How can you know if your relationship is right for you?
Today I am going to give you the tools to help you to decide. In this episode, I offer some examples of situations where one partner was uncertain if they should move forward with their significant other. I also give concrete steps that you can take if these examples resonate with you and your current romantic relationship.
Listen to this episode to learn if you should stay or break it off, how to know if you are in a healthy relationship, and if so, how to tell if you are in love enough.
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- Is your relationship right for you
- Should you stay or go
- How do you know if a relationship is right for you
- Are you in a healthy relationship
- Can you be happy dating a narcissist
- Are you in love enough
- How to know if you should take your relationship to the next level
- What to do if you can’t leave a bad relationship
- Get a copy of Deeper Dating by Ken Page
- Join the Coaching and Mentorship Intensive with Ken Page
- Connect with us on Instagram
Hello everybody, and welcome to the Deeper Dating® Podcast. I’m Ken Page, and I’m a psychotherapist. I’m the author of the best-selling book, Deeper Dating: How To Drop The Games of Seduction And Discover the Power of Intimacy. And I’m so glad to be here with you today. We’re going to be talking about do I stay, or do I go? How do I know if a relationship is really right for me or not?
And in this episode and in every episode, I’m going to share with you the greatest tools and skills and insights I know, to help you find healthy love that can last. And keep it flourishing. Because, the skills of dating are the skills of intimacy. Which are the greatest skills of all in life.
And if you want to learn more about the Deeper Dating® path to deeper intimacy and to finding love, just go to deeperdatingpodcast.com. And there, you’ll find tons of resources. If you sign up for my mailing list, you get free gifts. And a lot of really rich, and valuable resources. And on that site, you’ll find transcripts of every episode of this show.
And finally, I just want to say, if you like what you hear and learn here, I would so appreciate it if you could subscribe and leave me a review. Those reviews are just… The reviews that we’ve gotten are just so beautiful, and they mean so much to me. And they help support the podcast. So thank you so much for that too. And let’s jump in.We really have to decide for ourselves what is not enough. Click To Tweet
So this is such a rich and poignant, and almost existential subject. And there are just no easy answers. And I think one of the greatest privileges in my 35 years as a psychotherapist doing this work, has been watching people wrestling with dignity, and with bewilderment, and with struggling, and with integrity with this question of do I stay? Is this relationship right for me? And that process is difficult. It’s a struggle so often, but it leads to so much wisdom. And when it finally leads to clarity… And ultimately in most cases it does, there’s something very, very powerful that happens in either direction that it goes in.
And I have some amazing stories that I’m going to be sharing with you today, that capture some of the different ways that people handle this question. There’s so much to say about this subject. This question is such a profound one. And sometimes, we’re in very different places. And depending on where we are in our lives and the particular questions that we have about a relationship, there’s just so much learning to be done.
And the stories that I’ve seen, like I said, about people struggling with these questions is just… It’s very, very inspiring. So I’m going to share certain types of scenarios that I have seen people struggle with. And for each of those, I’m going to tell a story about somebody trying to move through that. And then, I’m going to share some thoughts about what to do if you are in that situation.
Are you getting enough of what you need:
Some concrete steps that you can take, in a number of different scenarios. So one kind of scenario is the experience of, I care about this person. Maybe I even love this person, and this person loves me. But I’m not getting enough of what I need from the relationship. And I don’t know what I should do about that. I know someone who was in a relationship with a guy, and she really, really cared about him deeply. And he cared about her deeply.
But his life involved a lot of traveling. A lot of traveling. Almost half the year, he was away. And as much as she wanted to, she could not stop from taking that personally. From being affected, from being sad. And she ultimately broke the relationship off. And years went by. She stayed in touch with this person, and nothing changed. She honored her decision.We have to go through our authentic 'NO' to find our authentic 'YES'. Click To Tweet
She was not finding another relationship. At a certain point, something shifted in her heart. And she said, I really care about this guy. I’m going to try again. She went back. She went back with I guess more openness and more willingness. And they are together years later, in love and happy. And he’s traveling six months out of the year. And that’s still hard for her, but it works for her.
