Larry James' BLOG

Monday, June 14, 2010

Relationship Highway – Knowing When to Exit: Deciding to “Break Up”

Lori & Bob Hollander, Guest Authors –

How do you know when is it time to “break up?” The decision to end a relationship can be clear and easy if there are “deal breaker” issues, e.g., he is disrespectful or pushy about sex when you made it clear you are not ready. On the other end of the spectrum, a decision to break up can be full of uncertainty and angst.

If the answer is right in front of you, it’s best to let the other person know and move on. If you are more deeply invested in the relationship – head, heart and hormones, it is vital that you face and embrace this decision.

quandryIn our work with couples in conflict who have been together for years, we ask each person, “Why did you commit to or marry your partner?” We have heard more than once:

• “It was just the next step.”
• “We had been dating for years.”
• “It is what my family expected.”
• “The invitations went out; I would’ve been too embarrassed to cancel.”
• “I didn’t know how to break up. I didn’t want to hurt my partner.”
• “I knew it was wrong, but I walked down the aisle anyway.”

Though breaking up would have been difficult, it is much more painful and complicated after being committed for years, bonding with each others families and of course, having children.

So, if you are in a situation where you have thought about ending a relationship and find yourself uncertain or avoiding the issue, take it on by letting your head lead. The following questions may help:

1. What are my concerns about the relationship? Have I addressed them with my partner? If no, what is holding me back? If yes, was he/she responsive to my concerns?

2. How well do we communicate? How well do we face differences, embrace conflict and work it through?

3. Do I trust and respect my partner and feel trusted and respected in return? Is the power in the relationship balanced? If not, how does this affect me? Us?

4. In what ways are we intimate, head, heart and hormones? Where do we need to improve and would he/she be willing to address this together?

5. Would my partner being willing to get counseling/coaching if we could not resolve our differences?

Sometimes it is too difficult to sort through your thoughts and feelings on your own and individuals seek therapy. In addressing this issue in counseling, we never tell people what to do, but we do help them think through their decisions so they can gain clarity and more certainty about their choice.

When couples seek help with compatibility, we help them clearly identify their difficulties and communicate about them in a healthy way so they can make the best decision.

For an in-depth book on finding clarity, we recommend: Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay: A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Decide Whether to Stay In or Get Out of Your Relationship by Mira Kirshenbaum. It has been helpful to many of our clients.

BONUS Article: You Know the Relationship is Over When. . .


Copyright © 2010 – Lori & Bob Hollander. Lori Hollander, LCSW-C, BCD, and Bob Hollander, JD, LCSW-C, are licensed counselors and co-founders of Relationships Work, an innovative therapy practice and online resource center. Together, they encourage couples to consciously co-create their relationships in order to achieve a deeper, more intimate connection. You can visit Relationships Work online at:

Larry’s Note: Subscribe to Lori & Bob’s eNewsletter on their Website and receive a gift, “The 7 Secrets of Emotional & Erotic Intimacy.” Make them your friend on Facebook, click here!

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