Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay?

Is your partner too good to leave in some way, but also too bad to stay with?  Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay by Mira Kirschenbaum can help you make this decision with clarity, and find peace of mind with your choice.

If you have ever found yourself trying to decide whether to remain in a problematic (or even just boring) relationship and continue to try to work things out, or to just get out, you have probably really struggled with making that decision, and probably all the more so if abuse has been involved.

Few relationships (or people) are entirely bad with absolutely zero redeeming qualities, and even some of the very most abusive often still have plenty of good left in them – or at least the abused partner may still have a number of entirely valid reasons for staying.

It can be crazy-making for anyone in any relationship to try to make this decision with all of the conflicting information, needs, and priorities that must often be considered, but people who have been abused are often even more confused than the average bear as a result of the mind-games that abusers tend to play.  Too often, we make lists of pros and cons to try to help us decide, and find them equal in length, or a particular advantage appears to vastly outweigh a long list of real problems, thereby perpetuating the whole dilemma.  Add in the issues inherent in kinky relationships, and it can be particularly difficult to decide what to do in all too many cases – or to actually do it even if you already know.

A couple of years ago, I came across this really superb book that can help you make more sense of this decision, and to make it in a rational and reasoned manner, although I’m only now getting around to writing about it.  If you’re still in the relationship, this book can help you decide whether or not to stay in it.  If you are already out, you may find that reading it will help validate why you are better off without the jerk, especially if you still have any remaining doubts.  It will help you cut through all of the mental ping pong of “yes, buts” and “if onlys” and get right to the bottom line.

Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay is unquestionably the very best book I’ve ever found about how to make the decision to leave or stay and try to work things out when a relationship is troubled in some way but may still have good in it, there is still love, etc. It’s an absolute gem for those who are on the fence regardless of the reasons you may be straddling it.

Through exploration of a number of specific questions, and analysis of the long-term happiness of many people she has studied or counseled who chose to either stay or go under the particular circumstances of each section, Kirschenbaum helps walk the reader through essentially a decision tree, starting with the parameters she has found to be most predictive of long term success or failure of trying to salvage things and working her way down to the smaller issues. Even if you find your answer in the early sections, I encourage reading the whole thing, as some of the later ones may provide additional validation.

She also makes some incredibly important and surprising points about the value of love in a relationship, including why that actually should not be the primary determinant of a decision like this in many cases – and indeed examines what love actually is and how various behaviors do or do not demonstrate it.

Even if, like me, you don’t find this while you’re still trying to make a decision but only after the fact, it will likely help you better understand why things didn’t work out if you do make the split, or help confirm why you may be better off having made the decision to stay together.

As I worked my way through the book, the points against staying kept adding up more and more.  It really helped put any final doubts I may have still harbored at that point to rest for good, helped completely end the cycle of “If only…” that had continued to torture me for a good while after the end.  “If only” is a pipe dream.  It wasn’t, and never actually could have been, given so many things about the person I was with.  “If only” is probably *always* a pipe dream, for everyone.

One note – Kirschenbaum talks about hitting you as perhaps the most important predictor of failure of trying to reconcile, the one real absolute she lays out as an imperative for leaving. Obviously most of us can’t take that at full face value in the kink world. Just mentally add in the word “consensual” where she mentions physical violence of any sort, and that will help separate things out in a relevant-to-kink way.  If your partner has ever hit you in a nonconsensual way, violated limits, etc., I think this section will apply.

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Thanks to @freewine on FetLife for the prodding that got me to sit down and finally write about this book.