Categorized | Breakup & Divorce, Marriage

Time to Say Goodbye To Your Spouse or Lover? Questions that Help You To Know

Ending a love relationship is one of the toughest life events that you will ever go through. It’s a death-like transition from sharing your life with another person to going it alone. No matter how many times you have gone through a romantic breakup, ending a relationship never gets easier.

Why is deciding to end a love relationship so hard?

No matter how difficult the relationship has become, we cant forget and let go of what we’ve shared and built with our partner. We share family, friends, children, activities and interests. We have built an identity together that has so many layers to it that its hard to unravel. Breaking up involves the dismantling of a complex relationship structure that may have taken many years to build. Also, we can’t anticipate every stress that may result from this change in our lives.

Romantic breakups open us to feelings of self-doubt, confusion, and failure that we’d like to avoid. We have to sit with questions for which there are no immediate answers.

“Am I doing the right thing by leaving?”


“Is there still enough that is good between us to make it work?”

“Will I ever find another person or be happy again?” and,

“What if I’m wrong; I don’t want to make the wrong choice.”

For example, last week, I was in the Trader Joe’s grocery store, when I saw the husband of a couple that I had seen in therapy many years ago. I said, “…….. is that you?” “Dr. Khoshaba,” he said, in a warm welcoming voice. I immediately asked how he, his wife, and children were. He replied in a whisper, that both disclosed his pain and the delicate nature of what he was about to share with me, “Dr. Khoshaba, we divorced several years ago” . Oddly enough, I thought he said that his wife had passed away several years ago.  “No, no, we divorced, once the children got old enough to leave home.” Our carts were now pushed up closely against each other, right next to a wall, as if we had created a private space for therapy. “How are you doing?”, I said. “Better, now”,  he replied. Those two words revealed everything to me; his heartache, loneliness and the fear that he may not find happiness once again.

“You will heal”, I said. He smiled halfheartedly that conveyed both his doubt and hope. I knew he had so much more to share with me about how he felt, but it wasn’t the place or time. We wished each other well and then parted.

It was ironic that this exchange happened in a grocery store. I hoped that our meeting nourished him in some way. He and his wife were never a match made in heaven, by any stretch of the imagination. I had always known that divorce was a strong possibility in their future.

What made them decide that it was time to call it quits after so many years of being together? One or both of them couldn’t find a good enough reason anymore to keep the relationship going. I know from once having them in therapy that they had considered for some time if their relationship was too good to leave or too bad to stay.

Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay? 

Indeed, considering ending a love relationship is one of the hardest things you will ever have to think through. Every person connected to the relationship will be affected by your decision. I have helped many people through this process through the years, especially in deciding if a divorce is an inevitable conclusion to their relationship. You just have to look into the eyes of people contemplating a romantic relationship’s end to know the psychological and spiritual weight of having to make such a decision. The sadness in their eyes tell you that something deeply meaningful is on hand.

Author Mira Kirschenbaum gives us a thoughtful way to consider if it’s time to say goodbye to a love relationship. I have recommended her book Too Good To Leave, Too Bad To Stay to many of my clients throughout the years. What I like about Kirschenbaum’s approach is that she asks you to diagnose the quality of your relationship through questions that get to the heart of what it means to be in love and to be open to sharing your life fully with another person.

Although she focuses much on physically abusive relationships, Kirschenbaum’s wisdom and guidelines for thinking through a decision to stay or leave a relationship brings clarity to this very emotionally confusing subject matter. The following Question Checklist is similar to Kirschenbaum’s take on this subject matter.

As you read each question, think about how these actions affect the bond between you and your partner. Our actions can strengthen or weaken our attachment to each other. If an action is so debilitating to the health of a relationship that it weakens our motivation to continue partnering with each other, this is a sign that the attachment relationship is wounded. The more attachment wounds created, the greater the harm to the relationship, and the harder it is to repair.

First, answer the question with regard to how you feel, then, with regard to your mate’s behavior.

