Partner A says, “Go to hell.”
Partner B says, “Not when you live there.” The boxing gloves are on, and Kimbo Slice wouldn’t stand a chance in this fight.
If this is familiar territory, you may not have a hard time deciding whether to stay or go. But what should you do if the relationship is great but the sex sucks? What if the sex is stellar but the emotional intimacy is absent? What if you can communicate emotionally and sexually, but you lack intellectual, spiritual and social stimulation?
Thus begins the arduous tug-of-war between head and heart, ego and spirit — and you ask yourself, should I stay or should I go? “If I go there will be trouble, if I stay it will be double.”
Once the wet and juicy courtship has hardened into dry, flaky dirt, we are faced with the reality of the relationship. This is not to damn all relationships that make it down the aisle. Fifty percent of relationships go the distance with great success. The rest try to open up the relationship by swinging around, cycle through break-repair-breakrepair-break, or divorce.
Whether or not your relationship garden made it through the winter blizzard, you may have at one point asked the question: Should I stay or should I go? The answer is irrelevant. The process of how you came to either decision is what matters. Every relationship is a gift in that it offers you an invaluable journey towards self-growth.
So what factors are needed before making that irreversible decision to stay or go? First, consider the quality of intimacy in your relationship. Because intimacy can be extensive and intricate, I often offer couples a map to measure eight types of intimacy in their relationship. The eight spheres are:
Emotional, Intellectual, Physical, Sexual, Social, Spiritual, Affectional and Aesthetic. (For a visual map, visit my website at www.theintimacyinstitute.org/intimacyMap.html). Once you have identified strengths and gaps in each sphere, then you have mastered chapter one in the handbook of how to water your relationship garden to its full potential bloom.
The second factor to consider consists of finances and legal issues. If you are divorcing, you may or may not want to bother with lawyer fees. Even if you are just separating, finances may be difficult to divide when it comes to coowning a home, plants, pets, kids, a 401(k), or a cool ’70s shag rug in the den. Is there enough income to fully sustain two separate households? Is it too much to juggle a mortgage, rent and child support versus agreeing to an untraditional, taboo, non-monogamous marriage?
To piggyback on factor two, for those who have kids, you may want to weigh the parenting issues. Who gets weekdays or weekends? How do we split major holidays? How do we agree to bedtimes, play-dates, babysitters, after-school activities? When do we talk to our kids about sex? How do we talk to our kids about sex?
Factor three entails dating issues.
You may have been out of the dating scene for several decades. You may wonder where to go and how to get out there again. Do I pay or go dutch? When do we kiss? Should my kids meet whom I date? Even if you’ve only been out for a few years, you may struggle with the expeditious evolution of intimacy and whether to date electronically or face-to-face.
Factor four is last, but not least: sex. Ladies, gentlemen and (for those who read last week’s column) everyone in-between, we live in an era of sexually transmitted diseases. Dating today requires condoms and dental dams — doctor’s orders. But what about when to even have sex? And if you only feel so-so about your date, there might be a lack of lubrication or erectile issues.
If your relationship is withering on the xeriscape, deciding to stay or go requires assessing all spheres of intimacy and whether the hassle to stay is greater than the hassle to go.
So should you stay or should you go? Water the garden, weigh the fruits and, in the end, select the least odious option.
Jenni Skyler, PhD, is a sex therapist and board-certified sexologist. She runs The Intimacy Institute in Boulder, www. theintimacyinstitute.org.