Wondering whether your relationship is meant to last or a thing of the past? Your boyfriend may once have been the cheese to your macaroni, but just like rom-coms and Diablo Cody’s 15 minutes of fame, relationships come to an end. Unfortunately, no textbook, mother, or Google search can predict the future or tell you what your heart desires, but there are some tell-tale signs of when it’s time to move on. That’s why Her Campus is here to help you decide whether your relationship has run its course. Check out the following reasons to end your relationship (or not)!
End it if you know you’re over it.
If your relationship excites you as much as dairy sales at Kroger, it’s probably no longer a worthwhile investment of your time or emotional energy. “I had been dating a guy for just about two years when it hit me that we really weren’t in a relationship anymore; we were just kind of stuck,” says Paige, a collegiette from Clemson University. While Paige enjoyed the relationship and remembers it fondly, she chose to focus on being young and to “not stay in a mediocre relationship just because there might not necessarily be anything wrong with it.” Here are just a few signs your relationship is stuck, too.
- The wee bit of energy it takes to text him feels like an overwhelming burden.
- You cancelled a date to read your Organic Chemistry textbook… for fun.
- Even original dates don’t feel fun or exciting anymore.
- Your conversations consist only of small talk, “guess what… chicken butt,” and dead silence.
- His last gift to you was half a case of day-old Natty Light.
Don’t recognize any of the above signs? In the off chance that your life isn’t an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, try to start your deliberation with careful introspection. “When you’re first wondering whether you should end the relationship, your own voice should be your guiding intuition,” says Christine Hart, founder of YourDateCoach.com and a dating expert whose widely respected insight has appeared in Elle and Reader’s Digest. “Listen to yourself first, because your friends’ stories will become compounded with your own feelings.”
Unless you’re a Zen Buddhist with years of experience seeking enlightenment, you might be wondering how exactly to go about looking inward. “The first thing you want to ask yourself is, ‘When I’m with him, do I feel good about myself? Am I happy or am I pretending to be satisfied?’” Hart calls these your initial “research questions,” which should help you organize your thoughts.
…but try communicating first.
Say introspection reveals something concerning — that you aren’t too happy with your relationship, after all. Don’t be so quick to assume that the situation is unsalvageable. “Ask yourself, ‘Is this [a concern] I’ve communicated to him? Have I already asked him to not text while we’re out on a date? Do I just feel this way because his study partner is a beautiful red head?’ These are all things you can talk to him about,” says Hart. She emphasizes the importance of communication in a successful relationship. “While you’re wondering when he stopped acting like Prince Charming, he may very well think there’s nothing going on,” she says.
Be careful how you go about expressing yourself, though. Hart advises not to “set an ultimatum,” but instead to voice your concerns in a kind, calm, and graceful way.
End it if he’s changed in a significant way.
First impressions are powerful, but they’re often flawed, too. “At the very end of last year, I started something with a guy in my dorm,” says Lauren* from Northwestern University. “I couldn’t wait to see him again in the fall, but when we got back to school, I realized I didn’t feel the same way I had just before the summer.”
If you find out that your guy believes in the geocentric model or has served time for a felony, it may be time to reconsider your commitment. “I was totally into the person I had been texting all summer, but in person, he just couldn’t express himself the same way,” adds Lauren, who is happy with her decision to end the relationship, despite her previously high hopes.
On a more serious note, if you notice that his behavior has become alarming or offensive, think about whether your relationship is healthy and respectful. “If he’s still playing the ‘I don’t text or call girls first’ card and you’re already in a relationship, dump him,” advises Caroline*, a student at Wake Forest University. Playing it cool is one thing, but if you often feel neglected or feel that you’re in an abusive relationship of any kind, do not hesitate to cut ties and move on. There are over three billion other men on this planet, so there’s no reason to waste time with a dud.
…but don’t hold him to impossible standards.
If you’re generally pleased with your relationship, don’t end it with the sole intention of finding the perfect guy or courting Ryan Gosling.
