Should I Stay or Should I Go? Take this Self-Assessment

If your relationship were afire, is it still burning strongly? Flickering? Smoldering? Does it need kindling? A log? Or has the last spark of it burned out to the point where it’s even too late for more oxygen? After all, your relationship at one time had to be on fire in order for it to burn out. Relationships that are characterized mainly or solely by passion are often, as songwriter Cole Porter put it, “too hot, not to cool down.”

If it’s more accurate to describe your relationship as one that is or was grounded in comfort or day-to-day livingperhaps a better metaphor than fire is that of a business. And if so, do you need downsizing? Refinancing? New management? Or are you ready for bankruptcy court?

For many years, I had searched for a foolproof “litmus test” that could save people from the pain of fruitlessly trying to revive a relationship that has virtually no chance for success, as well as from abandoning troubled relationships that could be turned around if only the partners could see that proverbial “forest for the trees”.

Let me first give you the bad news. Whenever I thought I had it nailed down, a glaring exception to the rule would surface. Some of the worst relationships I have ever seen have survived, improved and even flourished! And some of those that seemed positively salvageable and loaded with potential have folded. Although there are good reasons for all of these exceptions, we only find them out after the fact — similar to the way a Wall Street session is reported on at the end of the day once the numbers are in. (Wouldn’t it be great for our portfolios if that same degree of “wisdom” were available an hour earlier?)

Now, let me give you the good news. The inventory that you are about to take comes about as close to a litmus test as anything out there, as  many colleagues of mine who have used it have told me. I put together this inventory — I call it “Can Your Relationship Be Saved?” — for my book, by the same name. Since then, it’s been used by scores of mental health professionals with their clients/patients — with good results.  So think of it as a “heads-up” — to make you aware of some of the warning signs that exist, and to help you to see them and to make the choices that lie ahead. Your self-assessment could lead either to the healing and even deepening of your relationship, or the straightforward decision to end it.

Please take a piece of paper and number it from one to fifty. Then simply put a check mark next to the number of each “true” statement that describes your relationship:

  1. My partner and I no longer feel like friends.
  2. My partner and I have developed a very strong wall that separates us.
  3. I am constantly thinking about how nice it would be to have an affair.
  4. When my partner and I fight, it gets nasty and I am left with feelings of wanting to get out.
  5. My partner has told me at a time other than when we were in the middle of a fight that he or she would be happier if we split up.
  6. I am unwilling to accept my partner as he/she is. If this relationship is to continue, he/she will have to make some very major changes that he/she is unwilling to make.
  7. My partner and I have little in common anymore
  8. I would leave this relationship in a heartbeat if I felt confident that I could make it on my own or if I knew I could get through the painful transition of a breakup.
  9. Although I no longer love my partner, I feel responsible for him/her. I think the only thing that is really keeping me here is guilt.
  10. My partner and I fight a lot and I fear that underneath the fighting there is not much left.
  11. When I am about to be around my partner and I think of having to spend time with him/her, I get an empty feeling.
  12. My partner and I are just no longer playing for the same team.
  13. The more time goes by, the more I begin to dislike my partner.
  14. My respect for my partner is practically or totally gone.
  15. There is very little trust left in our relationship.
  16. I constantly fear my partner’s abusive behavior. If it happens again, I am leaving.
  17. My partner abuses alcohol and/or drugs. It is even more intolerable to me that he/she denies that the usage is a problem
  18. I can only tolerate my partner if one of us is high on alcohol or drugs.
  19. If I could afford it financially I would leave.
  20. My partner has an emotional hold on me. I would love to leave but feel too hooked and addicted to the relationship.
  21. My partner has children whom I am expected to relate to. The
relationship would be fine if they were not there, but they are here
to stay and it is creating a very unhappy situation for me.
  22. I know I should want my relationship to continue (or want to want
my relationship to continue), but I cannot say that I truly do want
it to continue.
  23. We are unable to resolve our differences together, but my partner
refuses to enter counseling or therapy.
  24. My partner has told me that he/she does not love me anymore.
  25. My partner has done something for which I cannot forgive him/her. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
  26. We just have so many differences that it is unrealistic to think we
can even begin to address them.
  27. I am so overwhelmed by my partner’s constant demands for love and
approval, perfectionism, and/or rigid rules of how the relationship
should be and how each of us should behave within it, that
sometimes I just want to give up.
  28. I am almost certain my partner is having an affair and if this is true
I will not tolerate it.
  29. I feel closer to my partner when we are not together.
  30. There is definitely more pain than joy or pleasure associated with
my partner and our relationship.
  31. This relationship has become a constant burden.
  32.  If I knew I could find another mate, I would leave immediately.
  33. I am having an affair with someone I value much more than my
partner, and I am unwilling to give this other person up under any
  34. I feel very indifferent toward my partner and have little motivation
to try and work things out.
  35. My most stress-free moments are when my partner and I are not
  36. My partner and I are totally inflexible with each other.
  37. I don’t even have a desire to tell my partner how I feel anymore —
positive or negative.
  38. Our relationship has peaked and could never again be as good as it
once was.
  39. When I think of us growing old together, life seems not worth
  40. At this point, there is just too much water under the bridge.
  41. When I think of leaving my partner I feel relieved.
  42. I have wanted to leave for a long time, but my partner has said
he/she will commit suicide if I do.
  43. I constantly have to choose between my partner and my family (of
  44. My partner is abusive to the children — a situation I am powerless
to stop as long as they are all in the same environment.
  45. This relationship does not allow me to grow.
  46. My partner does not fit into my future plans.
  47. I want to leave but, I cannot see myself pulling it off— I am stuck.
  48. I need my partner much more than I love him/her.
  49. I love my partner but am not in love with him/her.
  50. We have tried everything and nothing seems to help.

