ASK A PSYCH: I’m a mum who's only happy in my relationship 50% of the time. Should I leave?

Welcome to Mamamia's Ask A Psych. A series where we give the Mamamia audience the chance to ask a psychologist a question they'd love to be professionally answered. This could be anything from relationship stress, mental health confusion, career chaos or parenting dilemmas. If you want to anonymously submit a question for our psychologist, you can do so here

This week we hear from someone who's feeling conflicted about whether or not to stay in their relationship – and how to handle a breakup when there are children involved.

My partner and I have a two-year-old child. I’m happy in the relationship 50 per cent of the time… how do I know when it’s time to leave a long-term relationship when children are involved?

Choosing whether to stay in or leave a long-term relationship is incredibly difficult, and deciding what is best not only for you, but for your child, adds a whole other layer of complexity. 

Relationships are like an ongoing conversation, but if you have tried working with your partner on your relationship, honestly expressing your needs, thoughts, and emotions, and have shown that you are open to their experiences and needs as well, and have still been met by resistance or felt shut down or unheard, then it might be useful to seek professional support. 

A psychologist or relationships counsellor can help mediate the discussion, and support both of you to come to an outcome that works well for your situation, whether that is strengthening the relationship or “consciously uncoupling”.

Children are highly adaptable and resilient. If you decide to end the relationship, the most important things for your child are: for them to continue to have a stable, secure base, where they can trust that their needs will be met by their parents; and to shield them from witnessing conflict between yourself and your partner. 


Children may experience separation anxiety, worry about their parents, or distress when they don’t understand what is happening. A child psychologist may be able to support you with strategies to help them, and there are loads of books and resources available online explaining separation in kid-friendly language.

Lastly, feelings come and go, so it is hard to make a decision based on a situation that you’re feeling 50/50 about.

Talking to someone about your relationship, what makes you happy in it, and what makes you want to leave, can help you make sense of what you’re feeling so you can make choices based on what is important to you and your child.

Sahra Behardien O’Doherty is a Registered Psychologist and Director on the Board of the Australian Association of Psychologists Inc. (AAPi), as well as the Director of Mindscape Psychology and Allied Health in Sydney’s Inner West, where she works with adolescents and adults to identify their strengths and build their sense of self-esteem/

Sahra acknowledges the Gadigal and Wangal peoples of the Eora Nation, on whose unceded land she lives and works. You can find Sahra via her website here and her Instagram here

DISCLAIMER: The above commentary is not intended to be and should not be taken as psychological therapy or advice. The comments are general in nature and may not apply to any individual’s specific circumstances. If you are distressed by anything you have read, please contact your GP or a mental health professional. For help please phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636. 

Feature Image: Getty + Mamamia.