With the new year approaching (new year, better me), you may be assessing your long-term relationship, and what you find could leave you wondering if it’s time for the B word: a breakup. Ending a relationship sucks. There is no way to get around that feeling. But is reframing a breakup a valuable tool in the grieving process? When we say reframe, we mean taking a page out of actress and producer Tia Mowry’s book.
During a recent interview on TODAY with Hoda & Jenna, Mowry, who announced her breakup from husband Cory Hardrict after 14 years of marriage, offered what many are citing as a positively refreshing view on the ending of her relationship, calling it a graduation.
“I look at it as like a curriculum when you’re in college or high school,” she tells the two hosts. “You’re learning. You’re growing. You’re evolving. You’re creating. I was able to create with Cory some beautiful, amazing children. At the end of that curriculum, there’s a graduation. There’s a celebration. So that’s basically how I’m looking at it now.”
She also shared there was a moment when she knew it was time to make a change. But how do you know when a relationship is really over?
Well, it’s not just as simple as having conflict in your relationship as Dr. Antionette Edmonds, a licensed therapist and mental health influencer on TikTok boosting 164,000 followers, tells ESSENCE, “Conflict is almost inevitable in relationships.”
She says, “conflict and disagreements are also healthy. It’s ultimately one way to learn more about your partner’s wants and needs and how to improve to be a better version of yourself in your relationship. However, if the conflict and disagreement reoccur, it may be time to revisit what’s the underlying cause.”
With that little tidbit, we’ll dive deeper into the indicators it’s time to exit a relationship.
The Spark is Blown Out
There is quite a bit of competing info swirling around the internet and social media about whether a spark is necessary for a relationship to thrive. However, in discerning whether or not one is over, theburnout of a sparkcould be a vital tell-tell sign. “The first sign that your relationship is over indeed is when the spark is gone,” Dr. Tiara Watford, LCSW, BCTMH, therapist, and founder of Inspired to Grow, tells us
“Many people tend to ignore this sign due to having hopes and desires that the relationship can be saved,” Watford shares. But when you, for example, no longer enjoy spending your free time engaging with your partner and aren’t getting a dopamine boost from their texts and calls, that’s not a good cue. “Other signs that may indicate that your relationship is over is when you start to have interest in other people,” she notes. “That shows that you’re no longer interested.”
Communication Just Isn’t There
The saying communication is key isn’t a cliché. It’s the absolute truth. And here’s why. “As a licensed therapist who works with couples, I see a few emerging themes when working with couples on the brink of a breakup,” Edmonds shares. The top two themes: are a lack of emotional connection and a communication breakdown. She says these grievances are often expressed with statements like, “I feel like we are growing apart or something feels off.”
“Other clues that may appear when the relationship is over are when the relationship is becoming more harmful and not enjoyable. Or if you find yourself in a place where you can’t be honest with your partner.” She also says when a partner starts to exclude from happenings in their life or isn’t showing any interest, it’s time to reassess the relationship.
The Trust is Gone
Trust is another nonnegotiable relationship pillar; we’re not just discussing infidelity. “As a couples therapist, I’ve witnessed couples recover from a lot of things, including infidelity, financial issues, and life transitions,” Edmonds shares. But she says one thing separates couples that make it from those who don’t:their commitment and trust in one another and the relationship. “I tell clients that it’s easier to be with someone you trust versus someone you love because you can always love the person you trust, but you can’t always trust the person you love.” Whoa. Felt that.
She also notes getting curious and asking yourself questions are essential. There are many ways to breach trust in a relationship, not just infidelity. Can you feel safe with your partner? Do they respect your boundaries? “These are just examples of the importance of trust in a relationship because trust means different things to people in relationships.”
You’re Staying Only Because You’re Afraid to Start Over
Have you ever stayed in a relationship long past its expiration date because you were afraid to start over? You’re not alone. “People stay in relationships that are over to avoid dealing with the acute pain when, in actuality, not ending the relationship is far more harmful to both individuals,” says Edmonds. And if you’re in a relationship with external factors like financial ties and children, she says ending things is much more layered. But, she says to ask yourself: If those external factors didn’t exist, would you still choose to leave?” If the answer is “yes,” it’s time to go.
“Pain is inevitable, but the feeling is temporary,” she tells us. “Accepting the relationship is over can sometimes be the most challenging part. But you must process, prepare for it, and then take the necessary steps to end the relationship. I tell couples that if they know their relationship is ending, but both avoid ending things, try counseling together,” she continues.
Now, she says counseling isn’t necessarily going to fix the relationship, but it offers a safe environment for both people to process and gracefully part ways. “Ending a need for a relationship doesn’t necessarily have to be this daunting task when done amicably.”
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