Many of these items are self explanatory, but for a better understanding of what your answers could mean as well as the degree of risk associated with them, click here and scroll down to “Evaluation of Inventory.” Hopefully this can be an important step in your journey to determine the future of your relationship.

Helping Your Children Get Through the Crisis of Divorce

Divorce is never a simple matter logistically or emotionally. And when there are children involved, often the hardest part is to put your own emotional issues aside in order to do some very difficult parenting feats . Here are some ways to help your children get through this crisis as painlessly as possible:

It all starts with communication-Telling your children about your upcoming divorce may be one of the most challenging things that you’ll ever do. Stick to what’s relevant to them. Some children may react with anger, disbelief and/or sadness; while others will react with relief. This depends on how they experience the climate at home and both of their parents—together and separately—during this era of time. If possible, make it a point for you and your spouse together and calmly to talk to each child separately. This will enable you to speak to your kids at an age appropriate level. In other words, your kindergartener and your pre-teen need things to be explained differently. The most important thing to communicate is that your child is in no way, shape, or form responsible for the breakup or any of the turmoil associated with it. Just as you may experience some loneliness once the initial shock of your divorce has subsided, even if you are the one initiating the divorce, your child may experience guilt from an irrational belief that somehow he or she is to blame. So as difficult as it may be, please put your own needs aside and be as reassuring and nurturing as possible.

Keep the kids out of it-Children can easily be swept up into their parents’ conflict during divorce, especially with things like custody battles. I can think of nothing more destructive to do to a child as to use them like weapons against your spouse. Children, who become as pawns in battles between their parents, often hold deep resentment toward both of you; and this can result in permanent consequences that are likely affect their own relationships later on. Try your best to come to a civil agreement about how to effectively co-parent and split time with them as well as any other issues regarding your children.

Keep things stable-Resolve to keep life as normal as possible and with a reliable schedule of visitation with the non-custodial parent. It’s not the quantity of time you spend with the child, but the quality and consistency. It’s important for your child always to know when they will next see the parent they don’t live with and how to get in touch with them in between visits. Both parents need be available, even when they aren’t physically present.

It’s a tall order, but focus on making your divorce as painless for the kids as possible. Each child will react in his or her way. For some, it will be much less traumatic, while for others—who experience your divorce as their entire world coming apart— some counseling may be necessary to get them through the crisis. But there is no better time to be mindful of loving them unconditionally and making sure they know that you are always available to discuss whatever is on their mind, regardless of your relationship with your (soon to be ex) spouse. More tips and strategies can be found in my book, Can Your Relationship Be Saved? How to Know Whether to Stay or Go.

