February Book Review

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

The book we’re looking at in this book review consists of a series of questions to ask yourself about your relationship, your partner, and yourself that assist you in exploring whether to stay or leave. The questions are accompanied by guidelines, discussion, and case examples that assist you in determining what you need in order to be happy either in or out of your relationship. The author provides a professional perspective that helps readers “diagnose” their relationship in order to arrive at the best decision for them.  While a single yes or no response to one of the questions may very well indicate that you should stay or leave, it frequently will not. The author is helpfully clear about this throughout the book, and she provides statements regarding whether research shows people were generally happy or unhappy with the decision they made based on each question.


Anyone stuck in relationship ambivalence, particularly those wondering if the issues they are noticing in their relationship are “serious enough” to warrant leaving their partner or if staying and working on the relationship would be the best option.

Favorite Quotes

“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.”

“That’s the way it is with a lot of relationships. There’s a surface of day-to-day experiences that might feel awful, but below the surface there’s what I call a satisfaction-producing core…What makes a relationship actually too good to leave is when it has that satisfaction-producing core. [However,] any couples therapist will tell you about relationships where the surface might be nice and smooth and polite, even seemingly friendly, but below the surface there’s what I call a basic discord. I’m talking about an emotional, psychological fracture or dislocation or disconnection…What makes a relationship actually too bad to stay in is when it has that basic discord.”

How We Use This Book in Therapy

This book provides an excellent set of questions and guidelines for mining your experiences and what you already know about your relationship, and in therapy we can go even deeper into the exploration of your responses and reactions to each question in this book.

Some questions are easily answered yes or no, and some questions might spark an incredibly clear “aha!” moment for you. However, I’ve noticed that there are often some questions that a client might go back and forth on, or want to explore at more depth. In therapy, we can really dig into those questions and look at a history of patterns or experiences that can help you reach the true answer to that question.

For example, if you’re noticing one or several differences between yourself and your partner that seem to make it difficult to imagine living with this person any longer, you and I can explore together what makes each difference navigable or what makes it a deal-breaker. It’s possible that you might end up seeing how this difference can exist without ruining your marriage, or you might end up finally feeling comfortable saying, “you know what, this is something I can’t live with and it’s okay that I feel this way.”

Another way we might use this book is to explore your path forward after making your decision. If you’d like to make changes to your relationship that support your decision to stay and make this relationship the best it can be, we can explore that together. If you’ve decided that you would like to leave your relationship but aren’t certain how exactly to do that in a way that will support your personal goals, we can explore that as well. Either way, we look at how to avoid ending up in the same situation again – with your current partner or with someone new.

Limitations of the Book

This is a great book for getting you thinking about what’s really going on in your relationship and how you feel about it. The main limitation is that it won’t decide for you, and you are the only one who can determine whether your responses to the questions means you should stay or you should leave.  The other limitation is that this book will not be very helpful for you if you’ve decided to stay ambivalent. Recognizing this as a choice you are making may be helpful in the short term, but long term ambivalence can be incredibly draining and unhealthy.

Additional Reading

Contemplating Divorce: A Step-by-Step Guide to Deciding Whether to Stay or Go by Susan Pease Gadoua, LCSW

Should I Try to Work It Out?: A Guidebook for Individuals and Couples at the Crossroads of Divorce by Alan Hawkins, Tamara Fackerell, and Steven Harris

Should I Stay or Go? How Controlled Separation Can Save Your Marriage by Lee Raffel*

*Also see the posts in this blog regarding Controlled Separation

Taking It a Step Further:

If you’re interested in speaking with me in more depth about how to go about making the decision to divorce, all you have to do is contact me for a free 30-minute consultation at my office. I’d love to help you figure out the right next step!

Nicole Stone, MS LMFT is a relationship-minded and marriage-friendly therapist passionate about working with adults and couples facing anxiety, relationship crisis, and the divorce/separation experience.  She offers individual, couple, and group therapy services in the North Raleigh, NC area.