Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay: A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Decide Whether to Stay In or Get Out of Your Relationship

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9780452275355: Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay: A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Decide Whether to Stay In or Get Out of Your Relationship

“Brilliant.”—Shere Hite, author of The Hite Report
 
To make up or break up? Whether you’re just getting serious or have a long-term commitment, no other question causes so much heartache and self-doubt. Many other books tell you how to fix your relationship. This groundbreaking bestseller is the first one to help you choose whether you should try—or you need to go.
 
Psychotherapist Mira Kirshenbaum draws on years of research and her work with real-life couples to help you make the right decision. She shows you how to diagnose your unique situation with self-analysis and questions like these, which get to the very heart of your problems:
 
·         What sins are forgivable and which ones are unpardonable?
·         Is your partner questioning your opinions to the point where you doubt yourself?
·         What is your sex life really like, and how important is it?
·         Is there real love left between you, and how does it stack up against all that you find unlovable?
 
Mira Kirshenbaum provides expert guidelines that are the key to making all your choices, concrete steps that you can implement right now, and the ultimate way to determine your personal bottom line—what you need to be happy. This remarkably insightful and probing guide offers advice that lets you see the truth about your relationship—and with wisdom and compassion, it helps you act with the confidence of knowing that whether you decide to go or stay, you are doing the very best thing.
 
“A powerful self-help resource for anyone caught in a web of relationship distress... Excellent.”—Christopher L. Hayes, author of Our Turn: Women Who Triumph in the Face of Divorce
 
“Few have written with such common sense and clarity about how to come out of the trap of ambivalence in marriage. I’ve recommended the book to colleagues and clients.”—Cloé Madanes, co-founder, The Family Therapy Institute

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About the Author:

Mira Kirshenbaum is an individual and family psychotherapist in private practice and the clinical director of the Chestnut Hill Institute in Massachusetts. She is the author of four books, including the phenomenally successful Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay (available from Plume), and has appeared on many national television shows, including The Today Show, Maury Povich, Geraldo, Sally Jessy Raphael, and an ABC News special with John Stossel. She is married, has two grown children, and lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

Acknowledgements

 

Part I - THE PROBLEM

Chapter 1 - Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby?

Chapter 2 - Dancing in the Dark

 

Part II - THE SOLUTION

Chapter 3 - Enough Is Enough

Chapter 4 - It’s Too Late, Baby

Chapter 5 - Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love

Chapter 6 - You’ve Got a Hold on Me

Chapter 7 - Talk to Me

Chapter 8 - What Is This Thing Called Love?

Chapter 9 - It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing

Chapter 10 - All the Things You Are

Chapter 11 - Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off

Chapter 12 - You Say “Tomayto,” I Say “Tomahto”

Chapter 13 - If Ever I Should Leave You

Chapter 14 - R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Chapter 15 - Who’s Sorry Now?

Chapter 16 - I Can’t Get No Satisfaction

Chapter 17 - Love To Love You, Baby

Chapter 18 - I’ve Got You Under My Skin

Chapter 19 - Next Steps

 

INDEX

PRAISE FOR

TOO GOOD TO LEAVE, TOO BAD TO STAY

“A wise, compassionate, and very readable book. It will bless many lives.”

—Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People

 

“Kirshenbaum’s expertise allows her to pinpoint the pertinent questions.... And threaded through the book, which is written in a sympathetic, chatty, accessible style, are validating anecdotes that dramatize how other people have experienced and responded to the same problems the reader is going through.”

Publishers Weekly

 

“Braving her detailed questions about power, betrayal, communication, respect, intimacy, sex, and love can transform the frustration of being stuck into a decision that feels right.”

Booklist

 

“Packed with meaty case histories.”

New York Daily News

 

“No fairy dust here, but a real chance for healing what Kirshenbaum calls ‘the pain and waste of relationship ambivalence.’”

Minneapolis Star Tribune

 

“Interesting reading and helpful in the way a good therapist can be helpful—by asking the right questions, by clarifying the answers.”

—Olga Silverstein, family therapist, author of The Courage to Raise Good Men

 

 

MIRA KIRSHENBAUM is a psychotherapist in private practice and the clinical director of the Chestnut Hill Institute in Massachusetts, where much of the research for this book was conducted. The coauthor, with Charles Foster, Ph.D., of Parent-Teen Breakthrough (also available in a Plume edition), she lives in Boston.

Also by Mira Kirshenbaum

Parent/Teen Breakthrough: The Relationship Approach
(with Charles Foster, Ph.D.)

PLUME

 

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Books USA Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.

Penguin Books Ltd, 27 Wrights Lane, London W8 5TZ, England

Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Ringwood, Victoria, Australia

Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 10 Alcorn Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2

Penguin Books (N.Z.) Ltd, 182-190 Wairau Road, Auckland 10, New Zealand

 

Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England

 

Published by Plume, an imprint of Dutton Signet, a division of Penguin Books USA Inc.

