Considering the emotional chaos a breakup can cause, we compiled the following list of questions everybody should ask themselves before terminating a long-term relationship:
1. Do we still laugh?
Relationships require negotiation and maintenance, but they should also contain healthy doses of fun, frivolity, and maybe even silliness. Because even in the most workable relationships partners will get on each other’s nerves, the ability to laugh at both oneself and with the other is crucial for counter-balancing conflict.
So ask yourself… Is there too much drama in your relationship? Does it wear you out? Does your time together always end up in conflict? Do little things produce big power struggles? If most of your encounters bring you down, it may be time for a change.
2. How’s our sex life?
Sex and intimacy are very important ingredients in a successful relationship. Especially during stressful times, sex simplifies back to the physical. This allows both tension relief and deeper, more soulful connections between partners.
While there’s no “right” amount of sexual relations, it’s important that both partners feel content with the kind of sex their having, and how much sex they’re having. An infrequent sex arrangement may be perfectly fine, but only if both partners are ok with it..
3. Are we still each other’s first priority?
Think about this… Stephanie and Tom have been seeing each other for six years. Tom is enmeshed with his family and what they think of everything. He consults with them every time he and Stephanie have a disagreement. He asks his father’s and brother’s opinion on every aspect of his and Stephanie’s partnership, and uses this to guide how he negotiates his needs with Stephanie. Do you think this healthy?
A primary love relationship should take precedence over all other relationships, including families of origin, friends, and coworkers. One’s ability to prioritize one’s mate over all others is an accurate measure of a person’s maturity and ability to negotiate from a place of autonomy.
4. Do we fight constructively, i.e., are we able to effectively resolve conflicts?
While excessive fighting strains a relationship, a lack of conflict is not necessarily a good thing either. If partners have to tip-toe around each other, thereby failing to communicate and oppressing their feelings, their relationship will become growth-stunted and stagnant.
It is better to agree on fighting constructively. Try to diffuse any power struggles that ensue in favour of objective resolution of any underlying issues (including agreeing to disagree when appropriate). Strive for a “win-win” compromise. Doubt any partnership where there is no conflict or mutually agreed upon rules for fighting. You don’t want to wake up one day wondering what happened when your partner decides to leave the relationship.
5. Do we still love each other?
This may seem obvious and oversimplified, but if there is no love left, your relationship is not sustainable.
6. Do we share a common vision about life together as we go forward?
Consider this… Anne is the oldest of nine children and always assumed she would be the mother of many children. Although Frank also has many siblings, he loves his peaceful and perfectionistic life. When they fell for one another, Frank jumped into the relationship with both feet. However, now that they are committed to one another, Frank is feeling trapped into going in a direction he doesn’t want, and is balking at having children at all; Anne now feels robbed of a family and future she thought they had openly agreed to.
Nothing breaks up a relationship faster than one or both partners asking the other to be someone they are not.
Be honest with both your partner and yourself. Does your partner want an open relationship whereas you do not? Do you both want children? What are your financial goals? What kind of lifestyle do each of you want?
For each of the questions above, make an honest appraisal of your relationship for what it is, not what you want it to be. If there are deal breakers present… you may as well end things before you invest too many years and too much energy in something that is inevitably unsustainable. If there are no deal breakers, be prepared to do the work of a relationship!