“Being attracted to other people, either physically or emotionally, is going to happen even in the best of relationships,” says Lesli Doares, a licensed marriage and family therapist with over a decade of experience in couples counseling. Doares acknowledges that those feelings can be problematic: “If you are constantly comparing your partner or relationship to others, with yours coming up short, you may be ready to move on,” she says. Nevertheless, “if you are really comfortable in the relationship, you won’t need excuses or convincing to stay.”
Likewise, remember to be flexible and forgiving. Chivalry isn’t dead, but boys are mere mortals. Regardless of how much you hated high school physics, try to channel Isaac Newton and react according to the magnitude of the problem; little mistakes — like showing up ten minutes late or giving your dad a less-than-firm handshake — are not that big a deal.
End it if you’re incompatible.
If he is determined to spend most of his time in college playing Skyrim and you find video games intolerable, you may wonder how well you two really get along. Jen*, a Tufts University collegiette, followed the opposites-attract principle until she found herself wondering whether her relationship could transcend major differences in personality. “Although we got along well, it was hard to see our relationship moving past where it was because we were so different,” she says. “If he’s so different from you that [the relationship] is causing you more frustration than happiness, and you find yourself trying to change him to make it work, it might not be worth it.”
Gauging your compatibility as a couple might be more difficult in the context of college life, when you’re constantly surrounded by mutual friends, a shared campus, and a similar schedule. Don’t be fooled by such commonalities: “You need to be checked into reality,” says Hart, which means recognizing a scenario where “your relationship only works within the context of mutual friends and your immediate surroundings, while alone the two of you don’t click.”
…but not just because your interests aren’t identical.
Let’s say he’s a burger-loving Miley Cyrus fan and you’re a vegan who has a respectable taste in music.
Just kidding! Unfortunately for music connoisseurs everywhere, the above scenario is entirely kosher — it’s perfectly okay to lead different lives and have different tastes than your boyfriend. So refrain from over-thinking the level of your compatibility. “Stop yourself from getting wrapped up in the requirement that you have similar interests,” says Hart. “Girls can get caught up in the idea of ‘meant to be’: both our parents’ names are Jane and Bob — it’s meant to be! We bought the same blanket from Target — it’s meant to be! It gets sort of ridiculous.” Instead, she advises girls to appreciate real grounds of compatibility, even if that eventually leads you to discover someone better for you.
The same principles apply to simple disagreements. Constant bickering has its place on family road trips and high-pitched episodes of Gilmore Girls — not your relationship — but don’t take one disagreement too seriously. Arguing is a normal part of any kind of close relationship. The Huffington Post reports that research on married couples points to regular arguing as a characteristic of healthy relationship as opposed to a floundering one. So don’t call it quits for that reason alone.
End it if you don’t want the same things for the future.
Someday, fortune-telling crystal balls will become a fact of life and not fairytales, but in the meantime, it’s up to you to determine whether a future with this guy makes sense. Think carefully about how you want to spend the next few months or even years, lest you end up like Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore looking constipated in public together during their messy break-up.
“What it comes down to is, what is your dating purpose?” says Hart. The difference between enjoying each other’s company and striving for a long-term commitment is significant — yet another reason why communication matters immensely.
Annabelle, a fourth year student at the University of Nottingham, recalls the decline of her first serious relationship after she realized how divergent their paths were. “It got to the point where I had to ask myself: can I see a future with him? Unfortunately, the answer was no,” she says. That isn’t to say you should exclude him from your life altogether. Annabelle and her ex-boyfriend have maintained a friendship, one that she says she genuinely enjoys. “We meet up twice a year to get dinner and catch up. There are no feelings there anymore, but I still really care about him so I definitely want to continue keeping in touch,” she adds.
…but not because your 10-year plans don’t line up perfectly.