Previously published in a Dutton edition.

 

First Plume Printing, July, 1997

 

Copyright © Mira Kirshenbaum, 1996

All rights reserved

REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA

 

The Library of Congress has catalogued the Dutton edition as follows: Kirshenbaum, Mira.

Too good to leave, too bad to stay : a step-by-step guide to help you decide whether to stay in or get out of your relationship / Mira Kirshenbaum.

p. cm.

Includes index.

ISBN: 9781101128367

1. Man-woman relationships. 2. Relationship addiction.

I. Title.

HQ801.K57 1996

646.7’8—dc20 95-53003

CIP

 

 

Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

 

BOOKS ARE AVAILABLE AT QUANTITY DISCOUNTS WHEN USED TO PROMOTE PRODUCTS OR SERVICES. FOR INFORMATION PLEASE WRITE TO PREMIUM MARKETING DIVISION, PENGUIN BOOKS USA INC., 375 HUDSON STREET, NEW YORK, NEW YORK 10014.

To my most important teachers: my patients. You have shared your lives with me over the years and I’m eternally grateful for everything I’ve learned from you; for your dedication to health; for how hard you work to find happiness; for your willingness to learn lessons I know are tough; for your trust.

To my mother. I know how much you’ve accomplished, and I know how hard you’ve struggled. I wish I could have helped you when you needed it most, but I was too young. Thank you for inspiring me to believe I could help others. Thank you for inspiring in me the desire to learn the truth about love.

And to my daughters. You’re the best, and you deserve a world of love.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This is a book about truth and love. It would not have been possible without the work of Dr. Charles Foster. Every word here is the product of a fifty/fifty collaboration between us. His research, insights, and ideas fill this book. We are full partners in everything. Because of him, in every way this search for the truth has been a labor of love.

I’m profoundly grateful to all the individuals whose lives and stories went into the research for Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay. They were amazingly open and helpful, and what we’ve learned from them constitutes the bricks out of which this book is built.

There are many people I must mention if I’m to thank them properly. The debt I owe each of them makes me wish I could do more, in this small space, than list their names. These people are, one way or another, colleagues, teachers, heroes, friends who’ve given something specific to me, personally or professionally, through the years here at Chestnut Hill and elsewhere. They may not even realize the value of what they’ve done for me, but it played some role in making these pages possible. To all of them I say thank you: Louise Bates Ames, Shaye Areheart, Lisa Bankoff, Susan Bickelhaupt, Ruth Bork, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Alexia Dorszynski, Barry Dym, Dorothy Firman, Roger Fisher, Betty Friedan, Diana Huss Green, Jennifer Hack, Jay Haley, Jules Henry, Kathleen Huntington, Allan Kaprow, Alfred Kazin, Michael Kirshenbaum, Mary Jo Kochakian, Rabbi Harold Kushner, Eda LeShan, Richard Marek, Amy Mintzer, Salvador Minuchin, Nancy Moscatillo, Eli Newberger, Maury Povich, Cynthia Roe, Izzy Rudski, Ann Ruethling, Kim Schaffer, Gitta Sereny, Myron Sharaf, Judith Sills, Ivy Fischer Stone, Richard Stuart, Walter Watson, Paul Watzlawick, Rosa Wexler, Robert White, Elie Wiesel, Beth Winship, and Harold Zyskind.

Some people are sadly no longer alive to hear my gratitude for what they’ve given me. But I feel I must nonetheless express my thanks to Fred Avery, Gregory Bateson, Herbert Berghof, Martin Buber, Paul Goodman, Walter Green, Don Jackson, Pearl Karch, Virginia Satir, and Isaac Bashevis Singer.

I want to thank my daughters, Rachel and Hannah, who cared so much about this project and who expressed their love and intelligence by letting me feel the full weight of every constructive criticism they could think of.

What incredible good luck to have a mensch like Howard Morhaim as my agent. Without his gifts and his belief in me and in this project, all the people who need it would be denied the help this book offers. I am profoundly grateful to him. And a thanks to his assistant, Kate Hengerer.

My editor, Deborah Brody, has wowed me with her intelligence and enthusiasm. I thank her for caring about this book and for her marvelous ability to translate her caring into effective action that’s enabling this information to reach as many people as possible.

I’d also like to thank all the other terrific people at Penguin and Dutton who I know have helped and will help this book and me. I can’t mention everyone’s name but I would like to single out Marvin Brown, Judy Courtade, Arnold Dolin, Elaine Koster, and Peter Mayer. A thanks to Julianne Barbato for her excellent copy editing, and a thanks for the care she’s taken with my work to Jennifer Moore. Finally, I know how important Lisa Johnson’s inspired work on my behalf has been in the past and will be in the future, and I’m grateful for it. And a special thanks to Tracy Guest.

