Should I stay in this relationship or should I cut my losses and go? A question I would venture has been spoken aloud or silently by everyone reading this post. I will go one step further and wager that everyone would agree there is not a simple answer to the question. At least I haven’t found one.
In the course of marriage counseling, some of my clients rely on the Bible or their denomination’s doctrine on divorce for the answer of whether to stay or go. When couples cite religious beliefs about whether to stay or go, the answers are along a continuum (conservative vs. liberal interpretations). On one end of the continuum is a definitive “stay” and on the other end is “stay” with the exceptions of adultery or abandonment by a non-believer. Which is conservative or liberal I will leave for you to decide.
As a licensed counselor, my stance is to respect the clients’ autonomy while being attentive to the safety of all involved.
Holding to the view that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” I contend the answer to “stay or go” should be assessed early and often. By early I mean before the marriage vows, buying a house, having kids, or any other long-term commitment. By often, I mean during the two years you are dating (you are dating for two years aren’t you?). Doing so may save you years of agony.
After the first date, it is “creepy” to order a criminal history of the person. A slight Google before or after the first date might be okay… as long as it’s not obsessive. Most of the following should be answered or investigated (yes, I said investigated) after the relationship has become exclusive, and then monitored during the two years of dating.
Any of the following characteristics is a reason to GO!
- Any hints of or history of abuse (emotional, sexual, physical, verbal).
- Past or Present Addictions (prescription medicines, illicit drugs, porn).
- Lack of education, skill, or employment history.
- Excessive Debt or history of poor money management.
- Psychopathic lying.
- Hides you from his friends and family (Ghosting, Stashing, Breadcrumbing).
- Attempted suicide, homicidal ideations, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, a personality disorder.
- Do family members have any of the above characteristics.
- Your friends, family, or therapist say, “watch out!”
- You have a history of any of the above-mentioned characteristics.
These are all strong predictors of serious future relationship issues and should, in most cases, result in answer to the question “should I stay or go?” to GO! Proceeding with the relationship is at your own and possibly others peril and misery.
Can’t People Change?
Counselors, including myself, are in the business of change. We witness people change every day. We also see them slip and relapse into past behaviors. So while I am a staunch believer in second, third, and fourth chances, I also know that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.
So unless you are a counselor or an addiction sponsor my advice is to avoid long term-committed relationships with any of the above.
In future posts, I will discuss some options on what to do when you discover you are in a committed relationship with someone who has any of the above characteristics.