After the honeymoon phase is over, one of the issues we all face in our relationships is making the decision of whether to stick it out or move on. This is an unfortunate reality for almost all couples, at some point. Those who have gone the distance without questioning are fortunate, but rare.
Our reasons all differ. It could be because of an acute problem that arose – perhaps an infidelity or the revelation of an addiction or a crazy behavior. Or it could be because, over the course of time, communication has broken down, and loving feelings have eroded to the point of non-existence.
For some, it is just the emptying of the nest, and the realization that you no longer have anything holding you together. But whatever the cause, it is very common to reach this crossroads at some point in your relationship journey. And the question is – should I stay or should I go?
There once was a couple I worked with, whose relationship started like a fairy tale. She couldn’t have been more beautiful, lovely and smart. Him – well he was handsome, terribly successful, and kind.
After time, the difficulties creeped in. Not in finances – they had plenty of money. Not in health as they were in the prime of life. And not in children as they were both committed to kids. No, in this case, it came in the guise of unrefined character traits and poorly defined relationship values. They were both holding on to poor sentiments and ideas of what a loving relationship was supposed to look like, and then beating each other up (figuratively) when it broke down.
He didn’t know how to prioritize the new woman in his life over his extended family. And she didn’t know how to keep her mouth shut, even for a moment.
At some point, the question arose – “Should I stay or should I go?”
Of course, only you can answer that dilemma. However, I can share with you a tool I developed that has been instrumental for me and my clients in helping them make that difficult, life-changing decision. Even this client!
It’s called the Must-Have Pyramid.
With this exercise, we define for you your 5 most pressing “must-haves” to stay in your relationship. These are your non-negotiable bottom line ingredients that must be present in your relationship. Then we order them in a hierarchy, from least to most important, top to bottom.
My most important, foundational Must Have is Trust. Trust is the most fundamental building block of any relationship. And it comes in many flavors and applies to many facets of our connection – from fidelity, to honesty, to safety.
Since one of the purposes of my marriage is children, being a Responsible Parent is next. My children are my most valuable possessions, by far (I don’t consider my wife as a ‘possession’). My partner must share that same sense of care, love, and ultimately responsibility for our children. I cannot be afraid of leaving them with her, for any reason.
Next, comes Loving Kindness. My house must have an aura of pleasantness, goodwill, and love in order to be called, well, a “home.” I wouldn’t survive in a war zone very long. Nor would I want to.
Climbing up the pyramid is Intimacy, which includes physical, emotional, and intellectual (in that order). Intimacy is important to me, as it is what differentiates my marriage relationship from that of a friend or extended family member. It must be a priority for both of us, or love breaks down, followed by our commitment and then marriage.
Finally, I have Respect at the top, being important, but not foundational. It’s important in that treating each other respectfully is critical to functioning together as a couple. I’m not so concerned about whether my partner actually feels respect – that is between her & Gd. However, every person deserves to be treated respectfully. How much more so for our intimate partners.
The benefits of the Must Have Pyramid include:
- Spending time defining your relationship values is critical in establishing a loving, successful relationship.
- The Must-Have Pyramid immediately identifies if something is totally off in your current situation
- It inspires gratitude – because even if you are suffering in a specific area, you may be doing really well in other, very important areas.
- It also lets you know when to let something go – if it is not on your pyramid, it’s not worth fighting about.
This last point – that the Must-Have Pyramid enables you to let go of petty issues, is incredibly important and empowering. I can’t tell you how many times I have found myself fighting over something really stupid – sometimes, it was all just a hypothetical situation or possibliity that wasn’t even real! Once I stop and say “Hey – this issue isn’t even close to falling out on my Must-Have Pyramid” – I can easily and happily let it go completely!
- What are we going to name our next kid? – Not on my pyramid!
- Where are we going next summer for vacation? – Not worth the battle.
- Who is going to call to make reservations for dinner? – Happy to if it means we don’t fight!
It really is amazing how many things can fall off, completely, within this framework.
What to do if something really is an issue
My golden rule is that we don’t make any real difficult decisions for 6 months. This is because things in relationships change. People change, needs change, and your values may change.
After some time, you may realize that what you thought was an infraction, really isn’t so bad – certainly not worth throwing away your entire relationship. Perhaps you believed that your spouse was treating you with a lack of lovingkindness. But she may be experiencing an undiagnosed bout of depression for her own reasons. Or maybe the intimacy has been weak, or even non-existent. Perhaps there is an underlying animosity brewing between you two that she is afraid to share. Over the course of six months, issues have a way of resolving, often times on their own.
Some will need professional attention, which I encourage. Nonetheless, our pyramid allows us to stay in reality when emotions fly. I developed this model because working through this model has saved many relationships, including my own. It works!
If you are interested in working together to create your own Must-Have Pyramid – so you can make your own decision – Should I Stay or Should I Go? – setup a Free 20 min Clarity-Call with me to discuss.
And if you want your own Must-Have Pyramid worksheet, download a version, here. Let me know if it works for you to get clarity in your own situation.