Some people call it "on-again, off-again." Other people call it "going on a break." Another name for it? "Figuring things out." "Seeing each other" and "situationships" are both from a neighboring family. What are all these things, you ask? Code names for relationships that are in a gray area and need to decide what they are as soon as possible. Whether you are seriously dating, or you're in the depths of the plague that is the half-relationship, figuring out how to break up with someone for good is harder than finding a natural deodorant that actually works.
No matter if it's an on-again, off-again relaysh, or it's a relationship that's gone on for years, if you are in a relationship that makes you feel terrible more often that it makes you feel great, it's time to end things. Yes, it's that hard of a line. Life is very short, and you deserve to feel good in your relationship. That said, people often drag out relationships they know aren't working because breaking up is hard, and being single again is scary.
I spoke to spoke to Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent relationship expert and therapist in Los Angeles who works with dating singles and couples about when to decide to end a relationship, and how to do it.
How do you know when to end it?
The first hard part about breaking something off is actually committing to doing it."It would be wonderful if there was a very simple formula to help us reliably know when it is time to end a relationship," says Dr. Brown. "Of course, there is no such exact formula." But there are some things you can consider when deciding if time's up for your seemingly never-ending relationship.
"[If] you find yourself going back and forth in a relationship that ultimately and almost always becomes toxic, [if] your on-again, off-again partner has a pattern of cheating on you, or [if] you come to the realization that you are simply not a good fit because your values, hopes, wishes, and dreams do not align very well," it's probably time to split, says Dr. Brown. Getting honest with yourself about how going back into this relationship yet again would make you feel is the first step.
How can you know if you're doing the right thing?
Remember that you're not in this alone. There are other people in your life who have opinions about your happiness in and out of this relationship, so check in with them. Dr. Brown suggests talking to those people you trust around you.
"Talk to family and friends who are familiar with your situation, start writing a journal and weigh the pros and cons, seek help from a professional relationship counselor who can give you an objective view of your situation," he says. These outside opinions can help you sort out your reasoning for the breakup as well.
How do you initiate the breakup?
Breaking up isn't easy! It's hard to let someone down, and it's painful. Dr. Brown shared multiple steps that have worked for some of his clients with me. When you have the talk, "give them specific reasons: 'I’m so tired of the constant fights' or 'You clearly want to spend much more time with your friends than you do with me.'"
Dr. Brown adds that you should steer clear of expressing your anger, or placing the blame on your partner. Instead, "let them know that this situation is not a good match for what you want and need in a relationship." Keeping strong emotions and accusations out of it as much as possible is ideal.
How do you make sure you stay broken up?
The very hardest part of any breakup, especially if you've broken up and gotten back together before, is committing to staying apart. It's easy to go back to something comforting, like an ex. But the only way to truly find what you want and deserve is to commit to moving on
"Make a clear intention to not see your ex for a minimum of 90 days," says Dr. Brown. "Doing this will send them the message that this really is over and will give you some time to grieve and lick your wounds. This would be the minimum amount of time." It's hard, but it works. You should also aim to take any personal items that will remind you of them and put them away in a box somewhere. You don't need to burn their photos, just don't look at the box for a few months.
Dr. Brown also recommends making a list of all the things that weren't working for you in a relationship, as well as unfollowing them on social media. "You don’t necessarily have to unfriend them on FB, but it will likely be helpful if you no longer follow them on FB, Instagram, Snapchat, and any other SM you both belong to," he explains.
And finally, don't contact them! Try your best to resist this slippery slope. Breaking up is one of the hardest things you'll have to do, but in the long run, you'll be so glad you finally did it. And if you're not? If it's meant to be? It will be. Promise.
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