desire to be with them, it could mean that you've emotionally checked out. Being emotionally checked out is a sign that you're ready for a change.
3. How does it feel to think about leaving them - do you feel relief and excitement (possibly mingled with guilt) or do you feel sad and alone?
If you feel relief and excitement, it could mean you're truly ready to move on. If this is the case for you, really clarify the vision of what your life could look like post-separation and allow that vision to keep you motivated during the harder moments. If you feel sad and alone but also realize that you and your partner are simply not a match anymore, allow yourself to feel those feelings and remind yourself that it's okay to put your own needs first for once. Many of my clients worry that they're being selfish by ending things, but they're miserable in the relationship despite trying for several years. You get to decide your next move, but removing labels like "selfish" is necessary - nobody, including your inner critic, gets to judge you for taking a step towards personal happiness.
4. Does your partner continue to not be able to meet your needs, despite you asking in different ways, engaging in couples therapy, and doing your own work to figure out your part of it? Alternately, do you have no desire to meet your partner's needs anymore?
Look into attachment style - if one of you is anxious and the other is avoidant, you could be feeling the effects of that. Read the book Attached for more on attachment styles.
5. Are you only staying "for the children"?
Children are negatively impacted by divorce but they're also negatively impacted by parents who fight, spew hatred at each other, and say mean things about each other. If you want to make sure you're taking care of your kids during this time, sit with them, give them your time and attention, hold them, validate their feelings, give them a safe space to discuss their emotions, and explain what's happening in an age-appropriate why while also giving them plenty of options to help them still feel in control. Most importantly, be kind ABOUT your partner, especially when you're speaking with or around your children. If you start saying negative things about your partner, it forces your children to take sides. If you're kind about your partner, it will provide some relief.
6. Have you lost trust in your partner, or have you betrayed them in some way?
If there has been an affair or another betrayal in your relationship, it can feel really hard to regain your feelings of safety and trust. If this is the case for you, therapy and a course like my "after an affair" course can really help. Know that it can take upwards of a year and a half to feel trusting again after an affair, and there are specific steps that can help with that. If you feel called to do the work, do the work. If you have come to a calm realization that this is no longer the relationship for you, it could be time to move on.
Here's a video that outlines these questions in more detail, and also includes helpful advice on what to do for each step. Be sure to SUBSCRIBE for more on how to improve your relationship!
I'd love to hear your biggest takeaway in the comments below. What are the answers to these questions for you?