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How to Approach an Office Romance (and How Not To)

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Lots of people meet their partners at work, and yet dating someone in the office is often frowned upon. Some companies even have explicit policies against it. So what if you and a colleague have been flirting and might want to explore a relationship? Should you steer clear? Should what’s right from a professional perspective override what’s best for your personal life?

What the Experts Say
There are perfectly good reasons why coworkers fall for one another, says Art Markman, a professor of psychology and marketing at the University of Texas at Austin. “You spend a tremendous amount of time at work and, if you put people in close proximity, working together, having open, vulnerable conversations, there’s a good chance there are going to be romantic relationships,” he says. Research shows that we also tend to fall for people who are similar to ourselves, says Amy Nicole Baker, an associate professor of psychology at University of New Haven and author of several papers on workplace romance. And “the more familiar you are with the person, the more likely it is that you’ll become attracted to one another,” she says. If you’ve become romantically interested in a colleague, proceed carefully. Here are some things to think about.

Know the risks
Before you act on your feelings, it’s important to think through the risks — and there are quite a few. Of course, there’s the chance that the relationship won’t work out and that there will be hurt feelings on one or both sides. There are also potential conflicts of interest. Markman references the dual relationship principle, an “ironclad rule” in psychotherapy that therapists cannot have any relationships with patients beyond their professional one. Obviously, the same rule doesn’t apply between coworkers — many people are close friends with colleagues, for example — but “having multiple relationships with someone creates potential conflicts of interest that can be hard to resolve,” he explains. If you’re dating your teammate, do you put the team’s or the individual’s interests first? There are also reputational risks. “Your professionalism may be called into question,” says Baker, “especially if people don’t see your motives for entering the relationship as positive.” Some colleagues may think you’re giving your romantic partner preferential treatment or vice versa. “Having a relationship with someone higher up in the organization can create an alternate explanation for why you’re succeeding,” says Markman.

Have the best intentions
If you’re aware of these risks and still want to move forward, research shows that your intentions matter. Your coworkers’ reactions will reflect what they believe your motives to be, says Baker. When they perceive you as having “ego motive” — seeking out the relationship to serve your own needs, whether it’s to get ahead in your company or for your own excitement — they will clearly think of you less favorably. On the other hand, “studies show that coworkers are generally positive if they perceive that you’re falling in love and genuinely care about each other,” she says. So, before you jump in, check your motives and consider how others will perceive them. Having positive intentions at the start may also help guard against hurt feelings and misunderstandings should the romance eventually end.

Know your company’s policies
Many companies prohibit employees from dating coworkers, vendors, customers, or suppliers, or require specific disclosures, so be sure to investigate before you start a relationship. “Follow the rules and try to understand the reasons they’re in place,” Baker says. “You ignore them at your peril.” If you’ve already violated a policy, she suggests you “come clean early” because “the longer you persist, the worse the consequences will be.” Markman says that he’s seen companies “lifting those regulations in recent years both because they’re hard to enforce and they haven’t changed behavior.” For him, this is a positive. “The rules need to recognize the reality of the world and, when it comes to workplace relationships, we want to teach people principles for making good, adult decisions, not to legislate through punishment.” Rules are also evolving because of the #MeToo movement. For example, at Facebook and Google, you can only ask a coworker out once, and if the person says no or gives you an ambiguous response (“Sorry, I’m busy”) you’re not allowed to ask again.

Stay away from your boss and your direct reports
No matter what your intentions are, it’s best not to date your managers or subordinates. “It is a bad idea to get involved with anybody who is in your chain of command — up or down,” says Markman. Baker agrees: ““We know from research that the outcomes aren’t as good; the perceptions are more negative.” That’s because this is where conflicts of interest are most stark. It’s hard to be objective when giving someone you’re dating a performance review, for example. And you don’t want people to think that you’re being unduly favored; it can erode your own confidence and hurt the team’s morale. Both experts acknowledge that boss-employee romances do happen — and sometimes those relationships work out. However, if that’s something you’d like to consider, they suggest you “take action immediately” to transfer to a new boss or reassign your direct report to another team.

Don’t hide it
Both Markman and Baker agree that it’s important to be open about the relationship with your coworkers and boss. This might be tough advice to follow, especially if you’re not sure where the relationship will go. “You don’t have to tell them after the first date,” says Markman, “but letting people know reduces the awkwardness” and increases the likelihood that they’ll be positive about the relationship. Besides, “if you don’t tell anybody, people will still figure it out,” he says. Baker adds that clandestine romances tend to have poorer outcomes and can be “corrosive” to other relationships. “Secrets tend to erode our trust in one another and, when the truth comes out, people are going to feel lied to,” she explains. Keep your disclosure simple and straightforward. You might say something like, “We went on a few dates, but I’m sure you can understand that I don’t want to get into more detail about our personal lives.”

Make sure that your manager is one of the first to be informed. If this feels unnecessary, put yourself in your manager’s shoes, Markman says. Wouldn’t you want to know that two people on your team, or a team member and a colleague from another group, were dating? Then “let your bosses make the call on how to staff you. They may prefer you not work together. By telling them, you’re allowing them to make informed decisions.” Whether or not to tell HR will depend on the company policy and on how much you trust your colleagues in the department to handle the situation. “If you have an HR department that’s good, you might want to have a record, especially if the relationship goes sour,” says Markman. “If your HR dept has a reputation for being all about checking boxes, don’t tell them.” There’s another important caveat: LGBTQ employees may not feel comfortable disclosing a relationship with a coworker, especially since you can still be fired in many states for being gay. “While many workplaces have become more diverse, they haven’t necessarily become more inclusive,” Markman says. “Many people may not feel comfortable talking about their relationships.”

Set boundaries
While you want people to know what’s going on, you don’t have to subject them to your relationship. Baker and her colleagues did research on flirting at work and found in two different studies that “People who frequently witness flirting… report feeling less satisfied in their jobs, and they feel less valued by their company. They’re more likely to give a negative appraisal of the work environment, and they may even consider leaving,” she says. She points out that these are correlations, not causations, but it’s a good argument for avoiding any public displays of affection and remaining professional at all times. “It makes life easier and less uncomfortable for the people around you,” she says. You also want to set up boundaries with your partner. “As unromantic as it may seem, you need to have an open conversation about how to talk about your relationship and how you’ll navigate the risks,” says Markman. We like to believe that “love takes precedent over other things — that’s why there are fewer prenuptial agreements than there should be” but you don’t want to “let work tensions spill into your relationship and vice versa.” Consider having rules about when and how you’ll talk about work — and your relationship — with one another.