If Holiday Stress is a Disease, The Virus is Your Expectations

The holiday season stereotypically has always been portrayed as a time of fun, joy and warmth with family, friends and colleagues. But it can also be a time of pain and high expectations. And the inevitable disappointments that follow those expectations are often to blame for holiday stress, which has gradually, but now permanently become part of our lexicon.

High hopes about the holiday season — the expectations you put on yourself, as well as on others around you — may magnify whatever is already not going right in your life. And remember this about all expectations: they are a nothing more than premeditated disappointments. For instance; if you’re having financial difficulties, a family conflict, relationship issues or health problems – added expectations that convert to disappointments about the holidays could push your existing stress over the limit.

So resist the urge to set yourself up for more disappointment by comparing this year to the best holiday season of your life, for example. Also, avoid making self-defeating comparisons between yourself and people whom you imagine to be happier than you, have better relationships, great family moments or more money. Comparing your reality with someone else’s image is an almost sure fire way to trigger feelings of disappointment in you.

Instead, consider how you can make the best of your own situation. For example, if you’re alone for the holidays, try volunteering to help make the season a little nicer for someone in greater need. Opportunities abound to volunteer at senior centers, hospitals, shelters, churches and you get the idea. People who volunteer to help others usually find it to be an extremely gradifying experience.

And remember it’s okay to be a little selfish, too. For example, buy yourself a holiday present, or indulge yourself by taking a bubble bath, reaching out to old friends you may have lost contact with, reading a book, learning a new skill, perhaps by even cooking a favorite meal for yourself or however you most enjoy your own solitude.

Holiday stress can also come in the form of too many obligations. If you’re overwhelmed by everyone else’s expectations to spend time with relatives or friends, try to remember that there’s only one of you and you can’t be all things to all people. But you can surely burn yourself out by trying. Limit your commitments, simplify your schedule, and prioritize your activities. Even with loved ones, don’t be afraid to graciously decline or reduce burdensome obligations.

No matter what your holiday plans, try to maintain a sense of humor as reality inevitably crashes into your expectations. So manage those expectations. Keep them realistic. And remember, the less you expect, the freer and more lighthearted you will feel.

Whether you love the holiday season, hate it or anything in between, never forget this one truism: all seasons have a beginning, a middle and an end. In other words, this too shall pass!

Wishing you a holiday with less expectations (aka stress) and thereby more sparkle and joy!

Singles Scene

You’ve no doubt heard about (or experienced first hand) the “ horrors” of the singles scene – tales of singles bars and the “meat market” atmosphere commonly thought of as being a good spots to meet potential relationship.

Many (though certainly not all) find these places to be depressing sources of discomfort and disappointment. So what’s the alternative? In making the effort to meet a potential relationship, the trick is to set up a no lose situation. When you’re in the mood to meet new friends, go only to places that you enjoy. By a no lose situation I mean that by being at places where you would naturally enjoy yourself, you’re most likely to have a good time whether you meet someone or not.

Perhaps the gym, golf, tennis, literary book clubs or places where you can take a fun course in something that interests you are places that you would enjoy going. The important thing is that if you would frequent them even if you were in a satisfactory relationship, or not looking for one at all – then you’re on the right track. When you’re doing the things you enjoy, you look and feel your best and you come across as your more attractive . And you’ll rarely leave with that “dreaded” sense of disappointment.


Just about everyone experiences some amount of sadness, and most of us at one time or another, experience an occasional bout of depression. Depression has many possible causes. They can be medical or psychological. A very common psychological cause of depression is low self-esteem, and the tendency to put yourself down for circumstances beyond your control. It ultimately does you no good to blame yourself for not being able to change what you have defined and see as unchangeable. So if depression is a problem you have, you might want to look at what you tell yourself about the issues, circumstances or people in your life that you want to change but can’t. Do you have the tendency to think of yourself negatively, instead of with acceptance? Do you dwell on small disappointments and have difficulty letting go of the slightest upset? Do you lack the motivation and energy to carry out necessary tasks? These are all contributors to, if not causes of depression. Finally, if depression persists beyond a few weeks, seek professional help. Effective short-term treatment can literally turn your entire life around.

Cure for Boredom

Do you experience boredom easily or often? Maybe even constantly or worse yet, do you sometimes feel as though there is no way out of that boredom?

