I’ve spent two years wondering if I should end my marriage. The indecision is crippling me.

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We all get married hoping for our happily ever after. But sadly, real-life relationships don’t work like that. Problems arise, feelings fade, and obstacles can stand in the way.

I learned this the hard way.

I suspect I got married with some naivety, and as a result, my expectations were high. So when it didn’t work out as I planned I felt at a total loss over what to do next.

So much so that I felt stuck. Time kept passing and I wasn’t any closer to knowing whether I should go or stay.

After spending two years wondering if I should end my marriage, the indecision was crippling me.

I couldn’t put it off any longer, so I went in search of some definitive answers. If you can relate, then I’d like to share with you some of the insights I gleaned.

I hope they may offer you comfort and clarity in your own situation.

Could I do better?

As brutal as this question may sound, this was the crux of the issue that plagued my mind.

It wasn’t a judgment on my partner either. It was more of a pondering about whether I would be happier with someone else or even on my own.

The trouble is, depending on the day, I had a different answer to it.

On the one hand, nobody is perfect, right?

We all have our quirks and flaws and every relationship will have things to work through.

If your partner is a good person and you care for them, shouldn’t that be enough?

Yet we all want passion, desire, and that soul-fulfilling love that lights up a room.

By staying with someone when it doesn’t feel quite right are you depriving yourself of the chance to find it?

But there is an extra dimension to this. Because what if the real problem isn’t my partner or my relationship…it’s me.

Dig deeper into your relationship expectations

A lot of our relationship woes spring from unrealistic expectations about what a relationship should be.

This is in no way an encouragement to settle for a relationship that feels wrong.

But research has confirmed that having realistic and flexible relationship expectations is linked with greater relationship satisfaction.

Meanwhile, people who believe in relationship destiny (being “meant” for one another) are less likely to have successful long-term relationships.

Plenty of us grew up with fantasies of fairytale-style relationships that aren’t real life. As psychologist Mark Travers reminds us:

“One of the main reasons why unrealistic expectations can be so damaging to a relationship is that they often stem from unrealistic beliefs about relationships themselves. For example, many people believe that once they are in a relationship, they will no longer feel lonely or unfulfilled.

“Others believe they will never argue or disagree with their partner. These unrealistic beliefs can lead to disappointment and frustration when reality doesn’t match our expectations. When this happens, it’s easy to blame our partner for not meeting our needs or for not being the person we thought they were.”

When we’re feeling unfulfilled or unhappy, our partner is often in the firing line. But it was never their responsibility in the first place.

That’s why it’s really helpful to ask yourself some questions about what you most want and need from a relationship — and whether you are being realistic.

15 unhealthy and unrealistic relationship expectations

  1. Your partner should automatically know how you feel
  2. Your partner will always “get you”
  3. You shouldn’t ever argue
  4. Your partner is your source of happiness and life satisfaction
  5. You’ll always feel butterflies or desire for one another
  6. You will always be each other’s number one priority
  7. You should share the same opinions, ideas, and thoughts
  8. You will never feel lonely or misunderstood
  9. When you’re with the right person love should come easily
  10. Your partner will make you feel good about yourself (be a constant source of validation)
  11. Your partner and your relationship won’t ever change
  12. You will never feel bored with the relationship
  13. You should always share the same goals
  14. Your partner is responsible for fulfilling your needs and wants
  15. You will always feel attraction, passion, and desire

15 healthy and realistic relationship expectations

  1. Mutual respect
  2. Honesty
  3. Trust
  4. Strong friendship
  5. Physical connection (sex and affection)
  6. Intimacy
  7. Consideration
  8. Appreciation
  9. Flexibility and compromise
  10. Communication
  11. Spending time together
  12. Commitment
  13. Compassion and kindness
  14. Both are prepared to put the work in
  15. You spend time alone

Anyone who has ever been married will probably spot the fact that even within the list of healthy expectations, not all will always be present.

If you’ve lost some, it doesn’t mean you can’t get them back, or even create them if you never had it in the first place. 