If you break up
Of course, not every romance will work out and if you or your partner decide to end things, it’s best to be prepared. There’s no reason to mince words: “It’s going to be very painful,” says Baker, but “you still need to be open about the break up.” Markman agrees: ““If you’ve been telling people about the relationship, keep them updated on the fact that you’re no longer together.” And try to remain as professional as possible. “Anyone who’s ever been in a relationship has said something less than sympathetic about an ex,” says Markman, “but you have to be civil as if nothing ever went wrong and hope that the other person will do the same.” If you find it too awkward or painful to continue working alongside the person, you may need to consider leaving the job or at least transferring to another department. No matter how the relationship turns out, it’s worth following some of Baker’s most simple advice: “The less drama, the better.”

Principles to Remember

Do:

  • Know the many risks of getting involved with someone at work
  • Familiarize yourself with your company’s policies – and the rationale behind them
  • Talk through what you’ll do if the relationship doesn’t work out

Don’t:

  • Pursue a coworker if you’re not serious about a relationship
  • Date someone who you have a reporting relationship with
  • Try to hide the relationship from your manager or colleagues – it will only erode trust

Case Study #1: Always keep it professional
Heather Townsend and her colleague, Alex, were both working at one of the Big Four accounting firms when they became interested in one another. But they were hesitant about getting romantically involved. “We thought dating at work was faux pas. I wouldn’t even have more than one glass of wine with a coworker,” she says. Still, the attraction was there and, while they never openly flirted, they were “friendly” over instant messages.

After three months of uncertainty over where things were headed, Alex “finally said on instant message, ‘Do you want to go to dinner with me?’ and I said, ‘Yes.’” On their first date, they talked about how they would handle the situation in the office. “We were both very career-focused and agreed that we wanted to always keep it professional so that our careers wouldn’t be impacted.”

Heather told one friend at work that she was dating Alex, but they waited a few months before disclosing their status to HR. “While it got serious very quickly, we wanted to be sure,” she explains. Eventually, though, they were upfront with HR in part because they were at different levels of the organization and wanted to do it before any conflicts of interest arose. “We said something like, ‘We’re dedicated to the company and we don’t want this to affect our careers but we fell in love. What should we do?’” The HR managers responded positively. The couple worked with HR to make sure they wouldn’t be on the same project and that Alex, who was more senior than Heather, wouldn’t be responsible for her performance reviews or advocating for her promotions. “There was no way he could write an unbiased review,” she says.

Once they had that support, Heather told her boss and a few other colleagues. “That’s when the gossip started,” she says, “but we didn’t let it bother us. We kept working hard and rose above it.” Still, she was concerned about the potential impact on her reputation. “I didn’t want it to seem like I was doing well at the company because of who I was dating, and I didn’t want people to think I didn’t take my career seriously.” So, she and Alex made a conscious decision to treat each other like co-workers first and foremost whenever they were in the office. “I didn’t stop by his desk or kiss him on the cheek or have casual conversations. We would go out for coffee, but we always met by the elevator.”

Heather left the company about nine months into their relationship for unrelated reasons, and she and Alex wed several years later. While they no longer work together, they are still happily married.

Case Study #2: Why secrecy doesn’t work
When Becca Pierson (some names and details have been changed) worked at a large tech company, she was assigned to help a new employee, Meryl, onboard. After getting to know one another over several months, the two women started dating.

“We were on different teams, but we interacted regularly,” Becca explains. “Though I wasn’t her manager, I was more senior, which made me nervous. I thought it would look really bad to my team if they knew I was dating someone who was at the same level as them.”

They chose to keep their relationship a secret. “It was complicated because she wasn’t out of the closet,” Becca explains. “She’s from a country where being gay is essentially illegal.” Although the secrecy made “things more exciting in a way, more romantic and special,” it also caused a lot of anxiety. Becca couldn’t tell her friends — at work or outside it — what she was doing a lot of the time. “It was weird that no one knew the relationship existed. It felt like going back in the closet. I think when you’re hiding a work relationship — whether you’re gay or straight — it can feel that way.”

They dated for close to a year and were able to keep the secret that whole time. “I don’t think anyone ever knew,” she says. Becca feels like the secrecy ultimately broke them up. “I didn’t feel like it was a real relationship; it was almost like living a double life.” She even felt somewhat relieved when it ended. “I didn’t think I could do it for much longer. She wasn’t out to her family, and we couldn’t imagine how that would ever work.”

While Becca and Meryl remain friends, Becca says that the whole experience has made her want to steer clear from having another relationship at work.

Case Study #3: When it doesn’t work out
Jordan Lu (names and some details have been changed) fell for his coworker, Susan, after they’d been at the same investment bank for less than three months. “We hadn’t been working together that long. She’d joined the company before me.”

He felt like the romance didn’t present a conflict of interest because there wasn’t a reporting relationship between them. “Though I was technically senior to her in terms of hierarchy —she was an analyst and I was an associate — she did not report to me and I wasn’t involved in assigning her work, managing or evaluating her,” he explains. “We did sometimes work together as part of a big team but were never on the same team when we were dating.”

This was the first time Jordan had ever been involved romantically with someone at work and he says he was “extremely naïve” and didn’t consider the risks. “I don’t think either of us thought that far ahead to be honest. We sort of stumbled into the relationship.”

Since it was casual at first, they didn’t think to tell anyone. But when it got more serious they felt like it was too late. “It just seemed odd to raise at that point, several months in,” he says. “She was being considered for a promotion, so we didn’t want to potentially impact that process.” They each had a friend at work — someone Jordan had known for a while and Susan’s roommate — who knew about the relationship. “They were both people we trusted to a high degree.”

Eventually, however, the relationship fizzled and the pair broke up. “That was the most awkward part of it all,” Jason says. “We ended up having to work much more closely on different projects, and, though it was always polite between us, there was definitely an incredible amount of tension and simmering resentment,” he says. “While it was never apparent to others, it was not pleasant.” The situation contributed to his departure from the company. “It was so awkward, and I felt like we both needed space.”

You never talk about the future

It’s great to live in the moment, but if you don’t make plans for what’s next, your relationship could end up being short-term.

“Making future plans is a healthy ingredient for a growing relationship,” says Amy Levine, sex coach and founder of Ignite Your Pleasure. “It’s also an indicator of the commitment you have to each other.”

He’s told you that he’s not the marrying kind

This seem like an obvious barrier to a serious relationship, but many women ignore it when men say this, thinking they can change him. It’s time to start taking him at face value.

“Men repeatedly tell women they are simple beings,” says Levine. “If he shows you or tells you who he is, then believe him. It will save you a ton of time and energy. Wake up! You’re Mrs. Right Now, not the future Mrs. .”

You’re keeping other guys on the back burner

Don’t expect a commitment until you take the plunge and jump in with both feet!

