On-Again, Off-Again Relationships: How to Know When to Walk Away for Good

on and off relationshipsAh, yes, the on-again and off-again relationship. We’ve all been there, seen our friends there, or watched celebrity couples like Katy Perry and John Mayer tumble down that rocky road. Luckily, most of us don’t have to cross our fingers that our on-again relationships last as long as the weekly tabloid stories about them, but I’m willing to bet more than a few of you could benefit from advice about when to recognize a relationship isn’t worth revisiting.

It’s impossible to make a sweeping statement about whether or not getting back together with an ex is a good idea, but I urge you to pause before diving head first into an old relationship and consider my three tips on deciding when it’s time to walk away.

1. Assume an Outsider’s Perspective

Don’t completely tune out loved ones who voice concern over your return to an old relationship. You may reflexively get defensive, but their wariness of your decision to get back together comes from a genuine place.

If you don’t value your friends’ opinions, you should not only consider getting some new friends, but try to view the situation from a completely neutral outsider’s perspective and examine the cold, hard facts. Did he cheat on you? How does he treat you now? What has he DONE (not just said) to express his feelings about wanting to get back together? Also, remember the more times you’ve renewed the relationship in question, the more dubious those around you will be — and for good reason!

2. Eliminate the Comfort Factor

Comfort can be kryptonite when it comes to on-and-off relationships. Many of us have stayed in or returned to toxic relationships simply because they are familiar and preferable to being alone. As you consider your decision, make a list of reasons why you’re leaning towards reconciling. Then go through and cross off any that don’t relate to the person’s character, core values, compatibility, and how the situation has changed since last time. If your list mostly consists of things another, more compatible guy could provide you, it’s time to move on.

3. Evaluate Change Against the Original Cause

As easy as it can be to dwell on the warm, fuzzy bits of your relationship, it’s important to shift your focus to the reasons the relationship ended in the first place.

If the breakup was situational, how have circumstances changed to make your environment more amenable to another try? If you broke up because he wasn’t ready to seriously commit, how have his actions shown you his feelings have changed? If YOU were the cause of the breakup, it’s time to ask yourself some brutally honest questions and determine whether or not you’re truly ready to commit to this person again.

If you’ve read through all of these guidelines and still feel confident that a reconciliation with an ex would lead to a more fulfilling, well-loved life, then it is worth another shot. But if you make the difficult decision to move on for good, remember that though it may feel painful and lonely at first, it will ultimately clear your heart, head and schedule to make room for someone that will make you glad it didn’t work out with your ex!

Have you been in an on-again, off-again relationship? What did you learn from it?

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