Most of the time, when a relationship ends (even if the relationship ended badly), we still hold out a little hope that one day, we can give things a second shot. We daydream about the good times, gloss over the bad — and when the opportunity arises to give the relationship another try, we're often eager to make a go of it, even though we know deep down that it’s a bad idea. And then, before we know it, our worst worries are realized — nothing has changed, the relationship is plagued by the same problems it always had, and we're stuck in the vicious cycle of an on-again, off-again relationship.
The problems with on-again, off-again dating go beyond the drama they add to your life: these kind of relationships take a huge emotional toll on us. Unstable relationships are psychologically damaging for both partners. And a study by Kansas State University found that people in yo-yo relationships with partners that they repeatedly broke up and got back together with have lower satisfaction and bad communication; both partners were also more likely suffer from low self-esteem, higher uncertainty about their futures, and were more prone to behavior that will negatively affect themselves and the relationship.
Basically, nothing good can come of getting back together. You and your ex are not the exception to the rule. You're not Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel; you are, at best, Miley and Liam Hemsworth. You have to end the cycle.
It may be hard to figure out how to put a stop this yo-yo drama, but it can be done. Here are 11 ways to finally break the cycle and stay broken up.
1. Unfriend Them On Facebook
Although unfriending your ex should have been your first step right after you broke up, I can understand the urge to hang on to a piece of your shared past. But the problem with staying "friends" is that you leave yourself open to engage with your ex. Things can quickly escalate from your ex liking a photo, to posting a comment, engaging you in a bit of Facebook banter; then, before you know it, you're messaging each other, and agreeing to get a drink. Facebook friendship is the gateway drug to getting back together. Get it out of your life.
2. Unfollow Them On Twitter
Much like Facebook friendship, following each other on Twitter opens up the door to, say, bonding over a cute puppy photo you posted, or a link to a song you really love. Then, before you know it, you're tweeting at each other about, "remember that time..." while your Twitter friends watch in horror. Unfollow.
3. Avoid Romanticizing The Past
It's sooo easy to cling to an idealized version of the past where everything is wonderful and dreamy, and the misery that caused your break up isn't even part of the picture. But you can't do that. You need to remember the messy stuff that followed, the words that were said, and the behavior that forced the relationship to end, or you'll never break free from it. Keep a list of the reasons you actually broke up, to keep you tethered to reality.
4. Block Their Phone Number
It may seem like a great idea to keep their number, because, well, you're hoping they'll call and say, "I'm sorry. Let's work this out." But you can't center your life around waiting for that call. Holding on to their number doesn't just allow the cycle of engagement to continue — it may also prevent you from moving on, and maybe even meeting someone new.
If you just delete their number, you may start picking up any unknown caller that comes in, in hopes that it is them — so make sure to block.
5. Stop Going To Places Where You Know They’ll Be
I once dated a guy who, after taking me to his favorite bar, made me promise that if we ended things, I'd respect that the bar was his "safe zone" and never go there. It sounded both silly and fair, but I didn't realize just how important an agreement like that would be until I went to my favorite bar and ran into my ex.
While you can't prevent an ex from showing up on your turf, if you avoid their favorite spots, you can at least lessen the chances that you'll bump into each other and get to talking.
6. Ignore All Their Emails
Definitely easier said than done (and even if you do set their email to spam, at least one will always sneak through at some point). Try to add an email filter to your Gmail account to sort out their emails — because all it takes is one "how're you doing" email, and you're sucked back in to it all.
7. Don’t Talk About Them With Mutual Friends
It's really unfair to put your friends in the middle of your break up, but sometimes, it feels like you just can't help but ask what your ex is up to or how they're doing. If this mutual friend says they're dying inside without you, your first instinct might be to reach out and console them, and set the cycle into motion again. So don't ask. And instruct your friends to not tell you, even if you ask. They're your friends, they'll understand.
8. ... Or Take Time Off From Friends You Have In Common
If you're finding not talking about your ex while around your mutual friends impossible, you may want to take a temporary sabbatical from hanging out with them. This isn't a permanent thing, and if you explain to your friends that you just don't want to open to any possible doors to communication, they'll understand. Your friends might feel relieved, honestly — taking time apart will keep them from feeling pressure to choose sides.
9. Try Not To Compare New People To Your Ex
Once you're back in the dating game, try not to draw comparisons between the people you're currently seeing and your ex. So maybe your ex was a better kisser or funnier; if you spend your dating life fixating on your ex's personal qualities, you're subconsciously pushing yourself back in their direction, running the risk of another reunion.
Try to evaluate new people you meet on their own merit, not on how they stand compared to your ex. You'll have more fun, feel less stressed, and realize that this new person will be good at some things that your ex could never do, too.
10. Stop Thinking That You Can Still ‘Fix’ The Relationship
People break up for a reason. In the days and weeks that follow your break up, you might think that you can sort through the problems that plagued your relationship, and give it another go with greater awareness of these issues. But if this is your third or fourth time at the rodeo, you've already tried. What else can you do now? Deluding yourself into thinking you can repair something that's so clearly broken will only drive you mad.
11. Realize That You Deserve Better
Yo-yo relationships are indicative of a problem inherent in the relationship. Either you or your partner are lukewarm about the whole thing, or it's just not meant to be. Yes, there is something comforting about going back to what's familiar, especially if you still have feelings. But you deserve someone who's in it to win it.
If someone doesn't love you with everything they have or you don't love them with everything you have, then there's no point trying over and over again. Giving it another go won't make you commit to each other more deeply, or love each other more. It's only when you realize just how much you truly deserve that you can stop accepting inferior relationships, and cut and run for good.