“Having other men in the periphery is often an indication that you know the main guy isn’t the best match for you,” says Levine. “Or that you’re scared to take the leap of faith into intimacy.”

You have nothing in common except sex

If all you have in common is what happens between the sheets it may be hard to achieve the level of intimacy you really desire.

“Hot sex is more than satisfying and can give you a perpetual glow, but it’s not enough to make for a healthy balanced relationship,” says Levine.

You have lots in common, but no sex life

If you’re missing this one important ingredient in your relationship, it’s likely there will be no next level.

“You don’t need another friend or a future roommate,” says Levine. “A solid relationship usually encompasses a best friend and lover.”

You live together

If you’re already doing all the stuff that goes with married life without the formal commitment, there may be no motivation to move things to the next level.

“The old saying ‘why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?’ says a lot,” according to Levine. “Thinking of us as cows is degrading, but the overall meaning makes sense. Men are more likely to hold off from moving a relationship forward when they’re content and already getting what they want.”

His parents are divorced

Sometimes parents can give us a negative idea of what marriage is or instill a lack of trust in us through their actions. “Our relationship role models are often our blueprint,” says Levine. “It may be all he knows.”

If your man feels this way, it’s important to talk through his issues and help him understand that your relationship is something totally different.

None of his friends are married

If his pals aren’t in serious relationships, he may be less motivated to take the leap.

“If his friends all have a bachelor mentality, there is a good chance it can rub off on him, too,” says Levine. “Who we surround ourselves with often explains our behaviors.”

You’re both acting like you’re single

Even though you’re coupled you’re still staying out ’til all hours, hanging out with friends more than each. If you want a more serious relationship, you both need to approach the relationship with an “us” instead of “me” mentality.

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“If you’re enjoying other people’s company in groups more than the two of you being alone, you’re likely not content with what you have together,” says Levine.

You don’t make time for the relationship

If one or both of you is putting work, family or friends first, it’s time to get your priorities straight if you want stay together.

“If your relationship isn’t your priority, then your relationship is likely not being nourished, which can create resentment and distance,” says Levine.

You haven’t made your desires clear

If he doesn’t know how you really feel, he may not understand that moving things forward is important to you. So tell him!

“You should always make what you want clear from the very beginning,” says matchmaker Siggy Flicker. “You don’t want to waste your time and not be true to yourself. You shouldn’t stay with a man if you’re afraid of telling him what you need and want.”

You keep things casual

Because you’re afraid of scaring him off, you’ve given him the idea that you could take him or leave him. This relationship will go nowhere fast until you come clean.

“Being scared means that you are now giving that person too much credit and power that he doesn’t deserve,” says Flicker. “You have to lead with your true self from the very beginning and if he doesn’t like you for who you are, then tell them to go ‘to the left!’” (Shout out to Beyonce).

You’re settling

You know he’s not the one, but you’re keeping him around as a backup plan. But this is one plan that will never lead to a happy ending.

“This is an act of desperation that will only lead to depression,” says Flicker. “You are now setting yourself up to fail. I would rather be home with a green mask on my face than with a partner I had no chemistry with or desire to be with in life.”

You’ve skipped over traditional ‘steps’

If you’ve missed important milestones such as calling each other boyfriend/girlfriend or saying I love you, then you may be way off the path toward the next level of your relationship. Start making up for lost time now—even if it means going on your first date again!

There are many reasons couples skip over the traditional steps. Maybe you’re in a long distance relationship, or you got off to a whirlwind start and threw caution to the wind. In any case, missing these ‘checkpoints’ means you both lose the chance to assess the relationship and look at your partnership in a more serious light.

“Anything that happens too fast, ends just as fast,” says Flicker.

You haven’t traveled together

Traveling together forces you to navigate new territory and experience exciting and unfamiliar situations as a couple. It can be an essential step in really getting to know your partner.

“Traveling is the best form of therapy and when you travel with a partner you learn a lot about that person’s habits and character,” says Flicker. “Then you can make a decision on whether or not you can live with that person’s habits.” So get up and go somewhere—exotic destination not required.

You don’t have your own life

If you’re always waiting around for him, he has no incentive to get more serious. You don’t need to make him feel like he could lose you, but make sure he knows you have a life. “

You are a needy and that is a complete turnoff,” says Flicker. “A man loves confidence and a woman who is confident is a busy body always planning, attending and living life. If you are not confident then act ‘as if’ because at least that is more attractive than being available and needy!”

Your relationship exists online

It’s fine to meet your partner online, but if you don’t take the next step and meet IRL (in real life) taking another step forward will be even more unlikely to happen.

“Get out of your room, log off your computer and step outside—there’s a whole world out there!” says Flicker. “Meet real people and actually face them. Look into someone’s eyes and smile at him instead of at your computer screen.”

You haven’t brought him into your world

If you’ve shied away from introducing him to friends and family (or he hasn’t brought you around to his) you probably won’t be a part of each other’s futures.

“If you partner has not introduced you to his family and you have been dating for over 6 months, something is wrong,” says Flicker. “He’s not sure about the relationship and this would be the time to say ‘take the L outta lover—it’s over!'”

You avoid fights

If you never express your true feelings or discuss real issues, your relationship will forever be on that polite plane usually reserved for acquaintances.

“Fighting is essential and healthy in any relationship,” says Flicker. “If you are not fighting then you are not loving. Stop living in a glass bubble and actually feel some emotions because in the end it will only bring you both closer together. And if it doesn’t, then it was not meant to be!”

He’s not financially stable

If a man doesn’t have his act together it can be hard for you to commit to him or for him to feel comfortable bringing your deeper into his life. Have a frank discussion with yourself (and with him) to decide if you’re in it for the long haul.

“If he is not financially stable, it is going to be tough, but love conquers all, and no one promised us that life was going to be easy,” says Flicker. “All one needs is ambition, drive and determination. Money will follow. How much money? Ask the man above!”

A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.

8 Signs You’re “Going Nowhere”

There was a time in history when the word dating meant “courtship.”

It was the formal process by which one proved their merit for a committed partnership. Today, the word “dating” is the polite term for “sleeping with a person.” It doesn’t imply a future partnership, nor sexual exclusivity.

Many relationship-minded singles are finding themselves in the grey area of modern dating. To end the confusion, here are 8 signs you’re “Going Nowhere.”

1. He/she doesn’t make plans to secure your time:

You don’t know when you’ll see them or speak to them next. You feel like you’re the one doing all the “work.” Not making plans means this person likes you and enjoys your company. They’re attracted to you, but they aren’t intent on driving the relationship forward. Developing a committed relationship takes time, energy and an underlying desire for greater connection.

Your partner may be dating others, or have no desire to focus on ‘one person.’ They may be fuzzy on what they want. No matter the reason, they don’t have sufficient impetus to make you a priority in their life. This is a red flag.

