Relationship Discernment Counseling: Should I Stay, Or Should I Go?

Ewa Florczak, MA, LCPC
Clinical Care Consultants Psychotherapist

Everyone can agree that it takes a tremendous amount of work to maintain a healthy relationship, even with the most loving, kind, and nurturing partner. Despite our best efforts, and a hopeful outlook, some relationships are predestined to fail. Unfortunately, many people ignore the warning signs and red flags for a troubled and doomed relationship.  It may be even more complicated if denial is a part of the process.  Admitting to the futility of a relationship you have time and energy invested in takes courage, and self-honesty (the opposite of denial).

Because your mental health is important to us, we would like you to consider the below list of indicators for a broken or unfixable relationship. They will help you decide whether to invest your time, energy and money in trying to fix it, or to let it go, and grieve your loss.  Your time and mental health is too important for you to devote your attention and emotion to make something that is inherently broken, work. 

1)     Unfulfillment / Unhappiness

       If you find yourself feeling less content or even emotionally empty than when the relationship began, then there is a big problem.  Feeling exhausted or worn-down from constant arguments or from trying to “fix” your partner means this is a relationship without “legs” and that it is likely it won’t stand the test of time.

2)      Dreading Time with Your Partner
Do you dread coming home, knowing your partner is there waiting for you? Do you find that spending time together is no longer fun or enjoyable?  Do you actively avoid engaging with your partner? If you are this unhappy and dissatisfied, then it is pretty clear that the relationship doesn’t have the potential to make you happy or to satisfy you. 

 3)    Low or Absent Romantic Interests
Romance, emotional and physical, is an essential component of most successful and long-standing healthy relationships.  Sex might not be everything, but relationships that stand the test of time, require some type of romantic sparks and shared intimacy.  It doesn’t have to be perfect or frequent, but mutually satisfying and meaningful sexual relations create a foundation of a healthy relationship.  If ignored, the yearning for sexual pleasure and fun might morph into resentment, bitterness or anger.  Worse, it could create relationship disconnection that might not ever be revived again. 

4)   Masking Your Thoughts and Feelings
Not being able to share your feelings, emotions, or innermost thoughts is a red flag and reason to question the wellbeing of your partnership. It is a clear signal that it’s time to end the relationship if communication is being avoided for fear of certain type of reactions. Healthy relationships are not critical or judgmental and seek to understand differing points of view.  You and your partner need to be able to accept each other, be patient, sympathetic and empathetic. Despite your obvious flaws and limitations, understanding, support and optimism should lead the way. 

5)  Rigid and Uncompromising Positions

If you’ve tried to communicate your concerns and you are belittled or devalued, this is a warning of an unhealthy personality and if they refuse to get help; by themselves or together then terminating the relationship might be your best option. Most couples have different views on issues such as finances, childcare, or household chores. Differing mindsets can be adjusted and respected with ongoing healthy communication. If your partner is unwilling to listen or accept your point of view on issues that are important to you, you might get stuck fighting an unwinnable battle.

6)   Lack of Trust

The foundation for all healthy relationships should be trust. Without trust, there is no room for intimacy, connection, or growth. Lack of trust could possibly lead to jealousy in you or your partner. Losing trust is often a sign that something is wrong within your relationship and you will need to address it. If you don’t trust your partner, you can work on it and try to rebuild it. However, if you are past the rebuilding phase, maybe your partner betrayed your trust one too many times. As a result, ending the relationship could be inevitable.

7)   Lack of Agreement on Future Plans

Relationships can be manageable if focused on day to day challenges. However, it is important to talk about what you and your partner want out of the relationship in the long-term. Where do you want to live? Do you want children? Are you willing to convert to your partner’s religion? If you find that there are opposing, non-negotiable expectations that neither of you are willing to compromise on, it is time to have an honest conversation about whether or not your relationship can stand the test of time.

Realizing the Truth Might Be Very Upsetting

Realizing that you do not see a future with your partner, can be extremely upsetting, and even depressing.  You might hold onto a thought that it is always better to be miserable with someone else than to be miserable alone. You might start to engage in wishful thinking or distort the reality of your relationship.  Such happens when you find yourself focusing on the good times, while measuring the relationship’s worth by old memories instead of current facts or problems.  Rarely can a relationship be saved if the goal is to attain the infatuation and intense love experienced during courtship or dating. 

Frozen by Fear of Being Alone or Loneliness

You might become frozen with an overwhelming fear of being alone.  You might also start worrying about what your friends, coworkers, or family might say.  Furthermore, just a simple thought of picturing yourself out in the dating world again can be too overwhelming.  Fear of being alone is one of the most common reasons people report for staying in unhealthy relationships. Fear can paralyze your ability to take action and to make meaningful changes. It is important to recognize that your fears and wishful thinking will keep you feeling stuck and miserable.


Seeking out mental health counseling at this point is vital to discern the viability of your relationship and its impact on your emotional, mental and physical health.  Even if you have all of the above red flags, a supportive and objective counselor like myself and my colleagues can help overcome even the most difficult problems. So much can be done if you and your partner are sincerely motivated and committed to make adjustments, sacrifices and changes. 

Breaking through some of the above-mentioned defenses will allow you to explore positive outcomes that might come out of ending a toxic relationship. Working with a therapist can be helpful with feeling safe and confident with your needs and explore the impact of the relationship on your well-being.  It doesn’t always end in ‘happily ever after’. It is easy to spot a toxic relationship from the outside looking in, but to recognize our own toxic relationship can be a challenging process. Discerning whether or not to end a relationship needs to be a thoughtful process with someone who is trained to help you realize whether you should stay, or whether it’s time to go.

Ewa Florczak, MA, LCPC
Clinical Care Consultants Psychotherapist
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
(847) 749-0514 ext.220

“It is a privilege to walk with, and sometimes lead, my clients on their journey toward self-discovery, growth and happiness. Helping them overcome hopelessness, pessimism or negativity, while supporting them as they achieve their ambitions and goals, brings me joy. My “glass-half-full” approach to counseling (life) definitively rubs off on my clients. Like flower buds, my clients are filled with potential. Together, we can overcome obstacles and fear for becoming a “fully-bloomed” self.”

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