Should you stay or should you go? | head vs heart

hearts by kaled umar

{photo by Kaled Umar}

Yesterday I got an email from a woman asking me about her relationship. To protect her privacy, I won’t quote her here but instead give her a fake name and summarise her situation.

Mary has been with her boyfriend for eight years. She loves him more than she has ever loved anyone else, he treats her like a princess and the sex is heart-stopping. But he doesn’t look good on paper as her friends and family are quick to remind her. He’s not good with money, he’s not very responsible and doesn’t always do what he says he will. Her heart is telling her to stay and her head is telling her to go. What should Mary do?

Appreciate what you’ve got

There are many, many women in the world who would love to find a man they can connect with on a deep and intimate level. It doesn’t come along every day. Having a heart that is filled and satisfied with your lover is a rare and precious gift. It is something worth fighting for and shouldn’t be seen as easily replaced. You need to be hardcore to live life without that kind of connection and life is hard enough without making it harder.

Our partners are our teachers

It has been said that there is no relationship that teaches us more about ourselves than the one we have with our partner. We are drawn to the people who have the greatest potential to change our lives and our view of the world. Instead of seeing his faults as something he needs to fix, see them as indicators of what it is inside you that needs work.

Duckfish has an elastic view of time. He doesn’t know how long things will take or when he might be ready to move on to the next thing. He doesn’t need to be scheduled down to the last second just because I am. Together he is better at being on time and I am less likely to stress about being late. We teach each other the benefit of the opposite approach.

Who’s values are important?

Is it important to you that he is good with money? Can you have a relationship where your finances are separate and you don’t interfere in each other’s financial decisions? The values that our friends and family have aren’t necessarily your values. If you let go of the notion that everyone had to be financial successful, who would you be without that thought?

Is marriage the next logical step?

Why does marriage have to be the goal in a relationship? There is something to be said for living outside this social and legal construct. Nothing lasts forever and most marriages either dissolve or continue on in bored tolerance. There is much to be said for holding your relationship in the present moment and not putting expectations on it lasting for ever. It makes you appreciate every moment together and never take each other for granted.

You attract what you are ready for

The kind of partner we have is the type of partner we are. If you are open in love you will attract that same kind of person. If you grow and your values shift in another direction, you will no longer be attracted to the person you are with. You will find yourself wanting to be with someone who aligns with whoever you are underneath the mask you wear to fit in.

The reason I stayed with my husband for so long was because he was the same kind of person I used to be — emotionally distant, inward focused and suspicious of the world. It wasn’t until I changed that I realised he could never give me the things my new self wanted. I attracted a man who was all the things I wanted to experience — passion, risk taking, freedom and positive energy.

Identify your deal breaker

You are never going to find the perfect man. There will always be something he is or does that isn’t exactly what you hoped for. Unconditional love is the art of negotiation and compromise. I can live with the fact that Duckfish is anal about the washing and needing his hangers and shirts to all be in the same direction. I can deal with the reality that he has a high maintenance ex-wife. Everything isn’t the way I ordered it when I asked for a man in my life but I’m sure I’m not exactly what he wanted either.

It’s like you draw a line where your limits are and sometimes things get very close to that line. But as long as they stay under that line then you can deal with the issues when they arise. It’s the things that go over the line you shouldn’t put up with or compel you to leave.

That line is very personal and you might not even be able to articulate it but you’ll know when it’s been crossed. It will be a deep visceral reaction of hurt, not an intellectual assessment of the situation. I couldn’t be with a man who had no spiritual awareness or who wasn’t physically affectionate. I would have to leave a relationship if I didn’t feel like I was loved in spite of my crazy hormonal moods.

Life’s too short to waste being safe and normal

Obviously …

Only you can decide what’s right for you

Today’s decision might be different to tomorrow. You might make the wrong decision. All you have to do is choose — it’s living in the endless spiral of yes and no that exhausts us.

Should you follow your head or your heart?

I say follow both but make sure you are honest enough to listen to your heart’s deepest desires and open-minded enough to see that your view of the world can and will change.

What would you do in Mary’s situation?

About KatieP

Embracing my midlife sexy while exploring modern love & relationships • Devoted to all things beautiful • Master of Arts in creative writing & non-fiction writing

14 thoughts on “Should you stay or should you go? | head vs heart

      1. Whoops :-/ Not the post I meant to comment on. Was going to comment on “The Introvert’s Guide to Holiday Parties.” That’s very helpful. I’m very introverted and extroverted, especially introverted in large groups of people. Yikes!