Why is this happening? It’s not about you… it’s about them. This behavior isn’t a reflection of your worth. It’s the action and behavior of a person who’s still sampling the buffet table of life, and/or not ready or able to be serious with anyone.

2. You’re seeing a person from time to time and they make some plans, but nothing that would require effort on their part:

They’re are making some effort to see you from time to time, but not enough to offer any tangible signs of your increasing importance in their life. Effort means planning ahead; a trip together, a weekend away or any other special event for the two of you. This shows “relationship intent.”

There are some people who date “at their convenience.” This is the type of person who’ll ask you to come to see them, but rarely share equal responsibility to see you. They may give you an option for getting together on a certain night that’s not good for you. If you don’t agree, they won’t adjust their schedule or offer you an alternative plan. They don’t see you at all.

Dating you is all about their comfort and needs. Again, you’re doing all the work to keep the relationship going. Someone who behaves in this manner is lazy and self-centered. They’re not relationship material. They don’t compromise or consider your feelings.

3. Seeing them is either all about sex, or there is no sex:

These two extremes are important signs that something’s wrong. If your date is only seeing you for the purpose of sex, you’re just a “booty call.” They’ve got you trapped in a “box” and there’s little you can do to shift from that position. This is their intent and nothing more.

If there’s no romance on their part, they may see you as a “friend.” When attraction is romantic, there’s some form of touching, kissing or other physical expression. This is the way we show a person they’re more than a friend to us. Physical contact is the prelude to sexual contact. Don’t get stuck in the “friend zone.”

4. One, or both of you act like you are “single” in public:

Your partner acts as though they’re “not with you” when in a public setting. Or, you instinctively feel it’s “wrong” to show that you are together. This is a sign that you’ve been harnessed into a silent connection. You’re not “allowed” to let others know you’re dating.

When a person you’re dating doesn’t honor you in public, it’s clear where you stand with them. A partner who’s “into” you will proudly show you off as his or her date. There’s no difference between their private and public life. They think you’re special. They’re proud to be with you.

If you’re dating someone who doesn’t do this, get out. It’s disrespectful. You’re worth more than that. Though they may not be the type of person to recognize your worth, you must.

5. One, or both of you don’t make the relationship a priority:

Where a person spends their time and effort shows what they value. This can cut both ways. It’s easy to get into a dating cycle where you just spin your wheels. You see a person (maybe there’s sex involved) but they’re way down the list of what’s important in your life.

When you’re dating someone who puts everything else before you; job, friends, family… that’s not a good sign. You’re not a priority and you know it. You can’t force someone’s affection. But you do need to ask why you’d be willing to make time for someone who’s not making time for you. This trait rarely changes.

When a person values you they want to see you, be with you and make you feel good. They “make an effort.” Don’t make excuses for them. See it for what it is. Conversely, if you’re not making time for ‘them’ you also need to see it for what it is.

6. You haven’t met each other’s family and/or friends:

Loving relationships are all-inclusive. We can’t wait to have our partner meet our friends and family. And, they are introduced to ours. That’s because we truly want them fused into our life. We’ve included them in our innermost circle and they are truly special.

When that’s not the case, there is good reason. To keep a person separate from those closest to us is to keep them at a distance in our life. We don’t want them in our “inner circle.” Meeting your date’s friends and family is a testimony of your importance in their life. When you’ve done that, you’re in. If that’s being withheld from you… why are you’re willing to stick around?

7. You know little of their personal life:

When your partner isn’t with you, you’re not really sure what they’re doing, who they’re with, or how they spend their time. Personal information about the day-to-day events of their life is minimal. You may get a few tidbits, but not enough concrete information about who they are and what’s important to them.

The sharing of one’s past and present provides a closeness that creates intimacy. There is trust and openness. Personal stories of one’s life, history, issues and daily events are the things that allow us to know a person and feel connected to them. Sharing personal information is a way of letting another into our world.
When little is known of another, we cannot fully feel connected. We aren’t let into their private world. We’re trapped in a relationship that won’t allow us to advance.

8. There’s an inherent “no talk” rule regarding the relationship:

Though it may not be spoken in words, you instinctively know not to ask. There are boundaries around the discussion of your ‘relationship.’ You feel as though you don’t have the right to ask, “Where’s this going?” In part because you fear their answer and know your partner doesn’t want to have this discussion. You feel as though you’re “walking on eggshells.” Keeping quiet keeps the balance in a “going nowhere” relationship.

Speaking one’s truth is the formula for entering true partnership. To know what you want and how you want it is the process by which you create connection and authenticity.

People want different things at different times in their lives. Sometimes casual dating is desirable, and other times casual dating is only a temporary “band aide” for a person who’s seeking a meaningful relationship. Knowing what you want is the only way to know if what you now have, is what you really want.

5 Tough-But-True Warning Signs Of A Dead-End Relationship

Listen up: If you’re going nowhere fast, you need to know when to end it.

It’s frustrating to meet someone, and everything seems perfect … only to meet with a snag along the way.

Of course, no relationship is perfect, and you should expect a few stumbles along the way. But how do you know when it’s time to cut your losses and move on in the dating world?

Fortunately for you, there are clear signs you can look out for to know when it’s time to breakup.

1. He tells you he isn’t ready for a relationship.

Plain and simple. If he tells you he isn’t ready for a relationship, he is not challenging you to change his mind. Really, he isn’t. Maybe he’ll be ready for a relationship someday. Just not today.

It’s not your job to wait around for him and it certainly isn’t your job to prove to him that the two of you would be great together

It doesn’t matter how strong you feel or how much potential you think is there, continuing to pursue something that he himself doesn’t want and isn’t ready for is an exercise in futility.

2. He’s in a relationship with someone else.

If you’re seeing a guy who is still in a relationship with another woman, you should probably write him off. Until he actually leaves his girlfriend or wife and has the proper amount of time to emotionally get over the breakup, he isn’t ready for a new relationship with you.

He’s using you and stringing you along. Maybe he actually has no intention of ever leaving his current relationship. Maybe he does, but he’s just an indecisive person.

If he isn’t into you enough to give you a hard yes, then it’s not worth sticking around and giving him an indefinite amount of time to make up his mind. Cut your losses and move on.

3. He’s an addict.

It’s challenging to go through addiction and withdrawal. Although you want to support him in his challenge, know that he is simply not emotionally available to have a relationship with you.

Simply put his energy is on his addiction, and there isn’t any room left over for you and having a great relationship with you. Maybe he’ll conquer his demons some day, but it’s not your job to wait around for him to do it.

4. His actions don’t match his words.

If he gives you a good talk about how he’d like to commit to you or how he wants to settle down with you someday, but he doesn’t actually take action to make it happen, it’s best to cut your losses and move on.