No, that is not a contradiction. As important as it is to assess your future together, you should only focus on the similarities and differences that are relevant. If you think you want to adopt seven orphans and he doesn’t want kids at all, have no fear. After all, that’s a ways away. “I’ve considered ending mine but haven’t,” says Rachel*, a junior at James Madison University, of her relationship. “It’s a long-distance relationship so it’s a bit tough. He is three years older than me and ready for more serious things, like marriage, that he brings up a lot and that scare me. I really like him, but I think there’s so many signs that we aren’t going to be together forever.”
So when are plans so dissimilar that you should give up? If you think your relationship can survive the stresses of being apart, for example, then keeping it alive is worth a try.
Even if the circumstances aren’t perfectly aligned, remember that long distance relationships are doable. Here are the basics of a functional relationship under any sort of strain, distance or otherwise.
- Understand the circumstances. Ask yourself, why are you in this relationship? It’s important to keep the reasons you spend time together in mind. “Even if you’re enjoying your time together and you know the time is going to end, that’s okay,” says Hart, but it may help to ask yourself, “What do I want out of this?”
- Make sure you’re on the same page. If there exists some constant source of tension — like he’s leaving soon or he’s already far away — “you have to reach a point in the relationship where you don’t need to talk about it again,” says Hart. “If you’re constantly talking about it, then your relationship is about him leaving,” which is ultimately an unhealthy one.
- Trust each other. Don’t like how his Facebook is littered with pictures of girls in stupidly revealing Halloween costumes? Feeling uneasy about his level of commitment is a sign that a key ingredient of success is missing, namely confidence in each other. “Trust needs to be established before you’re in separate cities,” stresses Hart.
- Demonstrate commitment. On the subject of commitment, make sure you are ready to put in the extra time and effort it takes to maintain a relationship. “You can strengthen the relationship [from a distance],” says Hart. She points to couples who make time to see each other every other weekend, for example, or set a regular Skype date.
- Know why you’re together. “If you find that you’re meeting new people and the relationship is holding you back,” says Hart, it may be time to reassess your relationship and its purpose in your life.
So you’ve decided to end it. Now what?
As the song goes, breaking up is hard to do — but there is a right way to do it. “Schedule a time at your place or his place and have a time limit on the conversation,” says Hart. “Commit to a goal: at the end of this conversation, nobody is in gray area. Say, ‘I want us to come to a place where mutually agree that this is not going to work.’ And commit to peace — to keep things healthy.”
What does that mean for your future interactions? “If your purpose is to be friends, that’s okay,” says Hart, but she advises setting healthy terms of separation. “You need to have healthy reasons. Hide their updates on Facebook if you need to, so they aren’t in your face all the time.”
Finally, be confident in your decision. It’s normal to miss your relationship, but try not to whine as much as John Mayer. That’s time you could spend enjoying the single life or finding someone even better.
So you’re sticking with him. Now what?
You may be sick of listening to his band play crappy alternative rock or drinking Keystone with his fraternity brothers, but there are ways to pull yourself and your relationship out of a rut. Hart’s biggest piece of advice is — ta-da! — to date again.
Wait, aren’t you already dating? Apparently, not the right way: “The best way to revive the spark is to really date again — to court each other,” she says. “You need to feel like you’re getting back to the things you did when you first met, a particular restaurant or a particular activity. Get out again. You have to sort of rediscover each other.”
Break up your daily routine by spending some time apart or thinking of new dates to try. The fact that you don’t pee a little from excitement every time he asks you to hang out doesn’t mean your relationship can’t be happy and successful.
And don’t worry too much.
Dating is a learning experience, so whether or not your relationship recovers, don’t lament time wasted in a rut. “A relationship that ends should not be considered a failure because there is always something positive you can take away — even if it’s knowing what you don’t want,” says Doares. “If you learn more about yourself and what you need in a relationship, you will move closer to a lasting relationship that is loving and supportive.” The best approach is to be honest with yourself and not to worry. So what if he’s not the cheese to your macaroni? Maybe you’re just a peanut butter and jelly kind of girl.
Have your own stories about holding on or letting go? Share in the comments section below!
*Names have been changed.