And it’s a relationship where there’s a lot of love, and lot of safety. It’s just one story of the complications that we experience. So I want to say something though, about that kind of situation. I want to say that it’s so existential. And we really have to decide for ourselves, what is not enough. When does not enough hit the too much, not enough point? And we’ll come back to what to do in a situation like that.
Another situation I have seen a lot is people in relationships with narcissists, and they didn’t really realize it. Sometimes it took them years and years to actually capture, and get a real understanding of the narcissism of their partner. And this is something that I have seen again and again. Is that people who are in a relationship with a narcissist, when there is a divorce, especially if there are custody issues involved, that’s when you get to see the person’s real nature.
And it’s shocking, and horrifying in so many cases. But that’s something I’ve seen. And again, that the full flowering of a partner’s narcissism doesn’t come out until it’s time for custody or separation. And then, they cross a line of terrible behavior that makes the person realize, oh my God. This was here all along, but I didn’t see it. That’s another thing that I’ve seen many, many times.
Should you stay or go:
And then there’s the, I don’t know if I’m in love enough kind of question. And this is a really, really complicated one. And I’m just going to tell actually, a few stories about that. A couple of different stories about that. One story is… This is someone I know. And I talked about this couple in my book. So this is kind of a mystical story, but I know it’s true. I know it’s true.
So this guy was dating someone. He really cared about her profoundly. She was the most amazing woman that he had ever been with. And their connection was so powerful, and so intense. But there were certain qualities that just weren’t what he pictured being with, for the rest of his life. And he felt it was really important to honor that. He was not going to get married until he really, really knew that this was as they say, a “fuck yes”.
And he wasn’t going to do it until then. And his poor partner, who was an amazing person, felt so much love from him that she was able to live with this over an extended period of time. And I mean, an extended period of time. I’m talking years. Finally, he said you know what? This is not fair to you. It is not fair to me. Obviously, the feelings aren’t strong enough. And so, I am going to end it.
And he did. And he was fine. And in time, she was fine. She was going on, and meeting other people. And feeling a renaissance in her life. There was one guy that she was getting really serious with. Anyway, he had an experience. He was dating people. He was dating models, he was just really having fun. He was living with this woman. It was nothing really, really serious. But he was happy. And he was having fun.
And he wasn’t thinking about her. So one night… And this happened right when she was getting very serious about someone. One night, his mother who had passed away, he felt something shaking him in the middle of the night. And he felt his mother’s presence. And she had this message for him. Which was, what the hell are you doing? You’re going to lose her. What are you doing? And she shook him awake.
But she shook him awake, awake. And he woke up the next morning. And he realized, I love her. I want to be with her. And he called his best friend, and they went and they got a ring. And he went right to her house, and he proposed to her. Which was completely shocking and stunning to her, because she was getting really interested in this other guy. But she knew he meant it. And she knew that he was right for her.
And many, many, many years later, they are still together. And very happy as a couple. So I just want to acknowledge… And this is something that I have really honored, is people not saying yes until it’s a full bodied yes.Making the ask is an act of intimacy heroism and listening to our partner's ask is a holy act. It's an act of love. Click To Tweet
And here’s another story that is one of the most powerful and moving stories that I’ve experienced in my practice, working with couples. So I was working with someone who was not happy in his relationship. And he decided that he was going to end his relationship.
And this was incredibly hard for him. And they had been together for a few decades. And his partner was very ill at that point. And he cared about him deeply, but he knew that this was over. He knew that he wasn’t in love. And that he was cheating himself. Because he was staying, but he was resenting his partner.
He was resenting the smallness and the limitedness of the life that he had. But he didn’t have it in him to be able to end it. So he came to therapy, with the specific intent of ending the relationship. We worked together for quite a while, and then he was finally ready. And he ended the relationship. His partner was pretty devastated.
