Sometimes relationships hurt. Sometimes we stay in relationships that hurt. Knowing that you’re in a complicated relationship is one thing, knowing what to do about it is far more difficult.

Ultimately you can only change your thoughts and your actions. If you’ve spoken up and talked with your partner and they’ve agreed to seek counselling, you can work together to create a healthier and more fulfilling relationship. If not, take time and ask yourself the following questions to help you identify what’s keeping you stuck in the relationship.

1: What are you afraid will happen if you leave?

What’s the worst-case scenario if you leave? Are you just afraid of the unknown?

2: What are you afraid will happen if you stay?

If your partner doesn’t change, what will happen? What will happen to your emotional and physical well-being?

3: What is your deal breaker?

What is the one thing your partner could do that would cause you to walk away from the relationship? Why?

4: How would your life change if you left?

This question might be the hardest and most overwhelming question. Just remember, imagining what your life could be doesn’t mean you’re making a concrete plan. Just envision how your life could look 1, 5, or 10 years down the road.

5: Who will be your support network?

We all need help when we make significant changes in our lives. Who will be there for you emotionally? Financially? You might not be able to think of someone right away, but when someone makes a major change, supportive friends and family usually come out of the woodwork.

6: Do you think you deserve a healthier relationship?

Why have you stayed in this relationship as long as you have? Whose voice is telling you to say? Whose voice is telling you that “this is all you deserve”? Talk back to that voice and work on growing the part of you that believes that you deserve more.

7: What if you’re alone?

It’s normal to fear being alone. Wanting and craving connection is part of what makes us human. If you leave, it is entirely possible that you will spend more time alone. Ask yourself “what if?”  If you had more time to yourself, who would you spend that time? What can you pursue that you haven’t been able to because you’ve been in an energy sucking relationship?

If you let your fears hold you back, you create isolation, emptiness, and loneliness – the feelings that you are trying to avoid by not leaving. You can only move on when you confront these fears. It can be overwhelming to try and answer these questions alone. Reach out. A therapist can help you explore these questions in a safe place. They can provide support and help you explore all your options. You are not alone.