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My partner wants to leave, but I want them to stay

Letting go of your partner can be the most difficult thing you may have to face. Them wanting to leave is heartbreaking and rejecting.  You may find yourself pleading for them to stay, bargaining with them, making all kinds of promises. When doing this…consider your reasons. 

Do you understand why they want to leave?

When your partner approaches you and has a serious discussion about needing to leave, they have probably been thinking about it for months or maybe years. It is unlikely, they made this decision in haste. They may have been expressing their upset and concerns about the relationship for a long time. 

In your preoccupation with life, you may have missed it, or maybe you felt you could not make the changes to meet their needs or felt the requests for change were unreasonable. 

Your partner may feel they have experienced too much pain and unwilling to move forward. They may also struggle with your motivations to stay in the relationship and commitment to change, given the years you have had a chance to. 

In speaking to your partner, here are some tips to help them reconsider leaving: 

  • Discuss all the good times you have shared, the importance to keep the family intact for the sake of the kids, your connections with extended family, and dreams for the future. 
  • Apologize for not seeing their pain sooner and understanding the depth of it. 
  • Try to put yourself in your partner’s shoes and try to understand their pain. Empathize with their struggles without defending your behaviour.

As you plead for your partner to stay, consider why you are asking them to.

Are you afraid of being alone? You have spent many years with this individual and imagining life without them can feel lonely and scary.  This is not something to be ashamed of. As human beings, we need safe intimate connection with another person as much as we need food and water.  It is part of our basic survival. However, assess whether the fear of them leaving is clouding your judgment and really consider if staying in the relationship is the best for both of you.   

Worried about what others will think? There can be a lot of shame around having to tell family and friends that your relationship is ending.  Intimate family issues are now being exposed to others, even if it is high level.  There may be concerns about losing connections with family and friends after the split. These are all things to be concerned about and these losses can be painful. You don’t need to share the reasons about your breakup with others. For those persistent busy bodies, who want all the details, just say that you came to an impasse in your relationship and decided it was time to let each other go. 

Find a way to maintain important connections with people in your life.  Just because you need to split assets, it does not mean that you need to split relationships and have others choose sides. Let your friends and family know that they are important to you and would like to continue a relationship with them. 

Worried about managing financially. This is a very real problem. Going from a dual-income family to a single income family can be mean having to budget and give up some luxuries you have enjoyed.  It is best to speak to a lawyer or family mediator to help you understand how finances will need to be split and potentially spousal support.

Take care of yourself

Should your partner choose to leave, you will need to take care of your heartbreak.  Be open to finding yourself again. After a breakup, this will be essential. Yes breaking up is never easy; it hurts, but remind yourself, this is only temporary. Reacquaint yourself with yourself. Do things you haven’t done in years: self-care, read a book, listen to a podcast, take a walk, take a new class or start a new hobby, or reconnect with family and friends. Introduce yourself to you again! 

Going through a separation is difficult and can feel lonely.  You don’t need to do this on your own. Connect with us at the Vaughan Relationship Centre and one of our therapists can support you.