But being the amazing guy that he was, he was dignified. He was respectful. He was an elderly guy. And it was an intergenerational relationship, but they had been together over 20 years. And he accepted it. So my client did this, and he kept coming to see me. And now with this weight of this terrible burden off his chest, his feelings began to come back. Because there was no longer a giant “should”. This, he did not expect at all. I know I’m telling a few stories with this particular theme, but I think they’re important and rich stories.
So he didn’t know what to do. His feelings started coming back. And at one point he said to me, I think I’m in love with him. I think I’m still in love with him. So the next part of the journey was telling him. And he absolutely couldn’t do this. He just couldn’t do it. And his partner could not travel, because he was on oxygen. And I have permission to tell this story, of course. I wouldn’t do it otherwise. His partner was on oxygen.
And so I said, I’m going to go to your house. Because, my client had a letter, that, and the letter said, “I love you”. And he had not said the words I love you, maybe ever in this whole relationship. Or maybe it had just been a really long time. So the day came that we had our session in their apartment. I went over there, and sat down. And my client… And the guy’s partner knew that this was going to be a thing. That something was going to happen. That he had something he had to tell him.
And my partner read this card to him about how much he loved him, and how he didn’t realize it. And how he deeply realized it. And this was all a hundred percent authentic. He had to go through his authentic no, to find his authentic yes. But it was authentic. And his partner, just the joy in his face.
He said, oh my gosh. I’m going to go have a cocktail. Which he couldn’t do, but he was just saying that. He was so happy, but a very contained kind of guy. But he was really, really happy. And I got to witness that joy.
So pretty shortly thereafter… Because as I had said, his partner was very old and pretty ill. Very shortly, I think a few weeks after he said I love you, he came home from work one day. And his partner was lying on the floor. And he took him in his arms and just, he called the ambulance. And just took him in his arms, and held him. And said, I love you. His partner died within a day or two in the hospital.
But he died knowing that he was loved. Knowing that he was held. And knowing that they were together. And my client said that he thought that he was holding on, to hear those words. So that’s just an amazing story. And there’s no moral message that that’s what you have to do. The moral message here I think, is following your truth wherever it leads you.
Here’s something I have seen a lot. And this is something I’ve seen in my intensives. Because in my intensives, originally they were for people who were single and looking for a relationship. But someone contacted me and said, I’m in a relationship. And I want to explore, is this the right relationship?
And I said, okay. And then since then, this has happened many times. That people who are in a relationship and were just questioning, is this a healthy enough relationship? Is this a relationship I should be in, or not? Am I going to get my needs met? And they’ve gone through that existential process, being witnessed by the intensive community.
And the intensives are long. They’re six months long. So there’s really a lot of time for people to do this deep work, and this processing. And you can learn more about the intensives if you go to deeperdatingpodcast.com, and look at work with Ken.
Anyway, this has happened again and again so many times. And we witness the back and forth, and the struggling. But in that, there are certain things that I have seen. And I also think that this is a gift of having been a therapist for so, so many years. Is that I get to see patterns over long, long periods of time. But what I see again and again and again is that the person comes in not satisfied in their relationship, and they have a task.
And the task is first to dignify the needs that they’re having, that are not being met. To honor those needs. To realize that there are core gift parts of them. In other words, deep, deep and essential parts of their being, that are not being fed. That are not being watered. That are not being honored. So they’re not happy. And then what happens is, I think people come into this process thinking, I will get an answer. But they don’t end up getting an answer.
They end up earning an answer, by living with the question in the relationship. And usually what that means is totally swinging out, in terms of asking for what they want. Which is so not easy to do. It’s so not easy to do. It’s vulnerable, it’s embarrassing. It brings up our shyness.
When we’re talking about our core gifts, these are the most tender parts of ourselves. Places where we’ve been wounded. So asking for what we want, especially in a relationship where we’ve become inured to not getting it, oh man is that hard, and brave, and heroic. And I want to tell you that I think it’s different in every case. Some people, their partners can’t do it. But then they know, because they went to the mat. They went to the mat with being honest about who they are, and what they needed. They didn’t go to the mat from a place of anger.
