In the history of the world, begging a partner to stay has never ended in a good result. Even if -- after all your pleading -- your partner agrees to hang out in the relationship a while longer, it's only a matter of time before he or she will grow tired of the charade. Not only that, but begging is demoralizing. There's no dignity in it. And sometimes, when a relationship is crumbling, self-respect is all you've got left.
Tears and threats won't move your partner -- at least not in any permanent fashion -- so save your energy for tactics that will make a difference. What you're going for here is reason not emotion.
Here are five conversation starters that just may tilt the relationship -- and your partner -- back toward togetherness. More than one break-up scenario may apply to your situation, so mix and match as needed!
When it's news to you:
I know you're ready to call it quits. The thought of that is devastating to me especially since it seems so sudden. This is all so unexpected and I don't know what to make of it. Given all the time we've had together, I'm asking you to consider setting a mutually agreed upon timeline for your leaving. Please understand that I need some time to adjust (and so do the kids). If you still feel the same way in x months, I won't stand in your way -- but I hope we'll use that time to try and fix what's broken.
When forgiveness is the issue:
You know I've been having a hard time forgiving you for your (affair, lying, unavailability) but I know I have to if I want you to stay in this relationship. You've apologized but I haven't really heard you. I'm sure you think I'll never forgive you and that we'll be fighting about this forever. I promise you, that's not the case. I'm going to do everything in my power -- and I'm committed -- to fully forgiving you and moving on. I hope you'll give me a chance to show you I'm capable of this.
When the kids are (almost) gone:
You really seem in a hurry to leave -- and I understand that. Neither one of us has been happy here for a long time. You know I really don't want this but we have to consider that the kids are struggling, too. Given that they're in high school (or leaving home soon), we only have a short time left to live together as a family. I truly think that would be the best thing for all of us. If you can wait a little while, I don't think you'll regret you made that choice for them. Please think about it.
When you need help -- and haven't gotten it:
It seems crazy to throw away our relationship without getting some outside advice. We've put so much time and energy into our marriage (and family) that it's only wise to see if we can make improvements with the help of a professional. On top of that, we really want to be able to tell the kids we tried everything to hold our marriage together. If we don't at least try couples therapy, we won't be able to tell them that and mean it. We have to show them that our marriage -- and our family -- was worth fighting for.
When you're ready to take ownership:
I know you're having a hard time forgiving me for my (affair, addiction, neglect) and I totally get that. Now, I'm paying the price for my behaviors and you're ready to leave -- and it's killing me. Maybe I haven't shown you enough how sorry I am. I know I've hurt you through my words and actions and it slays me to see you in so much pain. I certainly have a lot of making up to do. Would you consider staying a while longer so I can show you I can take full responsibility?
When the relationship has been an afterthought:
I can't believe we've gotten to this place where you want to end our relationship. I'm sad to say that I kind of get it. Neither one of us has put much effort into it for a very long time. We've let everything else take priority -- work, the kids, our families -- and we've neglected what was once a very good thing. I'm horrified that things have deteriorated to this point and I'm wondering if there's any chance we could try again. We loved each other once. We really did. And I'm convinced, with some work, we can get things back on track. Are you willing to give it a try?