Sure, life can get in the way of the best plans sometimes. But if you look back on all your time together and see nothing but a trail of broken promises in the wake of all his good talk, then you need to realize that the relationship isn’t going anywhere.

And if he is only lukewarm about committing to you, then it’s time to leave.

5. You wish he’d just change a little bit.

If you like a guy a lot, but you just wish he’d change a little bit, then you should move on and give up on that relationship. You should not and never expect that you can change a man or that he will change for you.

Do people change? Yes, absolutely! But should you expect them to change for you or for a relationship? No way. Real change comes from a core desire to change for yourself. It doesn’t come from you meddling and hoping that he’ll change. You have to either accept him as the man that he is now, or move on.

The quicker you’re willing to move on from unfulfilling relationships, the more space you’ll have in your life for the kind of relationship you really want. So, if you want a great relationship, you need to know when you’re wasting your time in a bad situation and cut your losses.

Contributor

Ending a Relationship That Isn’t Working

A reader asks, I have been dating this person for about five months. At first things were great but the last couple months we seem to have drifted apart. I am not so sure we have that much in common but I don’t want to cause hurt feelings by breaking it off. Do you think I should wait and see if the relationship improves or maybe the other person will call it off? I’m just not sure what to do.

Your question reads something like, “Should I be the bad guy?”or, “Maybe if I wait long enough it will get better.” I am not aware of any relationship that really gets better spontaneously. It sounds like both you and the other person have passed the initial infatuation stage. Now neither of you are sure that this is a good fit, but neither of you want to be the one to end it.

I think that for most of us, in our heart of hearts, we really do know when a relationship is just not working, but for a variety of reasons we hold on. Sometimes we hang in there because we don’t want to hurt the other person. Sometimes it is because we fear being alone or being seen as not having a relationship. We have all heard the saying, “Something is better then nothing.” NO! NO! NO! Since when is wasting your time and someone else’s time a good thing? Since when is “not hurting” someone by not really being honest and straight forward and leading them on “a good thing”? People can be uncomfortable being alone, causing discomfort, upsetting someone or dealing with conflict. So we give ourselves reasons not to take action and, in this situation, even secretly hoping or trying to cause the other person to take the action and end the relationship. If you are in a relationship that is going nowhere, allowing it to slowly fade away isn’t good for either of you.

As we start dating and seeking a relationship, learning how to flirt and woo someone into our lives is a skill to be learned and practiced. We spend a good deal of time working on ourselves and our skills at attracting so that we can have a primary relationship. But learning how to let go, to move out of and on from a relationship that is not satisfying or right for us, is also a skill worth learning. I’ll bet we all know a couple that shouldn’t be together, but stays together out of habit or fear. You yourself may have been or be in such a relationship. Taking the initiative to end it is not a bad thing. Doing so and getting practice and skill at ending poor relationships will make it easier later on in life to take care of yourself and not get stuck in a bad, mismatched or dissatisfying relationship.

So how do you actually end a non-working relationship rather then letting it just sort of go away on its own?

One approach is to sit your partner down and state the obvious. “I notice that we seem to be finding less time for one another. As we have gotten to know one another we seem to have less in common then perhaps we originally hoped. I have been thinking that I would like to redefine our relationship as something other then dating; perhaps friends or maybe we might just move on. What do you think?”

If he/she says that he/she wants to continue to see if a spark can be rekindled (and you don’t) then say you have given that thought already and you think it best to part. This may seem selfish but in relationships you have to look out for yourself. If you are really not into your partner…well, letting him or her go has his/her best interest in mind as well. It really is better to be by yourself then in an unhappy relationship. Many people stay in dissatisfying relationships out of fear and lack of practice at leaving. You have to believe that there is a better relationship out there for you, that you deserve better and that it is OK to be alone until you find it. This holds true for the him/her that you are leaving to their own search as well. Do both yourselves the favor of moving on.

How To Break Up With Someone You’re In A Texting Relationship With

My best friend called me on the phone once, and I literally thought it was a form of assault. I almost told her we couldn’t be friends anymore. I’m definitely more of a texting kind of gal, especially when it comes to relationships. But sometimes, that gets tricky, because my whole dating life starts revolving around my phone and doesn’t move into IRL territory. And when that happens and you know a relationship is going nowhere, you usually need to end things. But it’s difficult to know how to break up with someone you’re not even dating.

But if there is one thing I’m good at, it’s ending things. In a digital dating era, it’s easy to get into this awful space where you’re just messaging or texting people, without ever actually meeting up. And this can go on for ages. Of course, you don’t want to scream at someone, saying, “Hey, let’s get some f*cking coffee instead of texting all day and night!!” But seriously, those kinds of relationships are super common now, and sometimes, it’s better to just end them and pursue something more substantial than stick around in that kind of limbo forever.

So here is how to end things with someone you’re in a dead-end texting relationship with. Because who needs a pen pal anyway? This isn’t elementary school.

1. Set A Boundary

Stocksy/Good Vibrations Images

Four years ago — yes, four years — I matched with a guy on Tinder, and we started texting. We had a ton in common, and our conversations were amazing. Unfortunately, he traveled a lot for work, so I didn’t think twice about the fact that we had to hold off on meeting until his schedule calmed down.

Fast forward to present day, and his schedule apparently still isn’t calm. A guy whom I swiped on because I had intentions of dating had fully become a pen pal who seemed to exist solely on my phone, with no intentions of moving out of it. It was incredibly frustrating, and it was even moving into catfish territory, except I knew this guy actually existed because we had mutual friends.

But what was this person playing at by never being able to meet up with me? Was he afraid of me?

Finally, I told him that he had to sh*t or get off the pot. Talking for four years without meeting was strange to me, and I had no need for more social media friends in my life. He told me he was happy to move our relationship IRL, but then, he never followed up on the offer. And now, we don’t speak anymore. What I learned is that I was just someone he talked to when he was bored, not someone he wanted to put any actual effort toward in his real life.

Once you put up a boundary, though, people either step up or they step out. And the sooner you find out what they’ll do in that case, the better. I wouldn’t suggest waiting four years to do it.

2. Stop Responding

Stocksy/Good Vibrations Images

Sure, maybe this is technically a form of ghosting, but if the person you’re talking to clearly has no intentions of moving your relationship IRL, it’s time to stop investing your energy into a virtual relationship that’s going nowhere. Your time is too valuable for that.

If you stop responding to someone who has created a dead-end dynamic with you, they have two options: Let the relationship finally end, or step up to the plate and make a move. No longer responding sends a powerful message to this person that you are done existing in a grey area of stagnancy.

