Mar 27 / Simcha

When to Let Go (M. Kirshenbaum)

Many partners find themselves in a dreadful state of ambivalence, unable to decide whether the positive aspects of their relationship sufficiently outweigh the negative aspects to warrant staying.

In her book Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay (1997), long-time therapist and award-winning author Mira Kirshenbaum proposes diagnosing the precise nature of the relationship’s impairment, rather like passing your relationship through a filter (and she offers 36 filters), rather than weighing pros and cons.

Among her diagnostic filters are the following questions:

  • If a divine or omniscient being told you it was OK to leave your relationship, would you feel relieved that you could finally leave?
  • In spite of your problems, do you and your partner have even one positively pleasurable activity or interest that you currently share that gives both of you a feeling of closeness?
  • Are you able to get your needs met in the relationship without too much difficulty?
  • Do you genuinely like your partner, and does your partner seem to genuinely like you?
  • Do you feel a unique sexual attraction to your partner?
  • Do you feel any degree of strong or satisfying compatibility when you look in your partner’s eyes?
  • Do you and your partner each respect each other as individuals?
  • Do you and your partner want to touch each other and look forward to touching each other and make efforts to touch each other?
  • Do you feel willing to give your partner more than you’re giving already? Are you willing to do this the way things are between you now, without any expectation of being paid back?
  • Do you feel that your partner, overall and more often than not, shows concrete support for, and genuine interest in, the things you’re trying to do that are important to you?
  • Is there a demonstrated capacity and mechanism for genuine forgiveness in your relationship?
  • Does your partner serve as an important resource for you in a way that you care about?
  • Does your relationship have a demonstrated capacity for forgiveness?
  • Do you and your partner have fun together?
  • Do you and your partner have mutual goals and dreams for your future together?


Too many No’s to these questions point to a relationship that is draining one’s life more than it is enhancing it.

While one must, of course, look at one’s own contribution to impasse and stagnation, weariness from investing without reciprocation or result can signal the time has come to let go….