The Circle Line

Am I in the
right relationship?

Do I still want to be with this person? Do I still love them?
A floundering relationship can be hard to decipher. Let's start here.


Do I still want to be with this person?

A whole gamut of thoughts are attached to any decision to separate. Guilt, shame, self-doubt. The judgements we make of ourselves and of our partner and the perceptions and beliefs we attach to their, and our, actions can be hard to destill.

Whose “fault” is the latest argument? How could they treat us like that? How could they neglect us/lie/cheat/yell/disappear? Why do we put up with it? Or perhaps simply – how can a relationship just wither?

A fundamental question in any relationship starts with: Are you both OK in this relationship? 

In this context, “OK” means that you are both autonomous, honest with each other, and treat each other with equal respect. If these fundamental and crucial elements are missing, there may be some serious thinking to do.


This means you are in a relationship with each other but are also authentically independent from each other.

You are able to be happy alone. You don’t need to constantly check up on each other. You make your own decisions. You have your own likes and dislikes, separate and different from your partners’. You are both responsible for yourselves, and not the other.

This takes some self-awareness and intimacy to achieve.


You don’t tell lies. You aren’t evasive. You don’t have secrets.

We all need a level of privacy, and are entitled to our private thoughts and time alone and with others outside a relationship, but it’s harmful to lie. Openness and transparency are key to contentment.

Honesty also means you tell each other what you want and feel – and ideally why. This can be harder than it sounds.

Firstly, identifying the real emotion isn’t always straightforward – often we substitute one emotion for another. For example, we may have been discouraged from ‘having a temper’ as kids, therefore we rarely get angry even as adults and instead often get tearful, or vice versa.

Secondly, the why behind the emotion might be deeper than we realise. On the surface, we might want to chuck our partner’s plate of food at them because they’re late home for dinner. But what’s really going on is more like we feel hurt and rejected and unimportant to them.

Rather than scream about what a selfish arsehole they are and interrogate them about their drinks after work – what if we simply said we are hurt and feel unimportant…? Harder than it sounds, but so important to do.


You may not always like what each other does, but you fundamentally believe that both you and your partner have worth, value and dignity – and you show it.

To be clear, the following behaviours do NOT show respect:

  1. Any form of verbal aggression. Anger is healthy. Calling names, screaming insults and the silent treatment are not.
  2. Any form of emotional manipulation. Blackmail (if you loved me you’d…), humiliation, telling someone what they supposedly feel or don’t feel, denying truths. Not ok.
  3. Any level of physical manhandling, pushing or touching without consent.
  4. Any form of sexual touching without consent.

After autonomy, honesty, respect…

If the fundamental elements of autonomy, honesty and respect are in place – firstly well done!

The rest of what you want and need may be harder to define.

As we grow as people we start exploring, and sometimes getting lost in, the detail of our relationships, the history, our desires and unfulfilled needs. It can help to ask yourself:

The list of questions and doubts can go on… Speaking to a professional for help wading through your thoughts often helps.

When children are part of the equation it gets arguably even harder, and more serious. A therapist is invaluable in helping us untangle things for everyone’s sake.

“When people divorce, it’s always such a tragedy.  At the same time, if people stay together it can be even worse.” —Monica Bellucci

Everyone is individual. As long as no one is in danger, there are no rules about when to stay and when to go. There is also no shame in leaving, and no shame in staying for your own reasons.

It helps to be aware of what your reasons really are, so you’re better informed to make your decision – for this ending, and for finding your next beginning.

From from Self Help Tools

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