3. Call Them On The Phone

This particular tactic is a form of technological warfare. There is nothing scarier than being called on the phone. But hell, FaceTime someone! It might actually shock them into seeing you in real life.

People who engage in dead-end text relationships are usually afraid of any kind of intimacy or real contact. So the best way to get them out of their shell is to force intimacy upon them (within reason, of course)! If you want to end things, call them on the phone, and tell them why you’re unhappy with the way the relationship is going. You might find that talking on the phone actually helps you both jump over a hurdle in your relationship, and you won’t actually end up having to end anything.

4. Be Honest

There is nothing wrong with telling someone you’re frustrated with the way things are going, and you’re looking for something else in a relationship. After all, honesty is the best policy. And we all need a little bit more authenticity and vulnerability in our lives.

If you’re stuck in some texting time warp with someone that isn’t taking off, then let your partner know your needs explicitly. Do you want to hang out? Are you done talking completely? People aren’t mind readers, and sometimes, they just need a little instruction and direction.

There is nothing worse than getting a pen pal when you were looking for a relationship. So if you want to end that dead-end relationship, show some standards on your part, so the person on the other end of the line will either hang up or finally hang out with you.

Check out the “Best of Elite Daily” stream in the Bustle App for more stories just like this!

25 Signs You’re In A Dead End Relationship (And Need To End It NOW)

Being in a dead end relationship isn’t always your fault. When you love, or have loved, someone, it can be incredibly difficult to accept that maybe it’s not what’s right for you or what you want anymore.

​However, what is your fault is when you do know and do nothing about it. That’s just messed up.

So ​ for all you women out there who have a feeling it’s going nowhere and need some proof to hit it home, take a look at these 25 signs your relationship is on a one way street to nowhere.

1. He never remembers anything about you

You’ve told him a million times you wear contact lense or what your parents’ names are, and he NEVER remembers. He should have enough respect and genuine interest for you to remember simple details about your life. These kind of things matter. If he isn’t interested enough to remember now, maybe it’s time you forgot him.

2. Future? What future?

If your idea of planning for the future together is deciding whether to defrost chicken or beef for tomorrow’s meal, girl, forecast is looking frosty.

3. You haven’t been introduced to his friend group

We get the ‘bros before hoes’ BS but if he’s always going to meet them and doesn’t ever introduce you, it’s beyond not OK. He should want to show you off to his friends as soon as possible (you ARE amazing after all) so if he hasn’t, we’d say that’s a massive red warning sign.

4. You always make the effort

This is possibly the most FRUSTRATING thing ever. If you’re always the one making plans and he can never be bothered, ditch him. It’s not worth it. A guy who’s invested in the relationship will make the effort and not just rely on you to do all the work, all the damn time.

​Do you want to have to drag him into the relationship kicking and screaming? Thought not.

5. There’s ZERO affection in public

If he recoils from your kiss like you have a permanent gaping cold sore every time you go outside, what’s his problem? Don’t take the ‘I’m just not a PDA kind of guy’ excuse.

If he isn’t proud to let others know you’re his girlfriend, he shouldn’t have one.

6. You argue more than you laugh

This one’s so obviously a bad thing we don’t even need to explain it…

7. You spend most time in front of the TV or X-box

If you spend most of your time watching TV trying to zone out the fact that you have nothing to talk about/ANYTHING in common, you might want to stop and escape while you still can. What on earth are you doing rotting on that sofa when there are people on your phone that you could be ‘matching’.

8. You don’t actually talk anymore

If you’ve got to the point where a conversation is just awkward chit chat then it’s obviously not good. Similarly, if you do talk but just talk AT each other to hide the fact that you’re bored by every word he’s saying – that’s not good either.

We’re going out on a limb here but actually liking your partner is important for the long run.

9. There’s no check in

If every time you text a cute emoticon or spout ridiculous (but charming and hilarious) stuff to him, and all you get is radio silence, that’s not good enough. You should be able to make contact with him during the day without feeling like an awkward tween or like you’re his no.1 stalker.

​A quick ‘how’s your day?’ goes a long way. You should both have a genuine interest in what’s happening in each other’s lives and want to have contact – no matter how trivial.

10. That cute thing he used to do = most annoying thing ever

You know how much you used to love his laugh? Or thought the fact he always farts after he’s had burritos was adorbs? Now he’s just loud and gross.

If everything you used to love about him has now turned into tiny, knife-like annoyances that make you want to jump across the table and strangle him, metaphorically of course…Well, there’s no going back from there.

11. Your life goals aren’t the same

Considering, you know, you’re together and everything, you should probably have some kind of similar outlook on what you want your lives to be like in five years. If he wants to have kids, house, the whole schbang and you want to be waist-high in turquoise water over in the Caribbean, things probably aren’t going anywhere.

12. The sex is meh

Sex goes through ups and downs in every relationship, but if you’re in your pajamas more than he’s in you, things have got to change.

​ Passion and excitement are a big part of a relationship and even if you’re not doing it all the time, that passion still shouldn’t completely go – otherwise you’re little more than just friends.

13. Your relationship is family-free

Nothing says permanent relationship more than meeting the parents. If you haven’t introduced him to your parents and neither has he, you might want to think about why that is. Who are the people who will tell you straight? Your flesh and blood. If you’re afraid of what they might say about your man, maybe you’ve answered your own doubts right there.

14. You don’t think of him when you’re not together

We’re not saying your every waking thought should be of your partner, but generally thinking about him is normal during your day to day. If he doesn’t jump into your head even once throughout the day, maybe you’re just not that concerned about him any more.

Which leads into our next sign…

15. You’re starting to find EVERYONE else attractive

You know that bald guy who lives next door? You’re starting to think there’s something cute about him, right? No. Stop. He’s not hot, you’re just horny and repressed.

​If you think that everyone, and we mean everyone, is an option then chances are the flame with your partner has burnt out.

16. Arguments turn nasty

Like reaaaally nasty. If you guys keep bringing up things from the past or arguments escalate quickly into areas that should remain totally off limits, you might want to ask yourself what good this relationship is doing for you? If you don’t have an answer, at least you have an escape option.

17. You’ve never gone away together

Being able to tolerate each other 24/7 for a week is about the only way to test if you’re going to last. Vacations = make or break. If you haven’t even tried it after 6 months, you’re already broken.

18. You start to think it’s just convenient

If you have that doubt but wash it away with thoughts of his ‘nice house,’ the time ‘you’ve invested,’or the fact that you could have an ‘OK life together’ – just do yourself a favor and listen to your gut. If your friend said the same to you about her relationship, you’d tell her to get some balls and leave. Truth hurts.

19. Lack of respect

He belittles you in front of your friends? Absolute. No. No. If your guy doesn’t respect you, it’s over. Point blank. You want someone who says he admires you, that he’s a better person for you – not that you’re useless. You want a man, not some insecure boy.

