Sex & Relationships

7 Signs Your Breakup Was The Right Choice

“Feel[ing] regret does not mean it was the wrong choice,” says a relationship expert.

Relationship experts weigh in on whether your breakup was the right decision.
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Was anyone else relieved when Ross and Rachel were on a break? Want to bang their head against a wall when Carrie left Paris to reunite with Big? And don’t get me started on the bizarre romanticizing of Joe and Beck on Netflix’s psychological thriller You. It might be a hard pill to swallow, but sometimes couples are just better apart. It’s easier to identify a romantic mismatch on screen than in real life, and rom-com plot lines practically necessitate late-stage pining and regrets. But the idea holds off camera. That doesn’t make it easy, but separation is often the right decision for couples.

"Whenever you break up with someone, there will always be a feeling of regret," says counselor Sophia Reed. "At some point, you did care about that person, and even if the breakup was the right decision, you can still feel bad about it because of the way the relationship turned out [or for] having hurt the person. But feel[ing] regret does not mean it was the wrong choice."

In fact, a 2017 study at the University of Virginia found that many twenty-somethings who experienced a breakup reported positive and far-reaching outcomes. People reported “feeling more self-confident, independent, stronger, and more emotionally stable.” Obviously it can take a while before those long-term benefits begin to surface. So until then, Bustle asked relationship experts for help identifying signs that breaking up was the right call.

1

You Gave It Your All

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As much as you wanted the relationship to work, you did all you could. This isn't giving up. It's admitting that things are not meant to be. "You tried and tried again to create a shift in the relationship dynamics. No matter what effort you applied, the end result remained the same,” says Susan Winter, a New York relationship expert. “You were left with a suboptimal relationship."

In this situation, don’t be hard on yourself. Throwing in the towel could actually be an act of self care. Researchers recommend journaling as a way to process the end of a relationship, a method that’s been found to increase positive emotions.

2

You Lost Yourself To The Partnership

Contrary to Hollywood’s messaging, you shouldn’t give yourself up for love. Healthy long-term relationships require both people to boost each other, while also continuing to grow as individuals. "Maybe you lost a part of your identity," says Anita A. Chlipala, a Chicago-based marriage and family therapist. Every relationship requires meeting in the middle, she says, but when we give up too much of ourselves — our identity, what we stand for, or our beliefs — that's a problem.

3

There Was Too Much Betrayal

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"If someone you are dating or involved in a long-term relationship with has betrayed you in a way that you cannot get past — cheating, lying, addiction — then it is time to end the relationship for your own emotional health," says relationship writer Lori Bizzoco. "Remember, ending a relationship with someone is a personal decision, and only you know what is healthy or unhealthy for you."

4

You Had Toxic Communication Patterns

"Healthy, positive communication is as essential to a relationship as clean air is to our bodies," says Carla Marie Manly, a psychologist and psychotherapist. "In cases where toxic communication has made things go awry, couples can work on healthy communication skills through couples therapy [and then] make a daily practice of using the skills learned."

If you or your partner weren’t able to communicate well, that’s a relationship red flag. How are you supposed to spend the majority of your time with someone you can’t even openly talk to? In fact, a 2007 study at the University of Illinois studied couples’ communication patterns. They found that sometimes the meaning someone was conveying came secondary to the benefits of simply practicing communication. “​​Beyond the content of the messages exchanged, emotional connection occurs during the bid and response of communication,” the study concluded. Just the action of talking in a meaningful way builds a bond, and things simply cannot continue without it.

5

You Were Sacrificing Too Much

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Although every relationship requires compromise, there's only so much compromise someone can give before realizing they're depleting themselves in the process. As the saying goes, "You shouldn't have to set yourself on fire to keep others warm." "[If], in the relationship, you would have done anything to make your partner happy and make the relationship work, including conceding on things that are important to you, [that's a sign],” Chlipala says.

6

Your Partner Was Unwilling To Change

Having an inflexible partner can occasionally be a good thing, but not always. "Sometimes we have a partner who's willing, but not able to change," Winter says. "Other times we have a partner who's able, but unwilling to change. Either way, you're stuck with an unworkable situation, whether it [has to do with] anger issues, substance issues, or emotional issues."

And remember, relationships are a two-way street with two players. In fact, a 2017 study at the University of Auckland found that “cooperative communication involving affection and validation can be harmful when serious problems need to changed.”

7

You Were Together For The Wrong Reasons

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People stay in relationships for many reasons. One in particular is a red flag: "Fear of being alone and not finding anyone else is valid, but not a reason to stay in a relationship,” Chlipala says. Look, we all know singledom can have its tough moments, and loneliness is on the rise in the United States. But don’t settle for anything less than a fulfilling, equal partnership.

Experts:

Sophia Reed, Ph.D., counselor

Susan Winter, relationship expert and author

Anita A. Chlipala, LMFT, marriage and family therapist and founder of Relationship Reality 312

Lori Bizzoco, relationship writer

Carla Marie Manly, psychologist and psychotherapist