Woman Holding Passport In Her Hands - Understanding Why Some Decisions Are Easier to Make - Sandra Harewood Counselling

The Truth About Deciding To Stay Or Leave

We all have insecurities and doubts about ourselves and the consequences of our decisions in our lives, particularly when deciding to stay or leave a marriage or long term committed relationship.

Even the most upbeat people who stand tall and strong will have a wobble from time to time. 

Feeling Limitations

Doing Facebook Lives, a necessary part of running a therapy and coaching practice, is an uncomfortable experience for me. I have hated being in front of a camera since a small child.

So I ordered a new tripod with hopes that it would make the recording process slightly smoother, but as I tried to navigate how it worked, there were some negative voices in my head; “You’re going to look ridiculous; you’re going to look unprofessional. Who’s going to listen to you?”.  

Doubt had made a home in my mind; it was getting comfortable.

That said, I did it. However, when I went to look at the footage (which I really didn’t want to, by the way), I realised the camera was in the wrong position, and I had recorded myself upside-down!

As a result, you won’t be able to find the video because I decided to delete the post. At that moment, I felt frustrated, unskilled, and didn’t know what I was doing.

What Keeps You Stuck?

Moral of the story…

Fear quickly gets in the way, blocking what we want to create in our lives.

In the end, I decided to re-record the post, choosing to lean into the discomfort this time. Note I say ‘lean into’ and not ‘push through’.  This was an exercise in self-compassion, neither letting fear of judgement stop me in my tracks nor pushing through like a bulldozer disconnected from what I felt, only to feel the same way the next time I was setting up my tripod.

Any action is often better than no action, especially if you have been stuck in an unhappy situation for a long time. If it is a mistake, at least you learn something, in which case it’s no longer a mistake. If you remain stuck, you learn nothing.” Eckhart Tolle

The Facebook Live topic was communication. But what struck me about this experience was the threads of similarity to how it feels when you’re stuck in a relationship and what it means to make a choice; to show up and lean into and do something different and take action even if it’s not in your comfort zone when you’re scared.

I know for sure that it’s easy for fear to stop you in your tracks.

For this reason, you stay in a disconnected marriage (let’s be clear, not because that’s what you want), settle for less than you desire for your life and do nothing to avoid deciding to stay or leave.

Alternatively, you might leave not fully connected to what happened at a deeper level within the relationship and drag along baggage from your marriage. We all need to do our work, and if you don’t know what yours is, you will sooner or later find out.

Grappling For Clarity

This experience also got me thinking about many everyday discourses among women in relationships about whether to stay or go. Including, “I don’t want to make this decision because I feel I’m looking stupid or a bitch or silly.” On the other hand, men are often concerned about missing their children, being labelled as a ‘bad’ person or committing inexcusable sin should they leave.

I’m not too fond of these words as they feel like the voice of a burdensome inner critic or internalised punishing parent, who should have no place. But this is what I hear women say when they feel trapped in limbo-land, grappling for clarity and feeling the burden of the responsibility of the decision.

These feelings may stem from historical aspects such as family members who don’t get divorced yet live together unhappily for the rest of their lives, unhealthy but not an untypical narrative. Or, on the other hand, you soak up stories of other people’s regret. Those who wish they had a magic wand and could turn back the clock and stay, their current lives are stuck differently, empty of the anticipated relief.

It’s important to realize that confusion and ambivalence about whether to stay or leave are not unusual. Different studies have shown that 25-35% of parents contemplating divorce are unsure that divorce is the best or only option to solve their marital problems. (1)

And a 2015 study showed that 88% of those who had contemplated divorce but chose to stay married were glad they did and reported being happy in their marriage (2).


Deciding To Stay Or Leave

Deciding on marriage is highly complex, and many people struggle for a significant time before moving in one direction or another.

For the most part, confusion is linked to anxiety, which is linked to fear.

You can’t just press the delete button as I did on my Facebook Live.  This is your life.

Naturally, you may feel scared about how your decisions will impact various aspects of your life, including how they will affect your children.  That’s to say nothing of the worries that your children will think you’ve ruined their lives or ruined the family dynamic.  There may be a fundamental feeling that you’re not showing up the way you want to for your children.

Of course, finances may also be a significant concern.

Fear Costs

Fear is there for a reason. Fear is understandable, and it’s normal to feel scared. But fear wants you to stay within the boundaries of your current life because that’s all it knows; nothing changes, whether that’s doing the work to repair and create a loving marriage or deciding to leave.

What is it costing you to stay in the underworld of limbo land?

Just to remind you, no decision is a decision.

While fear doesn’t disappear, remember that our growth occurs whenever we step into the unknown and do something different.  Then you know you’re moving beyond your fears and comfort zone.

Do Your Work

After all, deciding to stay or leave is YOUR choice.

Well-meaning friends might say things like “you’re making a mistake,” “moving on is the wrong decision”, “are you crazy? You want to stay!  It’s so clear you don’t belong together. Well, maybe they don’t get YOUR personal struggle.

You need to stay in your own lane, do your own work, and come to your own decision.

YOU have the answer you are looking for within you; it’s nowhere else.

Remembering Who You Are

Perhaps our biggest fear is that our life will fall apart.

It can be challenging to remember that you have the inner resources. The brain is wired to be fearful; it’s a survival instinct. Because of this negativity bias, we are vulnerable to fear and anxiety.

For this reason, you forget the resilience, grace, strength, and courage you have within. Now is the time to remember who you are.

Making a decision might feel uncomfortable, a bit messy, maybe even painful, or it could be wholly heartbreaking. But you will survive, and you will get through whatever decision you need to make.

So, if you’re feeling stuck or struggling to decide, I hear you, I get you, not just because of my Facebook live experience, but because I have walked in your shoes.

Over To You

Is your marriage stuck with deciding to stay or leave your marriage?’  If you want a safe space to explore this difficult decision, get in touch for a clarity session.  I offer video sessions online via a secure platform. 

Or call me today on 07535 864836.

Leave a comment below; I’d love to hear from you.

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© Sandra Harewood 2022

About Sandra

Soul Centred couples therapist, counsellor and Jungian Shadow Work coach Sandra Harewood specialises in working with women and couples stuck at a crossroads in their marriage. Relationships are precious; this is your chance to begin a new journey and experience the connection and intimacy you most deeply desire.

Sandra provides a soulful space for her clients to explore creative solutions to their difficulties and deepen their self-knowledge to discover what keeps them ‘stuck’ in their marriages to create and experience extraordinary relationships


(1) Doherty, W. J., Willoughby, B. J., & Peterson, B. (2011). Interest in reconciliation among divorcing parents. Family Court Review, 49, 313-321.

(2) Steven M. Harris et al., (March 2017) Seeking Clarity and Confidence in the Divorce Decision Making Process. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage 58, no. 2 83-95.