If Your Partner Is Doing This, They're About to Break Up With You
This is the "script" that narrates most breakups, according to research.
Research has shown that we tend to follow a script at the beginning of a courtship: we ask many of the same questions to get to know a potential partner in those early days of dating. But now, a new study reveals that breakups function in much the same way, by following certain steps to help us through what can be an emotionally messy process.
According to Psychology Today, researchers analyzed 1,480 survey responses to determine what exactly that cultural script of a breakup consists of. They found that most breakups tended to follow a cyclical pattern that could last for "weeks, months, or even years," revealing just how riddled with indecision most breakups can be. These cyclical elements caused many of the partners to act with what the researchers called "approach and avoidance behaviors." In other words, partners fluctuated between wanting to work things out, and revisiting the idea of separating.
While of course some relationships can turn on a dime after single conflict, most long-term relationships dissolve in stages. So, here it is: the 16-step script that most breakups follow. It may just reveal whether your own relationship is in its final act. And for more on breakups, check out The Real Reason Why Breakups Hurt So Much, According to Science.
Are you experiencing the normal ebb and flow of a relationship, or the beginning of the end? At this stage it's too early to tell. And for more on breakups, check out these 15 Celebrity Couple Breakups You're Probably Still Mourning.
Being attracted to someone other than your partner can be totally normal, but viewing them as a potential dating partner means things have escalated in a less healthy direction.
Whether the withdrawal is emotional or physical, this isn't a good sign. But there's still time to resolve things by talking it out and really hearing your partner's concerns.
This resolution stage is an honest attempt at getting things back on track. Unfortunately, it often comes with a heightened sense of scrutiny for whether things are working. And for more on connecting with your partner, check out these 12 Tips for Couples Who Have Become Long Distance in Quarantine.
Spending less time together when the relationship is strained could mean one of two things: that you need a break in order to return to a healthier dynamic, or that you are drifting irreversibly apart.
Obviously you want to avoid a screaming match, but at least if you're fighting, you're communicating. Disinterest, on the other hand, can permanently damage the relationship by shutting that communication down, and undermining confidence in the partnership.
This can be a pretty dark time, and one plagued by indecision. Whatever you decide, it's best to be clear, honest, and compassionate. And for more on breakup ambivalence, check out the 15 Worst Reasons to Delay a Breakup.
Voicing your breakup concerns could be exactly what you need to get things back on track. Or you might find that your grounds for breakup are legitimate, and you need to move on, apart. View this time as an opportunity to be as transparent and sincere as possible, so nothing is left unsaid (within reason).
Many couples find that all that openness and transparency is exactly the kick in the pants the relationship needed. Some people go off script here, and manage to reconnect while rebuilding their relationship better than before. Others continue on to step 10 and beyond.
If your relationship is on the rocks, now is not a time for that "innocent" flirtation.
At this stage, it's beginning to become clear that you and your partner are trapped in a cycle. Skepticism about the relationship can increasingly take hold if things don't change—and fast.
If you or your partner begins trying on new partnerships, things may be past a point of no return. Usually if you reach this stage, there are other deceits and secrets building up and eroding trust between you.
Maybe you love each other, or maybe you're just really used to each other and afraid of change. Maybe it's some heart-wrenching combination of the two! If you decide to go for one last Hail Mary to try to save the relationship, this is a time for some serious soul searching.
Indecision and the fear of making the wrong choice might just be the hardest part about breakups, but at some point, you've got to break the cycle one way or the other. Either you're in this relationship and fully committed to building it, or it's time to move on.
At this stage, one or both partners begin to deeply distance themselves within the relationship. Some things can't be saved, despite your best efforts.
Finally, the relationship reaches an end. You've tried everything, it seems, but it's just not working. All you can do now is try to see eye to eye about the reasons for the breakup and give yourselves the closure you need to heal. This is a tough time, but know that so many people have gone through this same exact process, and know your pain. And, if you've just gone through a rough breakup, soothe that broken heart with The 100 Best Breakup Songs of All Time.