  1. Do you live or wish to live a separate life from your mate, although you still live under the same roof? (Do most of your interests and activities exclude your partner?). If this is the case for you or your partner, there’s a serious problem in your relationship. You may be arranging your life to limit activities with your partner. Curtailing involvement with your partner is often the first step toward separating. You are trying on the shoes of a single person to see if they might fit, while living under the same roof with your mate. If this is you, I encourage you to examine how this came about, what meanings this has to you, and take responsibility for what it means to the integrity of your relationship.
  2. In spite of your problems, do you and your partner have at least one positively pleasurable activity or interest (besides children) that you currently share and look forward to sharing in the future, something you do together that you both like and that gives both of you a feeling of closeness for awhile? If there are still good things between you and your mate, there’s hope for the relationship. Shared interests and activities create mental and emotional bonds that support the health of a relationship. These need to be nurtured, especially when times get tough between you two. That being said, there are some behaviors that destroy the health of a romantic relationship, no matter what, like physical and emotional abuse, and untruthfulness. Pleasurable activities and interests are not enough to offset destructive relationship behaviors.
  3. Do you ignore or avoid your mate’s attempts to connect to you through intimate or everyday conversation? If so, there may be more serious trouble in paradise, or a communication problem, or just so much going on that you don’t have the energy for such conversations. Whatever the reason, you have to acknowledge it and try to make it better, if you wish for the relationship to stay healthy. If you or your mate is tired of the other, there’s a greater problem on hand.
  4. Do you genuinely like your partner? When we fall in love, we like the other person, right? Unfortunately, over time, you may find qualities and behaviors in your mate that you don’t like, or vice verse. There’s a real problem when these flaws make you lose interest and respect for your partner. If you said no to this question, you have to judge how this affects the relationship and if there’s a willingness on either of your part to change.
  5. Do you do everything you can to avoid physical contact with your mate? When you like and love your partner, it’s natural to want to touch him or her. Something is wrong when you or your partner have little interest in holding hands, sitting side by side, or hugging.
  6. Do you do everything you can to avoid sexual contact with your mate? There are many reasons why this can happen in a love relationship. It’s natural for sexual contact to decline over the years. This generally signifies nothing other than growing older. But, there are reasons for avoiding sexual contact that have more to do with the poor condition of the love relationship. It may be that you are emotionally hurt by your partner, lessening your sexual interest in him or her. If this is the case, you most likely answered in the positive behavior direction to many of the questions on this list. Thus, avoiding sexual contact is often a sign of bigger relationship problems. On the other hand, if this is the only question you endorsed, you most likely have an isolated problem that needs your attention.  Remember, the extent to which little to no sexual relationship can damage a partnership is the extent to which each partner values sex as contributing to the health of the relationship.
  7. Does your partner neither see nor admit to things that make the relationship too bad to stay in? Let me assure you that this problem is real and can cause great harm to a relationship. It’s often longstanding resentment over not being heard time and time again that forever harms the attachment bond. These are short-term little assaults on one’s sense of reality and self-esteem that over time take away one’s joy and interest in continuing to partner.
  8. Is there something that your partner does that makes it tough to stay in the relationship? Does your mate physically or emotionally abuse you or engage in some addictive behavior, like drug or alcohol abuse, gambling, sexual acting-out, or compulsive spending that threatens the integrity of the partnership? Has there been infidelity in your relationship? Affairs and addictive behaviors are deal-breakers, if they do not stop. Remember, your partner’s addiction turns you into a hostage of the relationship rather than a free-willing participant. Such problems often cause severe attachment wounds that are not easily repaired.
  9. Is your partner unwilling to change the behavior or quality of character that you cited in question 8? It may be time to say goodbye. If one of you is unwilling to change a behavior that clearly destroys the attachment between you, then the writing is on the wall: I care more about this behavior than you. These are non-negotiable behaviors that violate trust and security, and undermine the welfare of the relationship.
  10. Are you disrespected by your partner? This may take the form of ridiculing your ideas, thoughts, feelings and needs,  putting your down or embarrassing you in front of other people. This behavior also causes deep attachment wounds. Over time, this leads people to protective behaviors, like the ones described in questions 1, 3, 5, and 6. And, the more you try to protect yourself from your mate, the more your mate is your enemy rather than your lover and friend. Need I say more?