  1. I’d be inclined to ask Mary if she has told her friends and family that “I love my boyfriend more than I have ever loved anyone else and he treats me like a princess and the sex is heart-stopping”.

    If she laid it out like that, they’d probably never criticise his shortcomings again! I know I wouldn’t!

  2. I was in a similar relationship and as much as I tried to overlook his financial issues.. they kept haunting me and I began to resent him. I am a career woman, put myself through college.. struggled; own my home and have 2 boys I support on my own. My ex hubby is a deadbeat who ignores the child support system. That being said- I need every dime to take care of myself, my home, my children. Said BF was perfect- gorgeous, fit, happy, always smiling and never upset or depressed. He made my day everyday I came home. Was great in the first year. I then started having to help him w/his bills.. his gas money.. he was drowning in debt from previous relationship- paying on an engagement ring for some other woman..

    I fought this very same issue.. head/ heart. He was everything I wanted in a human being- but I thought about future and retirement and the fact that in 2 years there was never a card, a dinner out.. because I had to pay for everything we did (and I dont make enough). Felt like I had another “child” to support. He did what he could (dishes, laundry). My father was angry and felt he was using me for a “free ride”. I helped him polish a resume, tried to get him in my company.. but he met w/ resistance and told me he loved his $8 an hour job. Why wouldnt he? He was fed, had a nice place to sleep and a woman who paid the bills while he was able to love his job, I was getting more and more burnt out and angry. I thought about his parents- his mom working 2 jobs. his father sitting at home and I knew that’s the path I was on.. I had to tell him I couldnt do this anymore. I sat him down and told him I cared for him, but we were on different paths.. I needed at least a “partner” in life.. someone w/ goals- dreams- plans.. He was 36.. I am 3 years older…and miles wiser.

    I felt horrid and miss his smile everyday.. but I know it’s best for my kids and I that I at least find someone who is an equal partner in life.. ;/

    1. I think that we all want a man who has goals, dreams and plans — it’s the epitome of the masculine essence and is what attracts us. If that is missing then the relationship will flounder. I might still love a man who was dirt poor because he was volunteering in a third world country — it’s the mission and purpose that’s necessary (for me).

  3. Your blog gave me a different perspective than I am used to, which I definitely appreciate! Gave me a lot to think about. I appreciate you writing this & the people who commented! I have told my friends and family all the good things too; however, it seems they are the type to focus only on the negative (as I have a tendency to do as well- trying to work on that). Reading Lauri D’s comment/story was like reading word for word my exact situation (me working & paying the bills, supporting his daughter, him with no solid plans for the future/retirement, etc). I have tried to keep a similar attitude to your perspective Katie these past 8 years, that the $$ issues shouldn’t matter if I love him & we have such a great relationship otherwise. He asked me to marry him a few years ago, gave me a ring, but I told him I wouldn’t, that I wanted to leave things as they were until he cleaned up his financial situation/bad habits… that it wasn’t worth risking everything I have worked so hard for (good credit, a house) to have a piece of paper that shows he loves me. Then I had my “deal breaker” last month when I found out he actually LIED to me about his finances. When I have done everything in my power to help him, be supportive and accepting of the situation as possible. I will not tolerate dishonesty. That is when I broke it off with him. He did explain it as a misunderstanding/miscommunication since he had so much going on, which I don’t know that I buy that story. Hopefully me giving him a date to move out, having him pack his things was enough of a reality check that he won’t make that mistake again. I have since given him more time (it is the holidays and my guilt was eating me alive) I’m still torn whether we can make things work or not.

    1. Lying is a deal breaker for me too. I didn’t mean to suggest that money isn’t an issue in relationships, but I advocate separate finances (no joint bank accounts) and a 50/50 split of expenses. (In fact, Duckfish is right now working out who pays for what on the grocery bill.) That way you don’t feel like you’re doing all the giving and he’s doing all the taking. It forces him to be responsible for his own financial situation and makes sure you are independently financially secure.

  4. I left a mundane, conservative, boring, emotionally distant marriage of five yrs and two little ones- and with that I left financial comfort. I then met a match for my heart, body and soul, who lives for the now, spends instead of saves, hasn’t considered the future or superannuation! And I couldn’t be happier. We are by no means rich- we have two littlies each and one love baby between us, we adore each other are best friends and beautiful lovers together, and feel richer beyond words. I vote heart. Heart ALL the way!

    1. Hi Rachael, it’s so wonderful to hear that you have found the kind of love that makes you so happy. Congratulations on following your heart.

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