How to decide whether to stay in a bad relationship (the time travel experiment)

Audio Version [click the globe to change language]

Whether you’re trying to decide how best to spend your time, or you’re struggling with a major decision, try this little experiment for size – you may just get the insight you’re looking for.

I devised this thought experiment to help others add a little perspective and hopefully ease the decision-making process when trying to make a major decision like:

  • should I stay in a relationship?
  • should I end this relationship?
  • I’m not happy in this relationship, but I’ve invested a lot of time and money so should I stay?

Typically, those are not easy decisions to make and at worse, some people can put themselves through unnecessary hard times by prolonging a bad relationship instead of breaking up with their partner.

If you’re going through this right now – you’re in a bad relationship and you don’t know whether you should break up with your girlfriend / boyfriend, then this is for you:

Think about what you’re feeling right now: it’s probably not good. Your emotions may be up and down on a daily basis, especially if you’re having constant arguments with your partner. Deep inside, you feel you two should split up, but you hesitate.. you can’t come to – or face – this decision. Something is stopping you – a thought, an idea, a concept, a fear…

Realise that whatever is stopping you is something in the NOW – and it’s probably in your head. So instead, take yourself somewhere else – away from the now – and look at back at the now (from a distance) and see how you feel about things then.

Imagine you have a time travelling machine, and you could use it once, to visit yourself in the future. Imagine now that you step in and you go to the future, and there you see yourself, old and frail, after a lifetime of enduring whatever you’re enduring right now.

Here, in this place, you discover that you have 1 hour to live, then it’s lights out. Now realise as you look down on your frail self, how fast all that time went by…

Did you enjoy the ride?
Did you make the best out of your time?
Did you make sure that nobody gave you second-class behaviour, but instead treated you as you treated them?

If not, then guess who’s to blame for this decision? That’s right… in the end, the buck stops with you. Don’t think of blaming other people for how things turned out for you because the truth is that whatever you say, you probably had some control over the outcome (in this context). Let me give you some examples:

  • my ex is to blame: (s)he took advantage of me (no, you allowed your ex partner to take advantage of you).
  • my ex wouldn’t split up with me (no, (s)he didn’t want to break up and you decided to stay in the relationship, using your ex as your excuse for staying
  • etc…

Forget about coming up with other reasons and stay with the image of you in the future, looking at yourself, 1 hour from death. Tell the excuses to the old you… explain to the old you why you had a miserable time…

There’s only one real explanation: you allowed it.

Can you live with this decision in the future? If you can’t, then why are you living with it in the now?

Note that this thought experiment should be used with caution – it’s purpose is to help you create an educated guess about how life may have been, based on current events – if you let them continue as they are. In other words, if you know you should get out of a relationship because it’s bringing you nothing but stress and heartache and yet you find yourself coming up with reasons as to why you shouldn’t breakup – reasons that you know are nothing more than excuses (like the amount of time you’ve invested in the relationship) then you should put yourself through the experiment.

If the outcome of the thought experiment is a life of misery, then you have a choice to make: either change or fix the issue in the now, or get out.

Check Out J Riley’s Breakup Book

Visit the homepage to see where you can buy The Breakup for Men