Sometimes, the realization that your relationship has run its course hits you all at once. But most of the time, the decision of
when to break up is a long and complex one. You have to weigh the potential regrets you'll have after leaving against the pain you'll face by staying, and it's hard to know what either will look like.
According to Rhonda Milrad, LCSW, relationship therapist and founder of online relationship community
Relationup, it's better to end a relationship sooner than later. "You need to give yourself time to mourn the relationship and be ready and available for another door to open," she tells Bustle. "Staying in the relationship delays you from moving on. Once you decide that this relationship is not forever, you will stop caring and begin to shut down. Your attitude will change from 'how do we make this better' to 'I just don’t care anymore.'"
But that's easier said than done when you're in love with and deeply invested in somebody. If you're thinking your time in your relationship is limited but aren't sure when to cut the cord, these stories of how 17 women knew it was time to break up might help you decide.
1 B., 37
"We were together for four years, but there was no way I could ever imagine myself wanting to marry him or be together post-college. I was also already cheating on him, so in retrospect, it was more of a relationship of convenience."
2 T.J., 25
"It felt like a drain on the both of us to be together, and whereas we used to enjoy one another's company, I could tell that neither of us were very fulfilled. I was left feeling more insecure about our relationship when I saw him versus when I did not."
3 Lynn, 39
"We were young, and it just felt like the relationship had been stagnant for years. We had been dating long distance for a few years, and it just seemed like there would never be a central meeting place for my boyfriend and I. Eventually, we went our separate ways after five years."
4 Lauren, 35
"I was so unhappy. I blamed my job, my finances, my in-laws, etc... and then I started thinking about my husband and why he didn't make me happy. Then I started thinking about what life would look like with out him. and that looked pretty appealing."
5 Molly, 28
"I had painful oral surgery and texted asking my unemployed boyfriend to bring over some ice cream, and he replied, 'Not right now.' He came over six hours later after his CrossFit class. Honestly, it was two months overdue at that point."
6 Genevieve, 36
"He’d always had anger issues, but it was in a car. I had to make him talk out the latest thing he was stewing about, which happened to be while he was driving, and this man, who was an intensely safe driver (to the point of driving 5 mph under the speed limit at all times) suddenly started to get road rage and his speed climbed to over 15 mph over the limit on a single lane merging overpass on the freeway. I was sure I was going to die. When we got home and he parked the car, I said, 'I don’t know when you got granted permission to take all your rage out on me, but if it takes breaking up to un-grant it, then that’s what we’re doing.'”
7 Jill, 43
"I dreamt that my partner's side of the bed was empty and in his place was a cactus that was dying of thirst."
8 Dot, 37
"He would not stop smoking in the house, even though it gives me asthma attacks."
9 Anna, 39
"I got tired of making excuses for his behavior. Like most failed relationships, I stuck it out a few months longer than necessary 'just to be sure.' Then, when the things he said no longer burned but made me want to give him a big eff you, it was easier to walk away."
10 Ashley, 23
"I knew it was time when I wasn't getting anything I needed. My grandmother died, and my ex basically disappeared. We talked maybe once a week, if that. It was hard enough being long-distance, and she was increasingly becoming distant, but that took the cake for me."
11 Carolyn, 32
"After years of abuse and tumult, I finally decided to end it when he looked at me and told me 'I know I can do whatever I want to you and you’ll never leave.' That’s when I knew I had to get my self-respect back and go."
12 Liz, 30
"The thought of him bored me. When I imagined our wedding, I also imagined our impending divorce!"
13 Andrea, 38
"After two years, I finally believed him when he said he wasn't good enough for me."
14 Sade, 28
"I was the only one putting in effort, so I just stopped reaching out, and when he finally did reach out, I ignored him and pretty much ghosted."
15 Patty, 37
"I met someone else who made me realize I deserved so much better."
16 JN, 28
"When I was happier on the days I spent without him. And when someone else kissed me, I did not resist it, and it was the best feeling I'd had in years. I broke up with my then current boyfriend the next day."
17 Julia, 35
"I had just gotten into a fight with my boyfriend at the time and was really anxious and stressed, so my roommate packed a bowl for me, got me a burrito, some mango juice, and a pint of [ice cream] and put me in the bathtub. She blasted it with essential oils, lit candles, and told me I wasn't allowed to come out until the entire Adele album played through once. It was the first time I had given myself the space and permission to think about my relationship, and mid-burrito, I realized that I no longer wanted to be with him."
Sometimes, all it takes is a bit of reflection. Other times, it takes months of watching a relationship fall apart to know it's over. The good news is, none of these people seem to
regret their breakups, and they were able to move on.