Respect, loving feelings, openness to giving and being loved, and a readiness to solve problems together and in a way that strengthens the relationship is at the heart of these questions. If you or your mate answered true to many of these questions, the attachment foundation is weakened by one or more of these attachment-undermining behaviors. More positive relationship behaviors may have initially existed and eroded over time, or perhaps they were absent from the beginning. Whichever the case, it is time to consider strongly whether your relationship is too good to leave, or too bad to stay.

I suggest that you read books on the subject, like Kirschenbaum’s Too Good To Leave, Too Bad To Stay book . Also, don’t hesitate to seek out professional guidance to see if the relationship can be saved and put in a positive direction.

I hope you like my post today, and found something useful for your everyday living and love relationship. If you like my post, please say so by selecting the Like icon that immediately follows. You can also Tweet and Google+1 today’s article to let your friends know about it.

Warm regards to you, Deborah

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19 Responses to “Time to Say Goodbye To Your Spouse or Lover? Questions that Help You To Know”

  1. This was great and comes at a time when one of my coaching clients could definitely use some nourishment on exactly this topic! I will be forwarding your blog to him. Thanks for your brilliance, once again.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hi Stefanie, thanks for your positive comments and support. I am glad that what you find here can help your clients. I love your new blog, you will be a great help to many. Warmly, Deborah

  2. avatar LoveSilver says:

    thank you. i have been betrayed by my partner and he is now in an anger vortex, as he is deflecting. we are in counselling but at this time the marriage councillor is keeping us separate. he thinks i am 100% to blame. i feel sad, and feel he is now damaging our 10 year marriage with his dysfunctional behaviour.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello, thank you for your comment. I am glad the article spoke to you. i know it is must be difficult dealing with an angry partner. You said it very well, destroying a ten year relationship with anger. It is said when people choose to tear up their own experience. I wish you the best in this tough time in your relationship. Warm regards Deborah

  3. avatar dayanara says:

    Hi my husband and I are currently separated thee was third party involvement he had an anaphylactic attach and was in a medically induced comma during his hospital stay his family who I informed of the incident had a family meeting and decided to keep me away from him and they were going to accuse me of having intentionally causing my husband’s hospitalization but no one told me while to see his was happening his brother even questioned me on our marriage I had no clue where this was coming from this created conflict between my husband and I I stopped going around his family I felt belittld how could they think this of me and because I stopped talking to whomever was in that original meeting he defends them justify his actions by saying they were protecting him always I always lost after months of argument I had a mini stroke but he doesn’t get my point I never thought he needed protection from me after 10 yes this was too much to keep my sanity I moved out but to him I quit he blames me I simply say I felt like I was left to hang I just releaving this makes my bp get high. Am I wrong to feel this way

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Dayanara, this is a very stressful situation for you, for sure. Of course, you felt deeply hurt and belittled. What a terrible shock this must had been to you. I don’t think you are wrong to feel this way. You were the betrayed party, but, then to have his family say that you caused his comma, and then your husband blame you too is terrible for you. Of course, it was all that you could take. You are right.

      Dayanara, your body is telling you that it was too much of an assault on you physically and emotionally. You had a mini stroke. Trust your body and mind and heart. They will tell you what you need. Thank you for sharing with me today. Take good care of yourself, Dayanara. Warmly Deborah.

  4. avatar miranda says:

    Hi Deborah,

    Thanks a lot for all your nice support via your website. I’m in great pain- I’m everywhere but actually nowhere! all day and night just the memories 10 years long married life knocking me down! Its getting really hard for me to accept all cheating went through on last 3 years that I was not aware of at all- my husband was is extra marital relationship with another girl. I need your kind suggestion and support on what should I do?

