If you've got that one friend who seems to exists in a perpetual tug of war between breaking up with her partner and getting back together with them, know that there is some science behind why on/off relationships are so common.
Think back to your last break-up.Even if you were the one who called it off, did you have mixed feelings toward your partner near the end?
If that rings true, you're not alone. In fact a series of studies recently published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science shows that nearly half of people feel ambivalent before a split.
To reach those conclusions, first, researchers from the University of Utah and University of Toronto asked people in a relationship for the reasons they wanted to stay or leave.
Many people reported they wanted to stick it out with their partner because of their investment in the relationship, family duties, or hope that the relationship will improve or the partner will change. 66% of people (making it the most common response) also said they wanted to stay because they felt close to their partner.
On the other side of the coin, among people who wanted to call it quits, most said it was because of frequent fighting or a violation of trust. In fact, as many as 47% of respondents said deceptiveness or unfaithfulness was the reason they were weighing a split.
But what really stood out about the results is, among those who were thinking about breaking up or getting a divorce, the study concluded that 49% of participants had mixed feelings and were thus conflicted about hitting the road or staying put. This ambivalence was especially strong among those who considered themselves codependent.
'Having mixed feelings about a breakup is so common,' says Jane Greer, Ph.D., New York-based relationship expert and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship. 'Even though there are things that are not working in the relationship that can be upsetting, there are also a lot of positive things that people love about the person and will miss. It’s always very difficult to be certain that ending it is the right step.'
Problems also pop up after you make your decision. If you leave, you may feel doubt, which can make it tough to move past the relationship. Hence, why, as the study authors note, research shows that the breakup is often harder on the person doing it. Ambivalence also explains why it’s so common to get back together, breakup again, and repeat.
And while having mixed emotions is a natural part of ending a relationship, says Greer, she recommends focusing on how you feel your life will improve once it’s over.
'Consider how you will go about replacing what you fear losing in the relationship. Fill the void with new activities and experiences,' she recommends.
If you’re unsure, there are some definite signs that it’s time to cut ties, like you’re fighting all the time or are coming up with ways to be busy and avoid the other person, says Greer.
And if you’re worried about what it’s going to feel like on the other side of a breakup, purging them of your social media, planning fun activities, and yes, even eventually getting on free dating apps will help lessen the blow.
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