To stay or leave: When is your relationship worth saving?

Kinderling News & Features

Falling in love has kinetic energy; it’s all movement, electricity and sparks. But what is love once you’re a parent and the crucible of “real life” has set in? 

Can you still call it love when you spend your time arguing about who let the kids stay up way past their bed time? 

What makes a person decide to leave a marriage?

Recently I went to an event held by The School of Life. It was called To Stay or Leave. The School of Life was founded by the philosopher Alain de Botton, and their courses examine complex issues through a philosophical lens.

I went to this event, not because I want to leave my husband, but because I have friends who have recently left relationships that didn’t appear any worse than mine.

We all know that having children has a huge impact on your relationship with your partner; the kinetic energy of self-involved love flies out the window and you’re left with something fundamentally different. But is it better, or worse?

Is it better to be in a comfortable, if somewhat plodding place with your partner; or should we be trying to switch rides for something more exciting?

Perspective can be powerful

Unless you’re in an abusive relationship the choice between staying or going isn’t necessarily a contrast of opposites.

You may feel it’s more like being stuck in quicksand, that you’re caught between the competing desires of wanting to be free, and of staying in the companionable relationship you have built with your partner.

When I hear of others leaving their long-term partners, I can’t help thinking they’re brave and that by comparison, my desire to stay might be interpreted as weak, uninspired or that terribly domestic word, “safe”.

But when you apply perspective, with a more philosophical frame of mind, things can look completely different.

Wanting a “perfect partner” puts you on the road to misery

We live in an age where happiness is the ultimate goal. A time when we all have a million choices every day and the agency to make them.

Watch any Rom Com, ad for perfume or scroll through some Insta-famous mum’s account and you will start to think that it’s not only possible to have the perfect husband, it’s also your right to have him.

The ideals of love on display point to a perfection that doesn’t exist. The comparison can make you feel miserable, make you pine for a partner who understands you on every level, and who answers every need.

What our teacher for the night, Monty Badami, clearly pointed out is that as human beings we are all flawed. Just as there are no perfect humans, there are no perfect partners either.

Why should we expect perfection from our partners, when we can’t give them that in return?

Compromise is courageous

Not everyone likes to be in a relationship, some of us prefer the solitary life and are perfectly content within it.

Some of us disdain monogamy, and will always love the thrill of the chase and the crashing drama of romantic love.

But if you want a long term, loving relationship it’s going to take work; it’s going to mean living the real, everyday experience of loving one human.

Their mess, their inability to put the toilet seat down, or their penchant to let the kids party into the night. You’re going to have to talk about difficult things, things that may have made you leave someone in the past.

It means accepting your partner’s flaws and understanding that you have just as many.

That takes real strength and courage and there’s something incredibly beautiful about that.