Are you ready to move one step closer to making a good decision about your relationship? These tips on how to decide if you should stay or go are from married relationship counselors; they encourage us to identify what we’re yearning for.
“It is yearning that sparks the creation of everything from inspiring art, soul-stirring music, majestic cathedrals, and cures for diseases to great love and service,” write Judith Wright and Bob Wright in The Heart of the Fight: A Couple’s Guide to Fifteen Common Fights, What They Really Mean, and How They Can Bring You Closer. “Unacknowledged, unchanneled, and unmet yearning makes you unhappy, unsatisfied, and miserable in your relationship and your life.”
I love this book. It’s full of practical relationships tips and beautiful philosophical advice for life. The Heart of the Fight showed me how our yearnings – unmet and met – can help us make important relationship decisions. If you don’t know how to decide if you should stay or go, this insight into yearnings may help.
I’m researching strategies on how to make a decision because I’m writing an ebook called How to Know What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do (yes, the title needs work! Or maybe it doesn’t? I’m still deciding).
Every week, dozens of readers ask me for relationship advice that I can’t give. I’m not an advice columnist, counselor, or relationship expert…I’m just a writer who wants to help women Blossom by listening to that still small voice inside of them. And ultimately, this is the BEST way to help women, don’t you think?
You don’t need relationship advice. You don’t need someone to tell you if you should stay or go. What you need is to learn how to reach upwards and inwards, and heed that still small voice of wisdom, love, and life that is whispering in your ear.
How to Decide if You Should Stay or Go
“I never thought I’d be in this position at this stage of my life,” says Amanda on How to Survive a Loveless Marriage. “I am 52 with grown children and grandchildren. This is my second marriage and we have been together 15 years…I am so lonely. I see now just how lack of communication between a husband and wife can be so destructive. We hardly talk to each other, sometimes just a good morning or good night. I went to counseling alone after asking him to go for couples therapy, but he didn’t respond. We have no intimacy, there is no affection, we are like two distant roommates with nothing in common.”
Karen adds that she’s too tired to continue to ask her husband to deal with their relationship problems. “I don’t know how to decide if I should stay or go,” she says. “He doesn’t think anything is wrong, but I’m desperately unhappy. What do I do?”
Identify your yearnings
“Yearnings are powerful, deeply engrained, evolutionary adaptive mechanisms that initially developed for our survival,” writes Wright and Write in The Heart of the Fight. “They drive us to related, to bond, and to commune with others, as well as to develop ourselves. And when your yearnings aren’t met, they trigger the alarms that commonly lead to fights.”
A “Universal Yearnings” chart
Use this chart to help you learn what you’re specifically yearning for in your life and your relationships. The best way to identify the most important yearnings is to read this chart out loud. Speaking your yearnings will help you learn which ones are most significant to you.
You yearn to be secure
- To exist
- To be safe and secure both physically and emotionally
- To trust
You yearn to love and care for others
- To nurture
- To love
- To respond to others
You yearn to relate, to see and be seen
- To know and be known
- To see, hear, and know others
- To touch and be touched
- To feel “felt”
- To empathize
- To connect with others
You yearn to have your existence appreciated
- To love and be loved
- To be affirmed and appreciated
- To be cared for
- To be respected
You yearn to express your essence and your sense of self
- To experience life and yourself fully
- To express yourself
- To create and grow
- To be separate, to have your own identity
- To influence
- To excel
- To fulfill your potential
You yearn to matter
- To be valued and to value others
- To contribute
- To feel like you make a difference
- To do what God created you to do
- To be who God created you to be
- To matter to God
- To fulfill your purpose
- To unfold your destiny
You yearn to connect with others
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- To belong
- To connect
- To matter
- To be close
- To communicate with others
- To commune with others
- To make deep contact with another
- To be intimate
You yearn to connect to something greater
- To be connected with God, the Source of life, energy, and Spirit
- To feel connected to the greater whole
- To be one with all
- To now God or the Creator
- To unite with all that exists
If you can identify – and name – what you yearn for in your relationship, you will get a step closer to deciding if you should stay or go. The Wrights say that the knowledge of what you yearn for is calming and satisfying in itself. And, identifying your yearnings is something you can do without your husband.
Name your yearning
What are you most yearning for in your life and relationship? When your deepest yearnings aren’t met in your life or your relationships, you’ll feel disconnected, unloved, lonely, and alone. You’ll question the meaning of your life and existence. You may seek to meet your yearnings outside your relationship. You’ll wonder if your relationship is over – and how to decide if you should stay or go.
Learn how to acknowledge and name what you yearn for in your relationship and life. Do allow your feelings of embarrassment to stop you from saying, “I need to belong, to fulfill my potential, to matter to another person.” Do not be ashamed to say “I yearn for love, affection, intimacy.”
Understand why you and your partner are fighting
“Most fighting is an attempt to fulfill a yearning,” write Wright and Wright. “Unfortunately, we are usually unaware of that yearning, so we fight about the wrong things. Fulfilling your yearnings can help you and your partner analyze fights, which will increase the odds that you’ll change your behavior (eg, be on time, clean the house, put the toilet seat down, and achieve other tangible results).”
Relationship conflict is caused by your need to have your yearnings fulfilled by your husband. You fight because you’re driven by a powerful inner motive to connect, be heard, be loved, and feel secure. If you have no conflict, you have no connection. That’s why indifference (which Amanda was talking about in her comments above) is worse than heated arguments and relationship conflict! Arguing represents a need. Indifference represents deadness, lack of passion and love.
Learn what your husband can and cannot give you
In How to Decide When to Leave a Relationship, I encourage women to think about their expectations of love and marriage. A man can’t fulfill all your yearnings, because many of the things you yearn for are spiritual, emotional, and God-centered. Further, sometimes we fall into the trap of believing the Hollywood fairy tales of “happily ever after” and that a man can and should fulfill every need, want, and yearning we have.
A husband can’t fulfill all your yearnings. But, he can and should fill your yearning for connection, companionship, love, touch, respect, and care. Your husband must give you physical affection and emotional intimacy, and help you feel seen, heard, known, and understood.
If you learn how to acknowledge, express, and fulfill your yearnings, then you will grow and Blossom into who God created you to be. You were created with these yearnings built-in, and you need to fulfill them to be joyful, peaceful, and free in your life.
How to decide if you should stay or go
Now that you know what you’re yearning for, take time to think about how your relationship “stacks up” against the deepest longings of your heart. If you can see right away that your husband can’t or won’t meet your yearnings, then maybe it’ll be easy to decide if you should stay or go. If you can see that it’s not possible for your husband to meet your deepest yearnings (for example, he can’t express your essence or fulfill your potential for you), then you need to figure out how to care for yourself.
Some women stay in unhappy relationships, and ignore their yearnings. Others stay, and find other ways to meet their yearnings.
And other women go.
You have the power to make this decision. It may not be easy, but you’ve tackled difficult situations before, haven’t you? And you Blossomed because you rose to the challenge.
What do you think, who will you be, where will you go? While I can’t offer advice, I do read every comment. I encourage you to respond to other readers’ thoughts on how to decide if you should stay or go, and to share your experience. Writing often brings clarity and insight, and can help you process your feelings.
Your thoughts are welcome below! I don't give advice, but you can get free relationship help from marriage coach Mort Fertel.