Considering A Breakup? 5 Cases Where You Might Want To Stick It Out
Relationships are built on highs and lows, but sometimes wading in rocky waters can feel a lot like sinking toward rock bottom. Sometimes signals get crossed; a resolvable issue gets confused for a reason to call it quits, prompting the question first raised by The Clash: "Should I stay, or should I go?"
If you're in the midst of a tense or unhappy time in your relationship, it's important to recognize breaking up isn't the only the answer. In fact, dating expert and vice president of Dating.com Maria Sullivan tells mbg that people in relationships often magnify existing problems to be more than they really are. But rather than initiating a breakup, taking a pause and re-evaluating where these feelings of animosity stem from can shed light on the deeper issue, which, Sullivan says, is often repairable.
"When [you or] your partner starts to turn a small issue into a huge blown-out fight, it is best to take a step back and try to figure out what the root of the problem is," Sullivan explains, adding that this is just another reason "strong communication skills are important in a relationship."
Unsure whether you and your partner should call it quits? We reached out to experts in the space to explain which situations are irresolvable and which are simply normal bumps in the trajectory of a typical relationship. Rest assured that if any of the following scenarios sound familiar, it's likely the mountain you're facing is really a molehill, and the two of you can work it out—that is, only if you want to and if you're both willing to do the work.
1. You've stopped making time for one another.
They say timing is everything, but just because either you or your partner has a lot going on outside of your relationship doesn't mean there isn't time for the relationship. Sanam Hafeez, a neuropsychologist based in New York City and a faculty member at Columbia University, tells mbg that while couples frequently complain about not having enough time to spend on the relationship, it isn't necessarily cause for a breakup.
Hafeez explains that when people become frustrated in their relationship because one or both parties have a lot to do or a lot going on, oftentimes they will "escalate this feeling of frustration into a sentiment that it is not the right time for the relationship." However, the key is to identify the root of your frustration, Hafeez says. In other words, if someone is genuinely unhappy in the relationship and is choosing not to spend time with the other person, then the issue isn't time; it's that feelings have changed. If you're upset because you are in love with the person and want the opportunity to explore and grow your relationship, that's something you can work on together.
As long as love or affection is still present, being open with your significant other about your feelings and asking them about how they have been feeling in return is the first step to bettering the situation. Hafeez says the time conundrum can "become a catalyst for you to revamp your relationship by more thoughtfully planning your time together."
2. You're bored.
At the beginning of a relationship, everything is new and exciting; you're meticulously planning your outfits, planning intricate dates, and the butterflies are knocking against the walls of your stomach. Inevitably, though, the honeymoon phase ends. "It becomes clear that your partner is not perfect, you are not perfect, and you have made a commitment that you will have to stick to," Hafeez tells mbg. You fall into a comfortable routine, and the rosy filter that once veiled your relationship gets pulled back. But that just signifies the end of the honeymoon phase, not the relationship as a whole.
"There can come a time when the routine becomes monotonous for one party, and it can feel as if the relationship has run its course," Hafeez tells mbg. But if there's still passion, attraction, and/or affection in your relationship, then the solution isn't to necessarily break up, Hafeez explains; it's figuring out how to address lack of excitement and doing so ASAP.
"Your boredom may not be a result of your dynamic with your significant other," Hafeez says. "It can be a result of a plateau in the creativity with which you date." Ask yourself how you, as a couple, can step outside of that comfort zone once in a while. What are some activities you can do together that will be different, entertaining, that will help you grow together and get back a little bit of that spark?
3. You're not having sex.
It's normal for couples to experience lulls in intimacy. Unfortunately, real life isn't an episode of Sex & the City, and things aren't always going to be candlelit and adorned with rose petals the way romance novelists would have us believe.
If either the thought of having sex with your partner repulses you or you or your partner are doling out rude rejections or are just blatantly avoiding sex, it's possible the intimacy of the relationship has run its course. However, it's more likely that there's an external factor that's causing your sex drive to drop—things like stress, hormones, age, physical conditioning, and sickness all factor in, Hafeez tells mbg.
Keep in mind that intimacy is "emotional, tactile, and comforting," Hafeez said. Sex is a physical act of intimacy, but sex and intimacy are not mutually exclusive.
"If even without sex, you and your partner feel the desire to cuddle up all the time, touch each other, share kisses and I love yous, then the issue with the sex drive may be external to the connection between you two," Hafeez explains. The key is to have a discussion, laying out how each of you has been feeling both psychologically and physically, in order to identify why one or both of you aren't in the mood so often.
4. You're having trouble communicating with one another.
Sullivan tells mbg that every individual has their own communication style; some people are more vocal while others are more conservative. You don't have to share a communication style with your partner in order to have a successful relationship, she says, but you do have to be mindful of any differences.
For example, let's say you have a very blunt communication style; you say exactly and whatever is on your mind, without pausing to filter and be mindful of your words. If your partner is sensitive and more reserved in how they communicate, Sullivan says it's important to "make sure you take your partner's feelings into consideration when telling them how you feel so that you avoid upsetting them."
That being said, it's normal for couples to go through patches of miscommunication; this isn't necessarily reason to break up, but it does raise a red flag that a conversation needs to be had to sort out the issue.
"People often view [a lack of communication] in a relationship as a reason to break up because they aren't willing to change how they communicate or they don't believe that you can work to change your communication styles," Sullivan tells mbg. "If you see this happening, try setting aside time to talk to your partner about what you need from them—and ask them the same question. Armed with this information, it's easier to determine how to best move forward and communicate in a way that works for both of you."
5. You or your partner needs space.
Space isn't always a precursor to a breakup; sometimes it's just an indication that either you or your partner need a little breathing room. After all, becoming a unit can be overwhelming; it can transform your life, and that can require an adjustment period for some people. Rather than internalizing your partner's or your own need for space as a sign of rejection, Clarissa Silva, a behavioral scientist, relationship coach, and the creator of Your Happiness Hypothesis Method, suggests thinking of it as "a period of evaluation" for the sake of mental wellness.
"Usually, the non-space-requiring partner is blindsided by their partner's request for space," Silva tells mbg. "Since they are blindsided, they will also question what else they missed in the relationship, and breaking up is one of the first reactions." But it doesn't have to be.
The immediate jump toward breakup is often rooted in anxiety and misunderstanding, so the solution, Silva says, is to define what "space" really means to the partner requesting it. "Some of the most common reasons people need space are personality needs, overstressed by demands of work or school, or feeling overwhelmed by their emotions," she explains. Once you're able to identify the issue, the next step is to create a mutual plan of action and to respect that plan and how your partner chooses to cope through it.
However, if "space" indicates the desire to date other people instead of you or cut all ties of communication entirely, this is cause for concern. If you can't get on the same page and approach giving each other space in a loving way that tends to both people's needs, then that might be a sign that a breakup is necessary.
Do the work.
Unfortunately, relationships don't come with instructions. There rarely are one-size-fits-all solutions to the most common of issues, but if you and your partner genuinely love and care for one another, then keeping an open line of communication, addressing the issues as they come up, and exploring potential solutions can make the difficult moments more tolerable.
The bottom line is this: Most, if not all, problems are fixable, as long as you both are committed to putting in the effort to work through them.
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