    Our families didn’t accept our marriage so we migrated to London and was living there and our families didn’t know that we did marry. First 7 years was all more or less ok. then started lying a lot to me that now I can realise. he used to tell me about this girl- she is married so I don’t doubt, she got a baby boy etc- so I never suspect him- he told me that she is just a friend but a married catholic girl. I NEVER EVER distrusted him and he actually took that chance. He was caught red headedly once on March 2012 and then ask for forgiveness and with the involvement of the friends I forgave him. Then he came little trustworthy but actually he was continuing his relationship by making many more lies. He could not contribute to family financially that much as he used to spend all the money for the girl. lastly he started living with her by lying that some of his families came to London and took a home in London and he started to live 2-3 days in that house that means actually he was living with that girl. We are Muslims and the girl was a Christian. But I used to believe him all through. I even bought lots of expensive gifts from my accounts for his families living in London actually it was the girl as now I came into know that none of his families ever lived in London! Not only that, I used to make many foods for his families (!) and took those to that house of the girl by the name that he is going to feed his families. Even lastly, he bought jewelleries for that girl with my credit card before came to home country!!

    He was my dependant on visa status. When my visa expired, I came back on March 2012 but he told me that he gonna extend it with his families, actually he made a drama by faking that his passport is lost and stayed 3 months more just to stay longer with that girl. Just before the day of his coming back to country, I came into know that he is in full swing with that girl and I emailed the girl mentioning all about our 10 years long married life. the girl didn’t know anything about us as she said and she told me that she’ll not continue the relationship. But, she was a liar as well…I had a fight while he came to home country and he told our close friends that he would do such things so that I commit suiside!!! then again he begged me to forgive him but I denied and he said that he did the relationship with girl for securing stay (visa) in London but he loves me (!!!! actually he just used me all ways – money, visa, security- it seems). That means our marriage is not a matter to him!!! Then I gave him time whether he can really be a GOOD MAN!! But AGAIN I found that he is continuing the relationship with that girl online and fixed everything but LYING ME AGAIN!!!!!! Now I gave up all hopes.

    However, the main problem is I used to love him from my heart 100%, trusted him fully, did everything even I sacrificed my shining carrer only because of him…. I built up my family (we got no children) taking this long 10 years!! I can’t forget good memories, I can’t bear all lies, betray, cheating……..I’m in great great pain…. I really loved him a lot…….I can’t think of anyone in my life….!!!..


    thank you so much for your patience hearing!
    Kind regards,

  5. avatar Ina says:

    Thank you for this article. I am crying when you wrote that respect, loving feelings, openness to giving and being loved, readiness to solve problems together strengthens the relationship and is the heart of your questions (I ticked yes to all of them). My husband of 36 years never stood up for me from the abuse of his mother. No kindness, no tenderness and blame, blame all the way. I was sick and requested him to heat up a soup, he burned it and blamed the stove. He is acting really weird these days, walking around the house and in the yard in his underwears and when I told him to put on shorts, he replied, it is comfortable. We fought about this, it is offensive. But the worst is when he threatened to hit me with a clenched fist. Every issue had been swept under the rug. Our marriage has been broken from the day we were married when his mother told me his son promised not to marry anyone and my husband did not deal with his mother. Attachment foundation was crushed since then. Thank you for clarifying things for me.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello, I can understand your pain Ina. All of us enter into a love relationship hoping to be honored, respected, and to have a partner who is willing to do what is needed to make the relationship thrive. But, all too often, we find what you describe here. One of the most harmful things to the bond between two people (besides infidelity) is to have an unsupportive partner that often feels like our enemy rather than our friend. In many ways what you describe can hurt so deeply almost like he’s been unfaithful. Because, his bond to his mother (which sounds unhealthy) is stronger than his bond to you. It sounds like his mother is very selfish. Hard to imagine that a mother would even want a son to not have a meaningful, healthy relationship with another woman. But, sadly, I’ve seen this before. I know it happens. Yes, the attachment foundation has been weakened. Oh, I’m glad that this article clarified things for you but I’m sad that you have had to suffer so much.

      You may want (if you already haven’t done this) to see a counselor just for the support you need to think through all that has been and what you want for the future. To have another person present to our pain can be very healing and help us to problem solve. You take good care of yourself. Warm regards Deborah.

