9 Ways to Tell if Your Breakup Will Last

Breakups don't always stick. Will yours?

Posted Jan 02, 2017

Focus Pocus LTD / AdobeStock
Source: Focus Pocus LTD / AdobeStock

If breaking up were easy, getting back together would be less popular.

But everyone knows that breaking up is hard to do. Like the yolk and the white of an egg, even people in bad relationships tend to stay together as long as they can.

Here are nine factors that can influence your ability to break up and stay that way.

1. It doesn’t hurt … much.

If you’re extremely lucky, the pain of being without your partner feels better than the pain of being together. This is the biggest factor by far, since emotional pain seeks the quickest and easiest — not necessarily the best — solution.

After a breakup, there may be a sense of immediate relief. But since relationships are complicated, other feelings come up later. Grief, loss, and fear of being alone can make you second-guess your decision.

2. There’s physical distance.

If the breakup coincided with a move that will keep you apart physically, the breakup has a chance to “set.” You’re not likely to bump into each other, either on purpose or by accident, if you neither live nor work nearby.

On the other hand, seeing each other at work or in the neighborhood creates opportunities for second thoughts and impulsive reconciliation.

3. Your friends don’t like your ex.

It’s easier to stick to a breakup plan when you’ve got other people supporting you. Friends and family who don’t like your ex are your best defense against what you might call "relationship relapse."

4. There’s someone new in the picture.

Rebound relationships rarely work out. There’s no time to process feelings or learn from experience. But if you do have someone new to focus on and get some of your emotional needs met, it may be easier to stay away from your ex.

5. You’ve done "on-again, off-again" before.

This can go either way. But it’s possible you’ve learned from experience that a clean break is a goal worth striving for. Use the Good Breakup Guide and/or a trusted friend to help you make a plan, and stick to it.

6. You’re good at impulse-control.

If “self-restraint” is your middle name, you’re in great shape to effect a permanent breakup. That is, as long as you’re convinced that staying apart is what you want in the long run.

7. You tolerate negative emotions well.

Closely related to impulse control, the ability to tolerate emotions is an important tool in your breakup toolkit. The harder it is for you to sit with your pain, the more tempted you’ll be to kick things back into gear.

8. You have good boundaries.

If your ex seems to be suffering without you, are you able to stand by and do nothing to help? It can be excruciating to watch someone you care about suffer. But sometimes suffering is a necessary part of healing and growth. In that case, good boundaries protect both people from the wrong thing, done for the right reasons.

9. You weren’t together long.

Although it’s possible to become strongly attached to someone in a matter of months, the less time you were together, the less likely you are to fall victim to the sunk-cost fallacy. Even smart people fall for this: The more time, energy, or money you’ve already “sunk” into something that doesn’t work out, the harder it is to walk away. You don’t want to lose your “investment.”

If you’re in the middle of a breakup, go easy on yourself no matter what happens. Breaking up is hard for everybody, and it may take several tries before it sticks.