Making the decision to end a relationship can be more challenging than actually ending it. This is true whether you’re thinking about ending your marriage, quitting your job, or selling your house. And if you’re indecisive by nature, the choice can be brutal.

After more than seven years of practice as a divorce mediator, I’ve become pretty good at reading my clients. Once in awhile, a “divorce bully” and spouse come in and I can tell almost immediately that this is an “or else” situation. “You’ll do this, or else we’re getting a divorce.” I will gently (and quickly) encourage these people to meet with a therapist.

If I’m not dealing with a potential bully, I am generally meeting people who have previously decided to end their relationship.  I tell them that they’ve already made the toughest choice.  Although I don’t ask, I always wonder how they arrived at their decision.

Same question if the relationship is work-related rather than a marriage.  Should I stay or should I go?

We stay in unhappy and unproductive relationships for a variety of reasons.  One thing I can say with certainty, if the pain or misery of being in the relationship is greater than the fear, guilt, or anxiety of leaving it, it’s time to call it quits.  

If you are feeling guilty about leaving your spouse or your job, there are ways to deal with the guilt.

Once in awhile, the universe sends us a sign that is unmistakable, and when I am on the receiving end of such a sign, I am forever grateful.  More often than not, however, the decision is a struggle and it takes time.  So while you’re contemplating whether to stay or go, do yourself a big favor and make an appointment with a therapist.  Speaking with a trained professional will likely give you some clarity, and provide you with some tools to deal with your fears and anxiety.

If you decide to end the relationship, then what?   Since relationships are contracts of some form or another, the original contract will be revised when you end the relationship. New terms must be negotiated, whether work-related or personal.  If you’re leaving an employer, you may need to talk about a non-compete agreement, unused vacation days, or an letter of reference.  If the marriage is ending, you may need to address joint assets, debts, children, and alimony. These negotiations do not have to be adversarial. Every day people make the decision to end relationships, and every day people make the choice to do it peacefully instead of with hostility.

In my opinion, ending the relationship peacefully is always the better choice, not only for stress management, but for economics. More and more people are realizing that anger leads to litigation which leads to excessive time and money spent. The mediation process is usually a better choice.  (Please forgive the shameless plug.)

Next week, I will be discussing the other option — your decision to stay.  Until then . . .