Where is this going: deciding your relationship’s future


Where do you see yourself in five years? It’s a standard job interview question, but it’s an even better question to ask yourself about your relationship. The person you talk to, date, move in with, get engaged to, marry, break up with, or divorce – it’s all up to you. You’re in the driver’s seat regarding your relationship’s trajectory. Most of the time, you probably cruise along on autopilot, maintaining the status quo. Every once in a while, though, something disrupts that equilibrium and you seriously ponder your relationship’s fate.

At some point, most people find themselves facing the complicated decision of whether to stick with it, transition to something more serious, or call it quits. While there’s lots to consider when you’re pondering your own situation, it can help to know how others deal with these important life decisions.

What Issues Do People Consider?

It feels as if there could be millions of reasons someone would decide to maintain or end a relationship. What are some reasons someone might give for wanting to stay with or leave their romantic partner?


Why Stay?

These focused on key relationship components such as attraction, physical and emotional intimacy, and support. People were reluctant to lose the time and effort they had already invested and were fearful of being alone. They considered pluses, such as the desirable aspects of their partner’s personality and how much fun they had together. They also factored in practical issues, including potential family disruption and financial implications.

Why Go? 

These included many of the same themes as the reasons to stay, but focused on the negative side – things like a partner’s problematic personality, acts of deception or cheating, emotional distance, lack of support, and insufficient emotional or physical intimacy.

Making the Decision: What to Do?

Listing these themes is one thing. How do individuals factor them into real-life decisions of whether to stay or go? People simultaneously had an above-average inclination to leave, meaning they rated themselves as leaning toward breaking up. People were motivated to stay with their partner at the same time they were motivated to end things. This ambivalence was very common. That relationship doubts are so common and people are often conflicted about what to do are what make this kind of research potentially helpful. It lends some order to the chaos by helping to identify what’s most important.


Should We Get More Serious? 

Relationship decisions are rarely as clear-cut as “should I stay or should I go?” Instead, people experience subtle shifts in their commitment that build up over time. For example, what contributes to how serious we are about marrying our partner?

Relationships are complicated, and no one knows for sure what the future holds. It’s hard to know what the best decision is if you’re thinking about whether to stay with a partner or move on. The best relationships have their problems, while the worst still have their virtues. While you don’t want to get stuck with an awful partner, you also don’t want to be unnecessarily harsh toward what could still be a great relationship. Maybe knowing what others consider important factors could help you make your own best choice.

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