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December 11, 2014

How & When to Get Off the Relationship Carousel.

vintage couple illustration

When I was a teenager and young adult, there were always those couples who would break up and then get back together in a few weeks or months.

One memorable pair seemed to have their break-ups and make-ups timed with the seasons: at the beginning, they would part ways and by fall semester, they would get back together.

While it’s easy to laugh at such things and dismiss them as silly, youthful things, the truth is, there are a lot of people well past young adulthood that fall into this trap. In some cases, they may even move out of a shared home and separate only to come together again and again.

While it’s not up to anyone other than ourselves and the person we are with to decide whether or not we should continue to break up and make up, there is a feeling amongst many that we simply can’t quit someone. There may also be a fear of co-dependency.

(Having spoken to people who were in this situation and finally left it, the biggest regret that came up time and again was that it took them so long to finally walk away.)

Therefore, when we fear that we are on the relationship carousel and are seriously questioning if should get off or climb back aboard, here are a few things to keep in mind or ask ourselves:

1. What were the reasons for ending things in the past?

Full confession: I was once in a relationship that was so on and off again, I couldn’t remember off the top of my head why we specifically broke up the 2nd time or the 5th. Luckily, I kept a journal and could see that it was always variations of the same thing: namely, my then-boyfriend’s fear of commitment.

If the reason is always the same, that can be a telling sign. Usually, it is a sign that things are unlikely to change or at least not without a lot of work and (sometimes) professional help.

2. What draws me back to this person and the situation?

No one wants to ever confess it may be something as mundane as great sex, but let’s face it: a lot of people go back to their former boyfriends and girlfriends for that and many other far more mundane reasons.

In the case of married couples or those who co-habitat, there may be a financial element as well.

Now is not the time to be politically correct. Sometimes it is necessary to face certain truths no matter how uncomfortable they may be.

If for instance, there is a financial reason and we feel we cannot make it on our own without our partner or someone waiting in the wings, it might lead us to seek professional help to see where these issues are coming from and how to move past them. Perhaps then, we can make clearer choices, not only for where we want to go in our relationships but in life in general.

As my late grandmother once said, sometimes you have to be uncomfortable for a while to get to a place that finally feels good.

3. Where would I be without this relationship?

By “where,” I mean emotionally as well as physically.

For instance, does it trigger homeless or loneliness fears? Perhaps we feel that without this relationship, we could pursue some sort of dream we’ve had on hold for awhile. (For example, a friend of mine ended a nearly 20 year relationship that had been stale for a while and finally made her dream of moving out to the Southwest a reality.)

It may be a good idea to write these thoughts down.

Again, much like #2, it is important to be as honest as possible and include both the pluses and the minuses. It’s only by being completely honest, can we ever hope to get off the relationship carousel.

In closing, nearly all of us have been in one of these relationships at some time or another. Choosing to get off can be hard, but it can be done if we are honest and if we decide it is really in our best interest to move on.

Of course, if we choose to stay, that is ultimately our choice as well.

At the very least, we can use these tips to see what it is that keeps us keep getting back on.

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Author: Kimberly Lo

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: MCAD Library/Flickr

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