20. You’re constantly waiting for him to change

Growing and maturing together is part and parcel of a healthy, strong relationship – you’re not going to be the same people you are now at 40. But wanting to change the way he dresses, his humor, his attitude – stop. Trying to mold someone into something he’s not is a sign he’s not right for you. Just cut the cord and find the person you’re looking for.

21. You over-sacrifice & he does NOTHING

Relationships are all about balance, and if you’re tripping over yourself to please him and he doesn’t reciprocate, all you’re setting yourself up for is a massive fall. Right on that pretty face.

22. You cringe at the thought of him in public

Does he make awkward jokes and NO ONE laughs? Fart in front of your friends? Hell, even if he doesn’t do those things but still makes you squirm at important occasions, there might be something else to it.

23. You can’t imagine him as your other half

If you can’t imagine spending the rest of your life together, then frankly, what the hell are you doing? Quit wasting your time just because you don’t want to be alone. You could be missing out on finding someone you do want to spend that time with.

24. He never gets annoyed when you cancel

If it seems like he’s relieved when you can’t spend time together, well that’s just plain insulting.

25. He doesn’t care enough to get jealous

We’re not saying that he has to go all crazy on yo’ ass, but if a guy is flirting with you and your man’s reaction is just ‘meh’ it’s time to leave. If he doesn’t care enough to bat an eyelid when his girl is getting hit on right in front of him, you can bet he’s not in it for the long run.

Originally published by Maria Bell

How to Break Up Gracefully

There’s that old saying that “breaking up is hard to do.” Well, not only is it hard to do, but it’s hard to handle the aftermath and the emotional complications that burp up out of us when we’re in such a vulnerable state.

Breakups are also difficult because they’re as unique as the relationships that spawn them. Giving advice on breakups can be complicated because breakups are contextual. For instance, I would never advise anyone to break up with someone through a text message, but at the same time, I’ve done it when someone went batshit crazy on me and I thought it was appropriate.

The key to a graceful break up and a healthy recovery depends on a variety of factors. Are you the dumper or the dumpee? Did you break up over a singular issue or was the chemistry and excitement gone? Were things emotionally turbulent for a long time or did things just suddenly ‘snap’?

Yeah, we’ve all been there… not fun.

And then there are the more permanent questions: Do you want to stay in contact with your ex? How do you get over missing them? What if they want to get back together with you? What if Steve was more your friend than her friend even though she thinks he likes her more but he really likes you more?

These are all good questions. And they deserve answers. So I’ll do my best. Below are some guiding principles on how to handle a break up gracefully.

10 Rules For Breaking Up Gracefully

1. Always do it in person and if possible, don’t do it in public. Unless they did something totally out of line like scalp your cat (or leave you 43 tearful voicemails in one night), and if you have any respect for them at all (often a legitimate question), then always do it in person.

Yeah, it’s harder. But suck it up. And if possible, don’t do it in public. Being in public makes people feel limited in what they can express, whether it be final words they’d like to say to you, or dishware they’d like to break. Which brings us to principle number two…

2. Never make a scene and keep your batshit to a minimum. Feeling distraught is OK. Being torn apart from the inside out is fine and expected. Wishing fiery hell and brimstone onto your ex and feeling the urge to dismantle their life and everything they hold dear piece-by-piece isn’t totally out of the ordinary either. But any attempt to do so is going to just make you look like a child throwing a tantrum. Control yourself. Grieve and express your pain, but don’t do anything stupid. Do it in private and do it with someone you trust.

And this goes double if you’re in public. Here’s a good example how not to deal with a bad break up, as demonstrated by a Brazilian woman here in São Paulo:

3. Do NOT try to make the other person feel better. This goes particularly for the dumper (cue Beavis and Butthead laugh). Once the relationship is severed, the other person’s emotions are no longer your responsibility. And not only is it no longer your responsibility to help them cope, but comforting them will likely make them feel worse. It can also backfire in that it will just make them resent you more for being so nice (while dumping them).

And for God’s sake, don’t have sex with them. Seriously, you just broke up. They’re crying and saying how much they’re going to miss you. You hug them to make them feel better. You start getting upset because you wish things could have worked, but this is for the better. Suddenly you’re tearing up and wondering why you’re dumping them in the first place, because god, remember when things were good? They were great, right? Then the clothes are off and one of you is crying and smiling and suddenly the sex is more passionate than it’s been in a year and a half and what the fuck, what are you doing? No, really, what are you doing!? Stop!

4. After the breakup, respectfully cut all contact for a short period of time. This is the second thing that many people don’t muster the courage to do. A lot of people get hung up on remaining friends and actually force contact when it’s causing them more emotional stress.

Research on relationship breakups finds that people who limit contact with one another emotionally recover much faster.

Not only is it totally reasonable to refrain from seeing/speaking to each other for a brief period of time, but it’s healthy. The more contact you’re in, the more risk you run of setting off an emotional time bomb, relapsing, and ending up in that messy no-man’s land of “we’re not together, but we’re still kind of together, but we’re definitely not boyfriend and girlfriend. I’m going to call really quick to check in, but seriously we’re not together — why are you looking at me like that?”

5. Talk to somebody about it. This one may seem obvious, but make sure you do it. If this is a particularly serious relationship, talk to a trusted friend or family member before making the decision. And then take whatever advice they give you seriously. We are often poor observers of our own relationships, but our friends can see how its affecting us better than we can.

6. Allow yourself to be sad/angry/upset but don’t judge or blame anyone. Emotions are healthy and normal. Even negative emotions are healthy and normal. But judging and blaming people, whether it’s them or you, doesn’t get you very far.

Should probably keep the cookies to yourself this year.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t distinguish good/bad behavior or good/bad choices. Learning from your errors and what went wrong in your relationship will go a long way to helping you move on. I was really messed up about my first serious relationship. I harbored a lot of resentment because she left me for another guy. I didn’t really start to get over it until I came to terms with all of the ways I wasn’t that great of a boyfriend. Once I realized that I wasn’t such a perfect angel and that I wasn’t completely the victim, then it was easier to come to terms with what happened and let go of them.

Start by recognizing that maybe they weren’t as great as you thought and there really were some things you didn’t like. Recognize the things you didn’t do well and how you could have been a better partner. But don’t blame them or trash them as people. Everyone goes into a relationship with the best of intentions. Most people come out of them feeling hurt and betrayed in some way. Most people come out having messed up royally somewhere along the way. There’s nothing uniquely horrible about you or that one person. Just learn from the mistakes and move on.

7. Recognize that the break up itself is a sign of your incompatibility and you’re both better off. Here’s something that grates on me: people who just got out of a relationship and lament that “he/she and I were perfect together.”