Seeing healthy expectations written down can help you pinpoint what is missing and whether you can reinvigorate your marriage.

When something is missing

Have I tried to fix things?

In my case, I thought I had. I tried to push my feelings and thoughts to the back of my mind and carry on, hoping it would get better.

But that isn’t the same thing. Because what I didn’t do was sit down and have an honest and open talk with my partner about how I felt.

My indecision also prevented me from committing fully. In reality, I was on the fence and so even though I was there physically, I probably wasn’t emotionally.

I was just waiting for something to happen rather than taking action.

When something is missing it can be important to ask yourself:

  • What are the main issues in the relationship?
  • Have my partner and I communicated honestly about our problems and how we feel?
  • What practical steps have we taken to strengthen our marriage?
  • What part do I play in my relationship issues?
  • Do I want to work on the marriage?

According to Dr. Phil, you can only be sure the relationship is fully over when you feel at peace with the split and when your thoughts about it are clear. Up until then, there is a chance to salvage things.

I’m not sure if I agree entirely — particularly when relationships have become toxic and an unhealthy place to stay. Then you definitely need to get out.

A marriage should never feel like a test of endurance. There are no prizes given out for suffering in silence.

But for those of us who aren’t in desperately unhappy marriages, I think it can be a useful approach so that we can feel sure we’ve really explored all avenues before calling it a day.

Self-reflection and self-awareness are key

When you are trying to decide whether you should end your marriage, it’s tempting to fixate on your partner and your relationship.

But it can be really useful to go inwards instead.

One study confirmed that self-reflection and self-awareness are positively associated with relationship satisfaction.

The more we seek to understand ourselves, our thoughts, emotions, motivations, and actions — the better.

Personally, I’ve always found journaling a really helpful tool for this. It can also help you to make smarter decisions.

But at some point, if we want to end our self-inflicted indecision, we must make a choice.

Ending indecision

I know the weight of deciding whether to end your marriage can weigh heavily.

It’s not like you’re choosing what to have for lunch. This has far-reaching consequences.

But here’s the thing:

A lot of the same rules for tackling indecision of any kind still apply. 

  • Use self-reflection to dig deeper into questions and confusion you may have
  • Focus on what you want for your future, rather than trying to predict and second-guess how your choices will turn out.
  • Don’t make choices based on fear. How can you tell the difference? Fear uses negative language and stories based on trying to avoid the worst-case scenario
  • Seek advice selectively. Guidance can be constructive to help you make sense of your feelings. But it can be even more confusing when you absorb many contrasting voices.
  • Discuss openly, honestly, and collaboratively with your partner. Ending a marriage can feel like your sole decision, but it involves two people.

The fear of making the wrong choice — a mindset shift

What if there really was no wrong choice?

I know when you are locked in indecision this may sound like an irritating thing to say. But really contemplate it for a moment.

Throughout this article, I have purposely not revealed which choice I made about staying or leaving my marriage.

That’s because I know firsthand how tempting it is to go looking for your own solutions in other people’s situations. Yet no two are alike.

What I will say is that I do feel like I made the right choice for me.

But, perhaps rather unhelpfully, I also believe if I’d made a different choice, it would have also been right.

That’s because I landed on a mindset shift which finally ended my indecision.

I decided to trust myself enough to believe that no matter what choice I made, it would be ok.

Why?

I would make it okay.

I would invest the energy, time, and effort in myself to create a fulfilling life.

No matter how much research and deliberation you do you’ll never find what you deep down want:

100% certainty.

There aren’t any crystal balls kicking around. No one can tell you what to do.

You have to trust yourself and believe in yourself. That way you know that no matter what happens next, you will move past it to create happiness.

I do believe what they say, that happiness is a choice. But first, you must make that choice.

Eliza Hartley

Eliza Hartley, a London-based writer, is passionate about helping others discover the power of self-improvement. Her approach combines everyday wisdom with practical strategies, shaped by her own journey overcoming personal challenges. Eliza's articles resonate with those seeking to navigate life's complexities with grace and strength.

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