Ultimately, they turned their anger into an ask. And they went to the mat with their ask. And they listened to what their partner had to say too. And often, they were surprised by their partner’s willingness to give it to them. Especially when these people had already done a lot of work at self honoring and self dignifying, so that the partner they were with had more capacity for that. But that’s something I’ve seen again and again.
And I would say that countless relationships end, because people are not willing to do their deep asks. And it’s heroic to do our deep asks in sex, in emotional needs. In what we want, and what we long for. There’s this speed bump, or this electrified… Or ring of fire. It’s a ring of fire that we have to step over, of embarrassment and humiliation. And fear of not getting our needs met.
And that ring of fire is holy. That is the fire of intimacy. And when we make that choice and step over that, and we’re held and caught, our love deepens and grows in profound ways in many cases. And then there’s the case of people who are in a relationship and ultimately, they know it’s not going to meet their needs. But it’s just so hard and so scary to get out of it.
And I’m going to share a story now, that is a story from a dear friend of mine. And it was an Italian great aunt of his. And she was the oldest… Maybe grandmother. I think it was grandmother. And she was the oldest sister. So she had to get married first, in this very conservative Italy culture back in those times. She had to get married first. So all of the other sisters had to wait. And she met guy after guy after guy, and she wasn’t in love enough.
Meanwhile, the pressure was indescribable. Because she was getting older and older. And hence becoming in that crazy world, less and less desirable because of her age. Her sisters were freaking out, because the same thing was happening to them. And they wanted to get married. And their hands were completely tied. They could not get married until their older sister got married. And she was like, I am not marrying anyone I’m not in love with.
So years went by. And then, she finally met this guy that she was in love with. And they got married. And then, all the other sisters were able to get married. But the bravery of that woman, to not say yes until her heart said a deep yes. And that’s a piece of this, that is so important. Go through your existential journey, but don’t say yes until your heart says it’s deep yes.
Are you in love enough:
But don’t think your heart is going to say it’s deep yes in these complex cases, until you go full on. Every couple has what I call, a good fight. It’s not necessarily really a fight. Although, sometimes it can be like a fight. But it’s this process of… It’s what Harville Hendrix so brilliantly states.
He says, it reaches a point in every relationship where the thing you most want, is the thing that’s hardest for your partner to give you. And he says, that’s not the end of the relationship. That’s the beginning of the relationship. Because, that’s when you build a bridge between your two worlds. A friend of mine’s therapist said to him early on in the relationship that he’s in for many, many, many years now, you and your husband are tasked with spending a lifetime learning a foreign language. And that foreign language is the language of your partner.
And it’s always, to some degree, going to be a foreign language. Which is part of the magic of Eros. Because, Eros is a spark that needs to jump a gap of differentness. Anyway, that’s really true about needing to learn that language. But nobody gets out of this.
I think nobody gets to the next step who has this question, until they go to the mat with the self honoring, with the expression of their needs and their asks. And having those conversations, not once. Not once, many times. And especially if you’re in a relationship with someone where you haven’t done this yet, trust me, they’re not going to get it the first time. Or necessarily the second time, or the third time. It’s going to take time.
But your partner’s ultimate willingness, especially when you can do as Harville Hendrix says, this act of turning your anger into an ask. And I just want to take a minute and say, making the ask is an act of intimacy, heroism, and listening to our partner’s ask. Which may be really quiet, and it may be really understated. And we might only get to hear it once, because it’s so tender and so vulnerable to do that.
Listening to our partner’s ask is a holy act. It’s an act of love. So on a concrete level, something that I just want to say are that there are certain kind of situations that my feeling is if you’re not deeply in a relationship, don’t get into that relationship – IF. Unequivocally, if there is abuse. Unequivocally if there is abuse, don’t get into the relationship. And do get out of the relationship.