I’d like to thank all the readers of my previous book for their incredible support. It means so much to me. I’d like to particularly thank the countless numbers of people who called and wrote just to tell me how much that book helped them.

Last, but not least, I must thank those patients of mine who kept asking me to write this book. I can’t mention your names, but you know who you are.

TO MY READER

 

 

You are not alone. There are 140 million Americans today in a relationship, and one-fifth of them—that’s 28 million people—just can’t decide whether to stay or leave.

You deserve the happiness you’re searching for. I’ve dedicated years to developing a simple but comprehensive series of questions and guidelines that will help you see clearly, once and for all, whether it’s best for you to stay in your relationship or leave it. The women and men you’ll meet here have struggled with the same issues you have. Their experiences will help you discover what’s real in your own relationship, regardless of how long you’ve been with your partner or how long you’ve been stuck in ambivalence.

This book contains only good news. If it’s best for you to stay, you’ll have the satisfying experience of facing all the issues and discovering that your relationship is truly too good to leave. You won’t be settling; you’ll know your heart is home.

And if you’ll be happiest leaving, you’ll get the reassurance that comes from finally understanding why your relationship has been too bad to stay in. When you end a relationship that deserves to end, you’re liberating two people to move on to better lives.

Either way, because you’ll see what’s best for you, you’ll be far happier than you’ve been. Everything in your life will be better. I’ve written this book to help you make this happen.

Part I

THE PROBLEM

1

Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby?

You’ve gone through a lot to get to this point.

You’ve hoped that love would be enough. And you’ve worked to resolve the problems in your relationship. And you’ve tried to accept things the way they are.

And you’ve agonized over the possibility of leaving.

But you just haven’t known what to do. Now you’re ready to face the choice that’s been weighing on your heart. That’s what this book is for—to help you discover which is best for you:

To stay in your relationship, recommitting to it free of doubt, free of holding back, free at last to pour your love and energy into the relationship and get back everything there is to get from it

 

or

 

To leave your relationship, finally liberating yourself from it, free of confusion, free of pain, free at last to get on with a new and better life.

Up until now you haven’t found the kind of evidence that speaks to your heart and makes clear what’s best for you. You haven’t found a sign like one of the following:

 

Leaving. He wouldn’t make her a sandwich. Heather had been working in the garden in the hot sun all morning, and Bill had been doing God knows what inside the house. Through the open kitchen window she’d heard him grab a beer, and she asked if he’d throw together a sandwich for her. “No, you do it,” he said, as if she’d asked him to do something too hard, too inappropriate.

That’s when it hit her, clear as day, once and for all, that his selfishness was undeniable and bottomless, that for her the relationship was over, that there was nothing here for her, and that she’d be better off getting out. And she did. And she’s never regretted it for a moment.

 

Staying. What had happened to the sweet woman he’d married? Now, three years later, Steve felt that Lynn had turned into someone who did nothing but complain. Then one Friday coming home from work Steve heard a song on the radio—“When a Man Loves a Woman.” Something about it got through to him, something about his having a responsibility to make sure she knew he loved her. They’d gotten so polarized, he saw, that he’d overlooked the possibility that she was unloving because he was unloving.

Steve spent that night and all weekend trying to show Lynn he loved her. It wasn’t until Sunday that it got through to her. Then she just melted. Her old sweetness came back. It was suddenly clear to Steve how easily they could overcome the problems that had been making him think of leaving. Steve decided to put all thoughts of leaving out of his mind.

Good News

It’s terribly frustrating to be able to do nothing but wait passively for signs like these. Fortunately, new hope is now entirely realistic for you. That’s why I’ve written this book. You can find answers to the questions most important to you:

· Whether the two of you really do fit together or not

· Whether the things that bother you will get better or worse

· How you’ll feel if they do get better and if they don’t

· Whether you can improve the relationship on your own or with the best of therapists

· What you’ll find if you leave and whether it’ll be better or worse than what you have now

· How to balance the responsibility you have to yourself and to the people you care about

No matter how hard it’s been for you to decide, now you can find out the truth about your relationship one way or the other, the whole truth, your own truth, the ultimate-reality-at-the-heart-of everything truth. Now you can achieve the clarity that will enable you to feel confident making one of the most important choices of your life.

But finding clarity depends on whether you actually want to find clarity in the first place or whether the most comfortable place for you is staying up in the air the way you’ve been. Your relationship is either too good to leave or too bad to stay in. But it can’t be both. So there are definite answers for you here, but if you really don’t want to come to a decision, you’ll find that out as well.

But What About Love?

We’ll talk a lot about love here. The clarity you’ll reach will also help you see how real your love is, and ho...

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