Many people stay in unhappy, unhealthy relationships for a long time—sometimes until death—because they can’t decide if they should remain or go. For years, I’ve recommended that clients with this conflict read 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 by Mira Kirshenbaum. I heard about the book when it was published in 1996 and it’s become a classic, a must read if you’re undecided about whether to stay in or leave a relationship.

The book is based on research that psychotherapist Kirshenbaum did with Dr. Charles Foster on what makes it worthwhile to stay in a relationship and what indicates that it’s time to let go and move on. Full of case studies from Kirshenbaum’s clients over the years, it presents guidelines based on specific criteria for why you might want to stay or go. The author covers topics such as: danger signs; what to do if you’ve already decided to leave; preconditions for love; relationship ambivalence; power issues around control and dominance; communication difficulties; whether love remains in the relationship; sex and physical affection problems; your partner’s willingness, motivation, commitment, and ability to change; your bottom line; major versus minor differences; respect; hurts and betrayals; getting your needs met; and closeness issues.

Within each chapter, Kirshenbaum asks Diagnostic Questions on a topic, follows up with Case Studies to help illuminate it, then provides Guidelines on what seems to work for most people in this situation. She examines situations such as having a partner who refuses to acknowledge his or her problems or admits to them but refuses to go to therapy and doesn’t change; what to do if you still like traits about your partner or find nothing you value in him or her; what to do if you’re still having fun in and out of bed or when you find yourself making excuses as often as possible to avoid being with your partner; whether your partner exhibits genuine caring about you and your interests.

Are you ambivalent about staying with your long-term partner or spouse? If you often consider leaving, but it scares you to think about being on your own and you don’t know how to evaluate your relationship, this book will help. Moreover, consider how often problems in your relationship drive you to emotional eating. If there are chronic arguments, abuse, rejections, or abandonment, you may be turning to food and not even realize how troubled you are about your relationship. Too Good to Stay, Too Bad to Go will help you sort out your feelings and decide whether to remain or leave.