If there is addiction, it’s best not to get into the relationship until the person has solid supported sobriety. And deep commitment to that, over a significant period of time. Plus a lot of conversations about it. But don’t even think that if your partner is sober without deep, deep support… And I believe in 12-step programs down to my bones, because the support in those programs is so powerful. And so unlike any other thing that’s available. And that’s the kind of support people need in addiction.
And if your partner has any serious psychiatric conditions that are not stabilized, wait. And don’t go into the relationship until they find a way to stabilize that. Now, this is not always true. And this is not, do not be in a relationship with someone who has serious psychiatric conditions. But you want them to be committed to getting those stabilized. And getting the help that they need, for the sake of your relationship.
These are my biases. I think those things are really important. If you’re in a relationship and you’re not ready to leave, that’s a different journey. And I would encourage you to get support. Particularly, if it’s an issue… Whatever the issue is. If it’s abuse, see someone who specializes in that. If it’s addiction, see a therapist who specializes in that. Someone with real, solid clinical training.
If you are in a situation where you are questioning the relationship, you’re just really not sure, the same points I said. First, to honor your bravery. Because, oh man. It is brave to be like that sister. And have the pressure of, I should. Or of this guy whose girlfriend really wanted to get married, but he wasn’t ready yet. It’s really, really brave to stay with your truth. And I honor that. I support that. You’ve got to stay with the integrity of your truth.
But I’m going to share another story here. This is a story of me and my husband. So I was really not ready to get married. And Greg really wanted to get married. I loved him. I loved him. I loved him a lot, but I wasn’t ready to get married. And part of that was fear. And part of it was that there were certain issues that we had not yet fully worked through enough. And this is a wild story. But I remember at one point, we were selling my house. He had already sold his house, to buy a home together. And I wasn’t ready yet, to say that I wanted to get married. So he’s a very gracious guy. But we were in the car together. My apartment was packed up. His home was already sold. And he looked at me and he said so Ken, I bought a new house.
I sold that house. I helped you sell your house. We sold your house. We’re moving to a house together that we are buying together, but I just want to know, are we in the direction that we’re going to get married? And I said, yes. Absolutely. But I wasn’t there yet. And he was very gracious about that.
I mean, that’s a really wild story. But he felt how deep my love was. And he knew that, and he trusted in it. What I came to realize was that the issues that concerned me would be worked out and worked through over time, in the context of our committed relationship. But we did have to get to a point where I felt really ready to say, yeah baby. Let’s do this. And I did get to that point. And we did get married. And that’s another story of how we got married together.
But just to acknowledge the importance of trusting your gut, and your heart on that. And also acknowledging that in a wonderful, loving relationship, a lot of the questions get answered in the context of the post commitment relationship. And that’s what happened for us. If you’re in a relationship that you know is not good for you, and you don’t feel like you can leave it, get help and get support. Friends, therapy, support group. Because sometimes, it’s just too hard to do it alone.
If you need to end a relationship, get support. It is so important. It’s so important. Thich Nhat Hann, the brilliant Buddhist monk who passed away recently but was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King said, if you have a vial of ink… I think I might have told this story in the podcast before. But if you have a vial of ink and you empty it out. Black ink. And you empty it out into a glass, the water’s going to be so dark.
But if you empty it into a river, it will dissipate. And the bitterness and the anguish of the pain of breakups dissipates when we are held closely and caringly by people who really love us, and we love. We need that kind of swaddling, to help us bear the pain that we’re experiencing.
So I just want to acknowledge how hard that can be too. And that we need deep, deep, deep support. But ultimately, if you are saying no to a relationship where you have gone to the mat with your needs and their needs, and you’ve done it, and the person is not willing or can’t do it. And it’s truly not enough, but you’ve gone there and you know need to leave, honor yourself. Honor yourself, whatever your decision is when you get to that point of clarity. And honor yourself before you get to that point of clarity, because of your bravery in sticking with what is still unknown.
Thank you all for listening. Thank you all for being a part of my listening community. And I look forward to connecting on the next episode of the Deeper Dating® Podcast.