Are You Delaying the Inevitable Breakup?
Some relationships just aren’t meant to last but you still struggle to let them go.
I’ve been in a few different relationships where I knew breaking up was inevitable and yet I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I knew we didn’t love each other anymore, or that they were treating me badly, and still I stayed.
It tends to be a pretty awful feeling, living in a relationship you know is over. You try to pretend to be happy, as if you don’t know the end is looming in the not-so-distant future, but it doesn’t work.
You’re wasting time, energy, and sometimes false hope on something you know just isn’t right. There might not even be anything bad. Your partner might be a great person, and the relationship itself isn’t bad. It’s just not right for you.
It’s not what you want.
But when we do this to ourselves, sometimes we’re good at convincing ourselves. We’re able to make that false hope so real that we persuade ourselves we just need to give it time, trudge through this rough patch and get to the other side.
So how do you know if you’re delaying an inevitable breakup? Try asking yourself the following questions.
Do you feel trapped in the relationship?
When we first get into a relationship, or when it’s a happy one, we feel content in the relationship. We’re proud to tell people we’re in a relationship, excited to see where it goes, and happy to take each next step in the relationship.
But when we’ve reached the point where the breakup is inevitable, we don’t feel that way anymore. We often feel trapped in the relationship. We feel like we’re being held prisoner, even if it’s only our own doing that we’re still there.
We feel suffocated. We might even feel restless or irritated.
We don’t want to be here, but we can’t be where we want to be until we end the relationship.
It might not start out as an overwhelming feeling either. It might begin as just a tiny niggle of a feeling, barely even noticeable or recognizable.
But over time, as the inevitable end gets closer, the feeling grows. It might grow slowly, or it might suddenly flame to life like a bonfire that’s had fuel thrown on it.
This feeling might also manifest itself as feeling dread when it’s time to see your partner, being relieved when you aren’t together, and not paying attention to (or even caring about) what they have to say or what’s happening in their life.
Do you avoid your partner?
In happy, healthy relationships with a future, we enjoy spending time with our partner. Whether it’s in person or by phone, we enjoy conversation with them. We also enjoy time and conversation with others.
But when your delaying an inevitable breakup, you no longer enjoy spending time with your partner. You dread it and will look for excuses to avoid them.
You’ll work late, make plans with friends, or find other reasons to not spend time with them.
When you have plans together, if you don’t find an excuse to cancel, you’ll be uncomfortable the entire time. You might make excuses to end the date early, claiming exhaustion or an errand you forgot you need to run immediately.
You’ll avoid big plans, such as weekends away or longer vacations. Even a day trip might feel like too much. And you’ll probably avoid riding in the same car so you can leave whenever you want.
You’ll let their calls go to voicemail and their texts sit without being read until you feel up to dealing with them.
Your libido might drop, but even if it doesn’t, you’ll likely find yourself avoiding sex with your partner. You’ll feel a reluctance to kiss or hug them or hold their hand. If you do any of these things, it may come across as very passive.
If you’re doing something as simple as sitting at home watching a movie together, you’ll sit at the other end of the couch. You might even scroll social media or text with friends to have an excuse to avoid physical contact and conversation with your partner.
How does saying “I love you” make you feel?
The first time you said “I love you” to your partner, you probably felt a bit nervous, maybe a little giddy and excited. It was a thrill. As the relationship continued and you grew more comfortable in it, saying those three little words felt comfortable, easy, right — kind of like that favorite old sweatshirt that’s soft and warm from years of use.
When your relationship has reached its end and the only thing left to do is break up, saying “I love you” no longer feels exciting or comfortable. It will often feel uncomfortable. It will feel like you’re lying.
And you might not be lying. You might still love the person in some ways — but you know it’s over, you know there’s no future, and so saying “I love you” in that way feels like a lie because you know that you don’t want to be with them.
You may even notice that you avoid saying the words. You might start saying something like, “Me too” or “Ditto” when they say it to you.
And pay attention to how you feel when they say it to you as well. It probably doesn’t make you feel warm, tender, special, and happy like it used to. It might annoy you, make you feel guilty, or merely inspire no feeling at all.
Can you see either of you with other people?
Take a second and close your eyes. Imagine yourself in a relationship with someone else. Or imagine your partner with someone else.
Picture dates with this other person. Imagine living with them, marrying them, having sex with them. See yourself or your partner doing all the things you currently do (or have done in the past) together with this new person.
How does it make you feel? Does it upset you? Does it make you feel relieved or even happy? Does it feel good to imagine one or both of you with other people?
Of course, if you already engage in open relationships, this may not be a good test. But for most people who practice monogamy, the idea of our partner with someone else is really disturbing if we still have feelings for them and hope for the relationship. The idea of us being with someone else is disturbing.
So if you can imagine one or even both of you with other people and it doesn’t upset you, that’s a clear sign the relationship has reached its end. If you feel relieved or even happy to think of one or both of you with new partners, that should tell you all you need to know. If you still loved this person and wanted to be with them, you wouldn’t feel relieved or happy to think of not being together.
Make sure you’re honest with yourself about how you feel too. Don’t convince yourself it bothers you if it doesn’t. But if it does bother you, don’t try to deny that. Explore how you truly feel and use that to determine what you want to do.
Make the break if you know it’s over
If you know it’s over, it’s time for a clean break. Postponing the inevitable isn’t going to change anything. It will only waste more time and energy.
It will also leave you both feeling even worse when the breakup does finally happen. The truth about how you’ve been feeling is more likely to come out the longer you wait to end things. And no one wants to be on the receiving end of that — and you don’t want to be responsible for inflicting that pain unnecessarily on someone else.
You know when it’s over. You know when there’s nothing left to save. You know when it’s time to move on.
As painful as ending it may be, you’ll both be happier in the long run. Cut that cord and set both of you free to find real happiness instead of trying to fake it.
You both deserve that.
Wendy Miller is a freelance relationship writer & meditation teacher. After years of settling for abusive and otherwise toxic relationships, she got fed up. Using meditation and other tools, she got to work on healing herself, setting boundaries, and only engaging in relationships (romantic and otherwise) that bring her joy. She wants to help other single parents find the love they seek, including and going beyond romantic love. She lives in Florida with her two sons, where she homeschools while solo parenting, while surrounded by what feels like a zooful of animals.
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