  6. avatar Jane says:

    Thank you SO much for this article. My husband of many years surprised me by telling me he wanted a divorce. I was shocked and crushed, because even though I wasn’t deliriously happy, I didn’t think any of our problems were too big to overcome. He said his mind was made up and there was nothing I could do to change it, and he wasn’t willing to work on solutions. Finding and reading this article and answering the questions from both perspectives as suggested, made me realize that our marriage was doomed, not only because of these issues, but mainly because my husband had checked out–become unattached to us as a couple. So I can now accept his decision and the result and begin moving forward! Wish I had found the article years ago before it got too late…I’ve recommended it to several friends for whom it may not be too late. Thanks again.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hi Janet, you are very welcome. But, I know you came upon this article because of tough circumstances. You are right and say it well that when one person checks out emotionally in a relationship and does nothing to repair the attachment, the relationship can be doomed. It takes two people to repair and build up love again. Janet, I’m so glad that you have accepted and are now moving forward. YOU deserve a good life ahead of you. Warm regards Deborah.

  7. avatar Sheri says:

    When I got to #10 I cried…how do you put yourself first without thought to my children & how MY decisions affect them. Married 25 years but have struggled every step of the way. I lost the love, respect & question if we ever had a friendship at all. We have one thing in common & that’s flea markets but we can’t do that everyday. I think we just exist & hide in the science of day to day work or tv watching. We have nothing to talk about except a project or our work day…no intimate discussions of us & how we are in this relationship. I’m struggling with staying but can not bring myself to leave. I don’t know why. I have filed for divorce but not quite a year ago we decided to try & reconcile but here we are in that time frame & not much change occurring. I’m tired & I just want to be loved & talked to, to laugh & to cry in the arms of my friend my lover but I don’t know who that is…is he my husband or a future without him…

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hi Sheri, you are right–our decisions as parents do affect our children. This is very very tough. Sheri, I know when children are young what they want the most is their parents being together. Later on however, when they experience years of their parents’ unhappiness with each other, studies show they wish their parents actually separated and that they are negatively affected by growing up in an unhappy environment. That being said, talking to our children and making them feel safe and loved whatever happens goes a long way toward their happiness and mental health.

      I wish for you to find that loving friend and lover. I admire both of your attempts to try a reconciliation. It seems both of you have tried to see if you can salvage the relationship and turn it for the better. But, if you can’t have faith in the future. We never know what life brings and how much of our life journey we will spend with family, lovers and friends. You take good care Sheri. Warmly Deborah.

  8. avatar Destined Love says:

    Your articles make much sense. I have loved life loved and more.
    Ron is a pathological liar. Every time you ask a question and
    I know the truth he lies. He had been unfaithful and lies saying
    Nothing wrong what he does he isn’t screwing them. He might as well been.
    Why is it so hard to let this man go when he is one big lie!

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Destined Love (love your user name); very positive. Sometimes, even though, we know what’s happening (and it isn’t good) and we are hurt, we have a hard time letting go of the drama. There are several reasons why people do this. Sometimes even though it doesn’t feel good, the troubled relationship resembles past relationships with our family. We are used to the drama so tolerate much more than we should. Also, some people are fixers/healers and don’t leave bad relationships until they can fix them. Oh this is a problem, as you can imagine because some people are so broken that only serious therapy can help them; and this is only if they truly wish to be psychologically helped. No matter the reason for staying too long in troubled relationships, it’s important to focus on what is rather than what one wants the relationship to be. We have to move away from our hopes, dreams and fantasies to what is really happening so we can stay strong and have enough courage to go it alone once again. Thank you for writing me today Destined Love. Love is in your destiny, I’m sure, just stay focused on finding someone who is capable to true, healthy romantic relating. Warm regard Deborah.

