Illustrated by Jihyang Lim

How To Know When Your Relationship Is Really Over

It’s me, not you

Relationships are work. They're wonderfully blissful and irritatingly stubborn because humans are wonderfully blissful and irritatingly stubborn. Simply put, relationships are complex because humans are. Like all things worth having in life, they take work. They take communication, humility, and vulnerability; trust is an absolute. Change is inevitable, though, and everything falls apart at some point. Like Justin Bobby said, truth and time tells all.

When a relationship starts becoming a chore, reevaluation is key. "Relationships should bring out your best, and you should want to be there," Andrea Syrtash, relationship expert and author of He’s Just Not Your Type (And That’s a Good Thing), says. "The signs that a relationship is over is if you are finding every excuse to avoid speaking to or spending time with your partner." If you're feeling unbalanced in any way, too, can be a sign it's done. Yes, relationships take work but it, according to Syrtash, shouldn't be work trying figure out whether you're invested in your partner. Moments of unhappiness are normal and expected, but the time to raise a white flag is when you realize your time is better spent somewhere else. Syrtash says her litmus test for a healthy relationship is simple: "Ask yourself [whether] you generally feel better or worse after spending time with [your S.O.]." The next steps following a "yes" or a "no" answer are pretty clear: talk about it.

If the answer is no, know that talking about it sooner is better than later. It's unfair to string your partner along if you aren't feeling it. "Unlike many things in a relationship," Syrtash says, "breakups can be unilateral decisions." One way to approach the talk is to be truthful but not assassinate your partner's character. That's a proactive way of breaking things off rather than a reactive way, which can be read as condemnation. Syrtash suggests saying something like, "I don't feel we're bringing out each other's best," or 'It feels like we're on different pages in terms of what we're looking for." There's room there to ask clarification questions, but not for your ex to mull over the sugar-coated, passive verbiage used in a breakup.

Now, what about the whole "if you love someone, let them go" idiom? It's cheesy and also hopeful at the same time. It's an optimistic way to look at a relationship's end; it says, "I care about you enough to know that if this goes on any longer, it's going to hurt you and I don't want that to happen." Syrtash does see some truth in that idea because it is about fairness, but she cautions against using it as a test or a "game to see how committed [you or your partner] are." It questions the foundation of trust and respect that either exists or has changed in a way that doesn't vibe with you now. A relationship is over when that foundation is no longer able to support what it takes to support you, your well-being and your partner's. It's a terribly liberating realization filled with guilt and remorse, but there's also the thrill of clarity. Most importantly, though, it's normal. Respect yourself by checking in with yourself. Then, make the next move to course correct... que sera, sera.