If so, it is possible that specific situations bore you or on the other hand, that you are bored with your life in general. Either way I believe that you certainly have a choice.

My definition of boredom is that frame of mind when you do not like what’s happening, but you are not willing to do whatever is necessary to change it. Again, you can be talking about a very specific situation, the way you see your entire life or anything in between.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that life takes on only the meanings that we give it, and that the meaning for our lives is almost always under our control. So the next time you’re feeling bored, ask yourself what it is that you may be unwilling to change. If you can confront those issues head on, not only won’t you experience boredom, but in its place will be a renewed sense of power over that aspect or even your entire life.

Communicating Sexual Desires

Unfortunately many couples let sex become less and less of an important part of their relationship simply because of the failure of each partner to communicate their sexual desires to each other.

Although this is extremely prevalent, the good news is that it’s a problem that is very easily correctable. Usually when sexual desires are not communicated, it’s for one of these reasons:

It could be fear of disclosure or embarrassment. This fear is usually unwarranted because studies have shown that the more couples share their sexual desires, the more they describe their marriage as characterized by intimacy.

The second is the belief that your partner ought to know what turns you on without your having to communicate that information. It’s rare to find a couple that can satisfy each other without an explicit exchange of this information. In addition, that attitude is often a cause of needless anger.
So take the plunge. Share those desires and see how quickly sexual ecstasy can be rejuvenated in your relationship.


Are you an ambivalent person? Ambivalence is the state of mind we are in when we are undecided. For some people, it is a way of life. If so, consider this: ambivalence in and of itself can actually ruin your life. Theoretically, if you had everything that you could possibly want going for you, but you were ambivalent about life’s decisions and circumstances, no matter what you had in your life, you could be dwelling on the fact that you should be doing something else.

Now granted, a little ambivalence protects you from extreme thoughtlessness or recklessness, but beyond that, it would only serve to hold you back in the areas of your life that you consider to be most important. By failing to act you could be keeping yourself in what I have long referred to as “a comfortable state of discomfort” indefinitely.

If ambivalence is your problem, you can start to break that pattern today by testing your instincts and by making at least one decision that you have been putting off. Every time you avoid an important decision, you actually make that decision by default. But when you change that pattern act, decisively and stick to it— your life is back in your own hands.

Who Feels Good After The Breakup Of A Marital Or Other Long Term Relationship?

In spite of what you may have thought, some people do actually feel good immediately after the breakup of a marital or other long-term relationship.

Some well controlled research confirms that those who have been engaged in extra-martial affairs (what I have referred to in The Art of Staying Together as a prebound relationship which is similar to a rebound relationship, but occurs before the breakup), those who are characterized as having done the leaving rather than being left and those who have clear goals following their breakup are most likely to feel good. In addition, if you’re a man, the better educated you are and the higher your status, the better your chances are to feel good immediately after the breakup. If you’re a woman, however, generally you’re more likely to feel good sooner than you would if you were a man. If you’re a woman with custody, you’re more likely to feel better than your ex-husband, and if you’re not bothered by the guilt induced by religious beliefs you’re likely to feel better. However, these are just the results of some research. Most importantly, if you are in that situation, by addressing the obstacles you are facing one by one, you can work hard to make yourself feel better about your reality, regardless of your circumstances.

Talking to Teens about Sex

Have you ever wondered why many parents have so much difficulty talking to their children about sex? I’m referring particularly to teenagers and adolescents where the knowledge about areas such as sex, sexual values, contraceptives, and the dangers of contracting sexually transmittable diseases are so crucial to communicate.

Many parents are frankly embarrassed about the topic of sex. They often feel that by talking to their children about it, that they are either going to encourage promiscuity, or stir up something that they will be sorry for later.

While adolescents are often fond of acting as though they know it all, are independent and without concern about these things; most actually wish that they could talk to their parents about sex. But sometimes, they might also feel as though they’ll be railroaded into some value system that’s not their own or ultimately in their best interest.

IF you are a parent struggling with this dilemma, you may want to share with your adolescent some of the ambivalences you felt when you were in their shoes. With a little bit of appropriate self-disclosure, you can possibly open up that dialogue with your adolescent that you may have never before imagined possible. Once that happens, no topic will again feel taboo.