5 Reasons Breaking Up Might Be the Right Call After All
Whether finishing a school year, a TV show getting cancelled, leaving a job, or the breakup of a romantic relationship, processing big changes and coming to terms with the new reality can be a challenge.
It’s no surprise that breakups in particular are often gut-wrenchingly painful in the moment, leaving many to ruminate over their exes for months, years or even decades after it happens. But even with its negative connotations, breaking up can be considered a good thing. It can free you from an unhappy situation, open up new avenues of possibility for you, and can even help you get on better terms with the person you’d been unhappily dating.
In order to better understand the powerful potential to the silver linings of breakups, AskMen spoke with three dating experts. Here’s what they had to say:
Why Breaking Up With Your Partner Can Actually Be a Great Thing
Getting Peace of Mind
“Sometimes relationships can be unhealthy and cause our mental health to suffer,” says Jor-El Caraballo, a relationship therapist and co-creator of Viva Wellness. “When that’s the case, a breakup is a really healthy option. Peace of mind is an incredibly positive feeling!”
Jess O’Reilly, Ph.D., host of the @SexWithDrJess Podcast, notes that you can see a serious “elevation in mood, energy, and attitude” once you leave a relationship that was more taxing than anything else.
“You may experience a renewed sense of freedom,” she says, “but it’s important to note that the path to happiness may not be linear, as it’s also natural to grieve after a breakup — even if you initiated it and/or are happy with the decision to split.”
Figuring Out Who You Are
As all relationships involve some compromise, it’s easy to lose sight of who you genuinely are during the transition into one half of a couple. A breakup can undo some of that process in a big way, though, providing an opportunity to explore who you really are for the first time since you were last single.
“Research published in the ‘Journal of Personality and Social Psychology’ shows that people in committed relationships view themselves as an extension of their partner, intertwining each other’s traits and identities,” says Tatyannah King, sex coach for the Blex app. “So, after a breakup you view yourself as an individual again and focus on enhancing your life.”
Caraballo also notes that “if you feel that you’ve struggled with co-dependence or devoting enough time to yourself and your own needs, breaking up can give you more space to explore and reconnect with yourself before entering into another relationship.”
Figuring Out What You Want
Sometimes, spending a lot of time in a relationship not only means losing sight of who we really are, but of what we want in a romantic sense.
“Breakups give you the chance to re-evaluate what you want out of a relationship,” says King. “It’s like a completely clean slate. You have a greater understanding of what you like and dislike in a partner, what you need in bed, how you want your future with your ideal mate to look, etc. Even the messiest of breakups can ultimately be viewed as an eye-opening learning experience.”
Becoming Romantically/Sexually Exploratory
After the ending of a relationship that’s dragged on to the point of being unpleasant, it’s natural to experience a period of increased exploration when it comes to trying new things in a sexual or dating context.
“There’s nothing like gaining a fresh sense of self-confidence and self-awareness after pulling yourself out of a breakup slump,” says King, describing what she calls the “post-breakup glow.”
“You may decide to change up your personal appearance or engage more with people you may have secretly had your eye on for a while when you were in a relationship. Either way, you’re back on the market and not stressed out from a relationship that has clearly run its course.”
Strengthening Your Other Bonds
It’s true that being lonely can be an extremely emotionally taxing state, but not having a primary romantic partner doesn’t mean your days have to be spent in solitude. Being newly single typically comes with a boost in your free time, making this is a perfect opportunity to get in touch with people you treasure platonically but haven’t seen enough of lately.
“We still have a wealth of research suggesting that social support is positively correlated with life satisfaction, so relationships matter, but they don’t necessarily have to be intimate or romantic,” says O’Reilly. “Focusing on cultivating and enriching the relationships we have — with friends, family, neighbors — may be just as important as prioritizing intimate relationships. We can find love and fulfilment in community, not just in romantic connections.”
5 Signs Breaking Up Right Now Is Necessary
For all the good a breakup can bring, that doesn’t mean pulling the trigger on an otherwise happy or salvageable relationship with a few flaws is always the best course of action.
RELATED: The Signs You’re About To Break Up
Below, you’ll find five signs as ones that you might find more happiness by ending things than by trying to stick it out.
1. If It’s an Abusive Relationship
Caraballo notes that you should move on “if you are unsafe or if there is abuse in the relationship.”
While that doesn’t just indicate physical violence, that’s certainly one way a relationship can be abusive. Rather, abuse is when one partner has some form of power over the other and uses it in order to hurt and control them.
If your partner’s engaging in gaslighting or other forms of psychological manipulation and you feel completely overwhelmed, broken down or isolated by your partner’s behavior, that’s a sign that you should get out immediately.
2. If Your Partner Doesn’t Respect Your Wants and Needs
Although not as serious as an abusive partner, “if you continuously feel like your partner minimizes or dismisses your needs,” as Caraballo puts it, you’re in a relationship that is unlikely to make you genuinely happy.
Whatever else this person is bringing to the table, relationships are about communication and care, and someone who doesn’t care about what you want or need is seriously failing to meet the standards of what a good and healthy relationship should be.
3. If You Don’t Care About the Relationship/Your Partner
On the flip side, it’s possible that the partner who’s tapped out or not willing to give an effort is you. If so, that’s probably a good sign that it’s time to end things.
“If you care about the quality and longevity of a relationship, you need to work on issues and attempt to resolve conflicts,” says O’Reilly. “Though you can’t solve every problem and some people are less inclined to engage in emotional and/or vulnerable conversations, a decline in willingness to discuss relationship issues may be a sign that you’re considering a breakup.”
Though it may make you and/or your partner sadder in the short term, if you’re genuinely not invested, sticking around will only delay the inevitable.
“Do you notice that you’re having more fun when your significant other isn’t around?” asks King. “Do you feel relieved at the thought of being away with them even if it’s for a short period of time? If so, then you aren’t mentally invested in the relationship anymore, which is an ideal reason to cut ties.”
4. If Your Values and Priorities Don’t Align
“Another sign that a breakup might be a good thing to do is when you notice that your values and priorities don’t align anymore,” says King. “Everyone has a set of values and priorities that they hold dear to them — whether it be freedom, a specific political ideology, religion, relationship style, etc.”
If you find yourselves regularly getting into disagreements or simply unable to agree on big things like what you want out of life, where the relationship is headed, where you want to live in five years, which political party to vote for and so on, that might be a sign that you’re not meant to be.
“Though every relationship requires it’s fair share of compromise, sometimes there are aspects of your life that are too substantial to differ on, and too many major compromises in these areas can cause resentment and bitterness in the future,” she adds.
5. If You Don’t Like “Relationship You”
Some people, when faced with a partner who’s not right for them, rather than breaking up or asserting their desires, simply capitulate to their partner’s desires in order to reduce conflict. This may work in the short term, but over time, it can leave you feeling like you’re faking things and acting out a version of yourself that isn’t genuine in order to please your partner.
“If you don’t feel good about yourself within the context of the relationship, you may want to consider whether or not it is worth preserving,” says O’Reilly. “For example, do you feel excited, happy, at ease and confidence when you’re at work, with friends, with family, but not with your partner? Have you thought about why this might be the case? Have you talked to them about your needs, desires and boundaries?”
“There are no sure fire signs that you should break up,” she notes, but you shouldn’t “allow the longevity of a relationship to be your only reason for staying.”
Breakups often hit hard, and the negative feelings that stem from them are valid. Recognizing the positive aspects of breakups isn’t an attempt to shame you for experiencing them; rather, it’s an attempt to gently remind you that it’s not all bleak and that beauty, healing and growth can come from difficult moments.
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