  9. avatar Ray diaz says:

    me my wife been married for 26 years she don’t want me to call her be the one to touch her but I still love her what should I do

  10. avatar Liz G says:

    Thanks for this article. I am in this place, somewhere in the middle between the two scenarios. Additionally, as you mentioned disentangling the years of layers is sad, difficult. In our case, we shared much in terms of being creative, writing, music, painting, our humor, a very rich sexual connection, etc. It helps me to have the concept of damaging the attachment. I feel like I have tried to nurture him beyond his subconscious wounds which are lifelong trouble with commitment, as well as addiction that he clearly uses to control. It has been enlightening for me to realize that while I didn’t think I was codependent, the very act of believing that if only this aspect would change, things would be great in the future is its hallmark. His need to control through his addiction is primary. Deal breaker. 🙁

  11. avatar Callie says:

    My husband and I suffer with problems 6 through 10 of the list above. It was When he returned from the navy in 1985, He came back To his transmission plant UAW represented job with more seniority than 60 percent of the work force. His return created many problems for other people in the workforce when he wanted things like his shift preference. job preference, vacation slot preference, the ability to take or refuse holidays by seniority. even his ability to take a weekend off caused problems for other people. Every way he would turn for any thing he wanted was a problem. So I told him that to make sure he would cooperate at least for two years ad until then our sex life was on hold, Two years to the day I was again begging him hat in hand to cancel the first vacation in seven years In favor of the daughter of one on his fathers friends so she could go to Rome with the rest of us. if my husband kept his slot she would have had to work, and my husband got mad and laid a trap. Hauled out my Bible and made me swear after my return from Rome that any time, any where and any way I would go with him on the vacation of his choice and be a willing bed partner, He wrote down and typed it up what I was swearing to and made me sign it. He made his father the girl and her parents pay him back for the expenditures he had made. He even made me give him back 2 thirds of the money I planed to take. We deciuded in Rome that seven months from then from the second of January to the 14 of February was the best time for him to take a vacation because it would not stomp on any toes, the second we got back and got the van loaded With the discovery he planed to take off that day, Would not consider the mid winter time saying that I would blow the budget to fly any where on Christmas and he was not thrilled about driving Icy roads any where. and I was again caught in the spot of do some thing. I did something and refused to go, Then he sprang his trap, I ended up on a bus to my mothers a half hour latter with a let6ter telling my mother that he was returning me in the same condition received Since I did not want to be a wife she could have me back. It was Insulting with him telling his father that if he took one step more to hit him that he would need a head stone wear he stood. The thing is everyone knew it would happen, Because I am bi polar his father arranged for a judge to throw the divorce out. Then until October 24 2009, It was nothing but him getting more angry, The arguments and people hurt became a constant, It got to a point he told me he wanted me dead. Everything became a conflict with me, his father and others. Even firearms were used to get him to work holidays he did not want to work. I eventually was thrown to the floor and forced into sex three years ago He broke his fathers neck last spring, Because he refused to stay off the trip with me. And With the Christmas five days ago I just handed him a late of food and asked hi to eat in the barn so people were comfortable since this was the first for him in 33 years home for Christmas. I ended up with the plate in my face. his father and others Wrestling him, out hs front door onto the deck with the words learn some manners, When I got cleaned up and went back I was think I had better at least fix another plate The front door burst open, a lariate loop went around his fathers throat and hes drawing down on everyone with a 30 30 the other end of the rope was attached to his horses pommel. He told everyone to get out that laid their hands on him or his father was going out the door behind Bart. I just wanted a nice peaceful Christmas. My husbands resentment over past treatment has come to a point something has to be done, Either the rest of us have to back down or my husband is institutionalized,

  12. In this great design of things you’ll secure an A+ with regard to effort and hard work. Where exactly you lost everybody was on the specifics. You know, as the maxim goes, details make or break the argument.. And that could not be much more accurate right here. Having said that, allow me reveal to you precisely what did give good results. Your text is definitely very powerful and that is most likely why I am taking the effort in order to opine. I do not make it a regular habit of doing that. Second, even though I can notice the jumps in reason you come up with, I am not really certain of how you appear to unite your details which produce the actual conclusion. For the moment I shall subscribe to your issue however hope in the foreseeable future you link your dots better.


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