34 Questions To Ask Yourself When You're Deciding Whether Or Not To Break Up With Your Significant Other

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You meet someone, you date for some time, and then for whatever reason, you make the realization that this person is not right for you. But for some reason, even with that realization, leaving them is far from easy. Why is it so hard to end a relationship you feel isn't working for you? It's a question I know I've asked myself several times before, and I'm sure many others have as well. Because of that, a new study from the University of Utah has given us reasons behind why deciding to end a relationship is so ridiculously hard.

In the research, published in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science, researchers conducted a series of studies. In the first one, a survey was given to people in relationships. Some were married, some were dating, and some were even in the middle of deciding whether or not they should break up with their partner. They were were a series of open-ended questions on specific reasons behind wanting to stay and wanting to end a relationship. As they discovered, there are about 27 basic reasons for wanting to stay in a relationship and 23 reasons for wanting to leave it. After, they converted those reasons into another survey, in which they gave to another group of people who were specifically debating whether they should stay or go.

Why People Choose To Stay Or Go

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For those who were on the fence about ending things in the second study, there were three reasons why they decided to eventually stay: 1) emotional intimacy, 2) investment, and 3) a sense of obligation.

As Anita A. Chlipala, LMFT, author of First Comes Us: The Busy Couple's Guide to Lasting Love, tells Bustle, from her work as a marriage and family therapist, many couples on the brink of divorce realize that sometimes it boils down to realizing that you haven't tried everything you can to make it work. "It's tough for me to say there's one factor that determines whether a couple sticks or splits, but frequently, couples really do see how much they didn't know to make a relationship work," Chlipala says. "But when they see where they're both accountable for the state of their relationship (versus having thought it was their partner's fault or thinking things would be better with someone else), then that can really make a difference."

It shouldn't come as a surprise, but at the top of the "leave" list were: issues with a partner's personality, breach of trust, and partner withdrawal. Overall, people who were just dating stayed due to positive reasons (i.e. they liked their partner's personality) while married people chose to stay for obvious reasons (i.e. family responsibilities, investment in the relationship, etc.) .

The Psychology Behind Why It's So Hard To Decide

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Making the decision to break up isn't easy, and researchers found that nearly half of people had good reasons to both stay and go. For the most part, people felt super ambivalent about their relationships even if the decision seems pretty obvious. According to the lead author, psychology professor Samantha Joel, most people have standards and dealbreakers that often go out the window when they meet someone. And, from an evolutionary perspective, our ancestors probably believed it was most important to find a partner than finding the right one.

"People have great difficulty ending relationships for several fundamental reasons," Dr. John Mayer, Clinical Psychologist at Doctor On Demand ,tells Bustle. According to Mayer, those reasons all center around the idea that many times, we don't equate ending a relationship with real loss. That's a major problem because it technically is a major loss.

"You are dealing with loss and you need to apply coping mechanisms to help you resolve this," he says. "There needs to be a resolution or closure to the ending just like when someone dies in your life. But, as opposed to a death, where you have no control over that closure of ‘being with the person,’ the loss of a relationship has many doors that can remain open which are traps toward giving a relationship a successful ending."

34 Questions To Ask Yourself If You're On The Fence About Ending Things

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Breaking up is obviously never easy. According to Chlipala, Mayer, Pasko, Rosalind Sedacca, CLC, dating and relationship coach, Davida Rappaport, spiritual counselor and dating expert, Suzanne Casamento, founder of Fantasy Dating, and Stef Safran, matchmaker and dating expert, these are 34 questions you should ask yourself if you're having difficulty deciding what to do:

  1. Have I been feeling unsafe, intimidated or threatened in this relationship?
  2. Have I been criticized, degraded or disrespected on a consistent basis?
  3. Have I been regularly interrogated about who I talk to, where I go, how much money I spend and related issues?
  4. Have I been walking on eggshells because I’m fearful or uncomfortable speaking my mind in this one-sided relationship?
  5. Does my partner always blame me or others for their problems or things that go wrong?
  6. Is my partner excessively possessive, calling or texting constantly, visiting expectantly to check up on me?
  7. Am I feeling “sucked in” to this relationship and can’t come up for air?
  8. Does my partner make me feel inadequate?
  9. How am I helping the other person grow in their life?
  10. How can I end this relationship without leaving doors open?
  11. What did I learn from this relationship?
  12. How did we grow from this relationship?
  13. How is this ending going to improve my life? The other person’s life?
  14. Does my partner keep their word or promises?
  15. Does my partner take responsibility?
  16. Do I want them holding my hand on my death bed?
  17. Can my partner become financially responsible?
  18. Does this person make me happy or would I be happier by myself?
  19. Have I asked for my needs to be met directly and respectfully or have I assumed my partner can take a hint?
  20. Am I expecting my partner to be the only one who changes or have I cleaned up my side of the street?
  21. What's the true motivation behind ending a relationship?
  22. What am I missing?
  23. Do I want to break things off because I don't want to move forward with them?
  24. Am I interested in starting something with someone else?
  25. Am I being fair to them or am I stringing them along?
  26. Will this decision make me feel better about myself? 
  27. Am I running away from facing my deep fears?
  28. Do we have the same values and goals for the future?
  29. Am I just super pissed off right now or do I want to breakup for real?
  30. Does this person bring me joy?
  31. Will I regret this five years from now?
  32. Have I tried everything?
  33. Am I ready to walk-away or am I going to end it and get back together?
  34. Can I handle being single?

"It'll always get a little bit worse before it gets better," Karolina Pasko, Registered Psychotherapist and Celebrity Coach tells Bustle. "In relationships, we often face a mental wall when it seems like nothing will take us out from misery. But those who find the courage to look beyond the self-centered pain are the ones who learn from their relationships. Additionally, our love lives should contribute to our happiness, not replace it. When we end a relationship because it's no longer filling the void, that is only ours to heal. It's a sign to reflect back on why we're using relationships as a band-aid or external validation."

At the end of the day, no one can decide what you should do about your relationship but you. But if you really take the time to think it over, you'll make the right decision for you.