Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay – Book Review

While I imagine most people who read Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay are looking for help with their marriages, understanding concepts like “off-the-table-itis,” “your needs are making me sick,” and “you say ‘tomayto,’ I say ‘tomahto’” have also been helpful to me in other relationships.


Almost every day I see posts about how to make our marriages last. There are almost forty million results currently available on Google. My parents are still married, and after being married for over 15 years and having two daughters, I felt like I needed to do everything I could to stay married for their sake, but I was struggling with quite a few issues.

I began to see that people’s differences extended beyond the ones I’d been using to make decisions. Understanding that there were other personality traits helped me understand what’s important to me.

Since many of them had been going on for years, I kept reminding myself that everyone has to compromise in relationships. Still, I really thought some of the issues were solvable, so I talked to people I knew, a lot. Over time, I was told by one person that I was the problem, that all I needed to do was get some help from a counselor and everything would be fine. I was told by another that I didn’t have any reason to complain, that I had a nice home and a good husband so I should be happy. As time moved forward, I was even told that I would destroy my children’s lives if I decided to leave.

I talked to a lot of people about my relationship, and even when it caused one relationship to fall apart, I didn’t give up

Shortly after one of those comments, one of the relationships fell apart. It spiraled out of control on e-mail, which was fairly new at the time. Shortly afterward, I heard comments in the news about how careful people needed to be when using it. Since I was the one who decided to end the relationship, I felt pretty sure I’d made the right decision, but that didn’t make it any easier. I struggled for a long time, trying to deal with that loss on top of everything else, but it made me finally realize that I needed to talk to people who could relate to my situation.

One woman, who was divorced and had a daughter, had come into my life a few months prior, but we’d established a business relationship, so I was worried it might seem unprofessional. Still, I felt like I needed to find the answer I was seeking, so one afternoon I called and explained my feelings about my marriage and asked her how she was finally able to make the decision.

Can everyone create lasting marriages? Mira Kirshenbaum’s book, Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay, helps us understand the things that matter to us in a relationship.

Kirshenbaum’s approach was exactly what I needed

After she compared a few of her relationship issues to mine, she mentioned this book, and Kirshenbaum’s approach was exactly what I needed. She asks us to ask ourselves questions like, “Do you have at least one pleasurable activity or interest that you share in your relationship? [56], In spite of admirable qualities, do you genuinely like the person and do they seem to like you? [113], Does the person support and show interest in things that are important to you? [214], and Is there a demonstrated capacity and mechanism for genuine forgiveness?” [232] I won’t spoil the book, but the end of Chapter 18 presented a conclusion that really surprised me.

Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay pushed me to ask myself questions that enabled me to more deeply define who I am and what is important to me, which included my priorities and my bottom line. I started to be able to sort through confusing interactions, to actually see the kind of things Kirshenbaum discusses in my relationships and decide whether or not they were things I felt I could, or should, tolerate, not because the other person was necessarily a bad person, the decisions we make sometimes are simply because we are so different.

This book contributed greatly to making me stronger

Even though many of the decisions I’ve made since I read the book have been terrifying at times, this book contributed greatly to making me stronger. It’s helped me feel like I’m capable of making the right decisions, and that has enabled me to move forward in ways that I never dreamed could be possible for both me and my daughters.


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