It may be difficult to know whether or not to keep someone in your life—significant other, spouse, friend, or relative. Do you want to remain close to them or with them at all? Many clients entertain this dilemma and unwisely rely on self-trust or intuition to make decisions rather than rational thinking. Worse, they decide out of fear and anxiety.

Here are some examples. A client is deciding if he wants to divorce his wife. Another wonders if she can continue to live with her emotionally stunted sister. A third is trying to figure out if an alcoholic friend is worth the trouble. If we live long enough, we’ll all face similar dilemmas, some of which will stress us out enough to trigger emotional eating. 

One way to know whether someone is a keeper or not is to make a list of what they need to do over time to stay or go. That is, to know what behaviors will lead you in one direction or the other. Here are thoughts to consider on both sides of the ledger:

On the positive side, someone may stay in my life if they consistently:

On the negative side, someone may not stay in my life if they:

Clients get into the most trouble evaluating these behaviors when the other person changes some but not enough or sometimes but not consistently. As a former clinical supervisor of mine used to advise me about clients changing, “People vote with their feet.” Said another way, “talk is cheap.” Moreover, if you don’t voice and insist on standards, you can’t complain about someone not meeting them. Develop high but reasonable ones and don’t hesitate to insist that people meet them—or let them go.