Podcast: Should I Break Up With My Partner?
Updated: Feb 26
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Should I break up with my partner?
In honour of February being Valentine’s month, let’s be contrarian and talk about something we don’t say out loud but probably type into our google search engines.
"Dear Google, should I break up with my partner?"
For those of you who aren’t familiar with PCM, it stands for Process Communication Model. It’s the best kept secret that’s been used by NASA, Bill Clinton, Pixar (who based their film Inside Out on this model, by the way), and many more prominent organisations and brands.
The tool patterns observable behaviour and uses these patterns to predict the way someone gets motivates, or gets angry. It’s so reliable that this works on understanding complete strangers. How?
It’s in the name: Process.
We don’t pay half as much attention to the process of How someone says something compared to the content of What they say.
And that’s where we trip up on resolving and understanding people - getting caught up in the content, and not addressing the process factors that underlie their behaviours.
But enough of the technical talk. Let’s get down to the line: Should I break up with my partner?
I had an episode about 4 months into dating my now husband, when I seriously contemplated this question. The first time was when we arrived at a controversy we couldn’t agree on. I think I blanked out. We resumed our discussion later on, and resolved it when he gave me enough space to process this, and showed genuine respect for where I stood on the matter.
PCM is a bulky framework, it holds a network of concepts… so I’ll boil it down for this question that we’re weighing up.
In an exchange (or lack of exchange) I shared with you, there is a conversation going on that we’re not aware about. It’s the conversation of “making”: "I can make you feel bad" and "You can make me feel bad."
This is one of the most elegant concepts in PCM, and an important one. So important that Dr. Taibi Kahler, the psychologist who researched this model, said it was the one thing about PCM he will take with him on a deserted island.
The concept of “Making” exposing the false beliefs we have towards our partner.
Most of this is unconscious. We don’t realise that we have these narratives running in the background of our relationship’s stereo… we have, negative interpretations, and negative feelings. Feeling like your partner is out to get you. Feeling like you can control your partner to doing things, even if you believe it's good for them.
Another friend recently shared that an unresolvable struggle he has with his partner is having what he did for himself taken personally by her.
“You did this to hurt me.” she'll say.
“No, I did this for myself. I never had the intention of sabotaging you.”
So, should I break up with my partner?
If these “make you, or make me” false beliefs are performed unconsciously, then there is room for growth with some help.
Help comes in spectrums. I call it the degrees of help the three lines of defense.
The first line of help is DIY: look for frameworks like this one, and help each other increase self-awareness by making the false beliefs explicit, and increase awareness about your partner.
The second line of defense is finding feedback and accountability by getting the help of a third party, like a coach or counsellor who can help you mediate, and facilitate your discussions.
The third line is therapy. The difference between coaching and therapy is how deep these “making” false beliefs run. Some folks have lived most of their lives with these false beliefs that it becomes part of their identity. Sometimes it’s a clinical condition, like depression. Therapy is getting helped from someone professionally trained to perform metaphorical surgery.. It’s a long term and expensive process, but you’ll be in the hands of skilled psychological surgeons.
Some of our situations require just the first or second - and more extreme cases require all three.
What if these “making” false beliefs are conscious?
When a partner is cognitively and affectively aware that they are hurting you, or victimising themselves: threatening to kill themselves because you’re going out to dinner with a friend. Or controlling who you talk to.
[What’s not talked about enough is how people stay in these relationships with “make you feel bad” beliefs - they stay because their partner can also “make them feel good”. It’s why we believe that their awful sides are a passing phase.]
Should I break up with my partner?
If you see these false beliefs play out unconsciously, get help.
If you see these false beliefs play out consciously, get away.
That’s the PCM take on break ups.
What you’ve just heard is a simplified, shorthand use of PCM on figuring out if a relationship is toxic or not. Every relationship has history, generational conditions, social pressures surrounding your decision to stay together or break up. We get that.
We took the question of “Should I break up with my partner” from the angle that focuses purely on the couple’s relationship, the couple being the unit in focus.
We hope this episode gives you a taste of PCM, and clarity about how to observe a relationship that requires work from one that’s toxic.
Follow our seasonal podcast series Should I Break Up? here.