Obviously you weren’t. Otherwise, you’d still be together.

For some reason when it comes to judging someone’s compatibility, people suddenly excise out the fact that they aren’t together anymore. Oh yeah, even though we were clawing at each other’s throats for the last six months, that first trip we took to Florida was magical. We were just so right together.

While we do all have perceptual biases for remembering things better than they were, it’s important to remind oneself that you broke up for a reason. And often that reason is a very good reason.

And for those of you still holding onto that one special someone months or years later: stop. If they were right for you, they would have realized it by now. You’re deluding yourself. Move on.

8. Invest in yourself. The longer you spend in a romantic relationship, the more your sense of identity melds with theirs. Being together with someone in such an intimate space for so long creates a third, overlapping psychological entity that comprises both you and them.

And when that entity suddenly dies, not only is it painful, but it leaves a temporary void in who you are.

This is why the best and most important post-breakup advice on the planet is to invest in rebuilding your personal identity. Rediscover your old hobbies. Focus double on work. Start that new project you’ve been putting off for months. And most of all, spend time with your friends. Your friends will not only reassure you and make you feel better in the moment, but they will also help you reinforce your own personal identity again. Friendship is the best medicine for heartbreak.

9. Only start dating again when you’re legitimately excited to. A lot of people break up and enter a “rebound” period. They’re immediately back on the market and throwing themselves at the first thing that comes by. The problem is this is more of a coping mechanism than genuine enthusiasm for the new people one’s meeting. You can tell because the new connections you make feel complicated and lacking. Anxiety and desperation come back with a vengeance, and overall the process of meeting someone new is far less enjoyable.

After you break contact and invest in yourself, don’t pressure yourself to meet someone new until you’re legitimately excited to do it. There’s a difference between excitement and desperation. Desperation is feeling alone and incomplete without dating someone — like you need to be with someone to be happy. Excitement is being genuinely excited to discover what’s out there and feeling fine regardless of what happens.

Besides, when you’re excited to meet new people and are in a good place emotionally, you are far more attractive anyway. It’s worth it.

10. Only attempt to be friends with your ex again once you’re over the idea of dating them. Some people have the admirable goal of remaining friends with their ex. Other people have the admirable goal of breaking the kneecaps of their ex with a tire iron.

Whatever the goal for your future relations with your ex, they need to happen organically. Forcing a friendship enters into testy territory as it can make the other person feel obligated to you and that can kick up a lot of the negative feelings leftover from the break up.

What I’ve found is that if you had a strong friendship within the relationship, that friendship will naturally emerge outside of the relationship once you’ve both moved on. In a lot of cases, it takes dating new people for both parties to relax enough to form that bond again. Other times it takes a lot of time. But if that friendship is there, it’ll eventually sprout up. Do it a favor and don’t force it.

Is Trying to get back together really That hopeless?

I often get emails from people with their break up situation asking if it’s hopeless. Is there any chance they may end up back together?

Here’s the deal: if you get back together after one break up, it can work. But that’s assuming that one or both of you genuinely learns from the break up and alters the course of their behavior or their perception of the relationship. There are plenty of examples of couples who needed some time apart to gain perspective on the relationship and learn how to make it work. And generally, only one catastrophic break up isn’t too much to heal.

But if you’re going through break up after break up after break up — or what I sometimes refer to as the “emotional boom/bust cycle” — where you’re either in bliss or in hell, depending on which month it is, then I hate to say it, but you should probably just end it permanently.

Imagine your relationship as a beautiful china plate. If you break it once, you can put it back together with some care and effort. If you break it a second time, you can still put it back together but it takes a lot of extra time and care. But if you break it again and again and again, eventually you end up with so many pieces that you can’t put it back together. And no matter how much you liked that plate, you’re better off going and finding another one.

How to Stop Fucking Up Your Romantic Relationships

Relationships can be complicated and difficult. But few people know that there are some pretty clear signals to know if a relationship is going to work or not. Put your email in the form to receive my 29-page ebook on healthy relationships.

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How to End a Relationship Gracefully

There are as many reasons for breakups as there are couples. While many have to do with cheating and lies, not all relationships end because one partner willingly hurt the other. Sometimes two people can simply drift away from each other, when their relationship has nothing more to offer, where they have nothing to look forward to. Unless you have been at the receiving end of major physical or emotional abuse, no matter what the cause for your breakup, you can do it gracefully.

TIP: Read the guide to prevent a break up or get back with your ex.
Go over the reasons
Before you speak to your partner about breaking up, take some time out for yourself and think long and hard on the reasons why you do not wish to continue with each other anymore. Consider what made you fall in love with your partner the first time. Have all those reasons gone completely missing from your partner’s personality or are they being negated by equally unlikable traits? Being clear about your own thoughts and feelings will help you explain better why this relationship cannot go on, in case your partner questions your decision – as he/she has every right to do. Also getting your thoughts in order will help you consider if you are willing to give the relationship another chance. A lot of situations might seem hopeless at first, but with hard work and professional counseling, many couples have been able to start afresh.
Don’t draw it out
Once you have indeed made the decision to break up, decide to go on with it promptly. On the face of it, this might seem contrary to your desire to break up gently but at the end of the day, you will actually doing the other person a big favor. The more you dither about the breakup or put it off for a ‘suitable time’ – which if you are actually unsure of yourself, might never come – the longer you will be drawing off the breakup process and consequently the greater the pain and anxiety you will be causing to your partner. Also make it a point to be discrete. People very close to you like might have inkling that you are in the process of taking a decision, but involve others as little as possible unless you have gone through it completely.

TIP: Download the guide to getting back with your ex.
Prepare yourself
If you wish to leave with as little mess as possible, it would definitely pay to think through in advance of what you are going to say to your partner while announcing the breakup. Decide to speak to your partner at a place where you can talk in private. Likewise set a time when you are least likely to be disturbed, since interruptions can keep a conversation from getting to the point. Do not give more than a few hours’ notice that you want to discuss something important. In fact you could even set a realistic time limit to the meeting if you anticipate endless conversations. While this will allow time for feelings to be expressed, it will prevent from matters being stretched out interminably. Begin by saying that he or she must have realized that this is going to be a different conversation. Gently enumerate the reasons why you believe this relationship is not going to work out but don’t allow for too much expansion. Move on to admit that you have had some wonderful times together and acknowledge your partner’s role in your life.

What not to say to your partner is equally crucial if you wish to end the relationship with a minimum of mess. Don’t start by rattling of the reasons why you don’t like him/her any more. Admit that while personally you don’t like certain things about your partner, others may not have any problem with them and you understand that you are responsible for your own likes and dislikes. Also don’t blame your partner for all the things that have gone wrong in the relationship. This will only lead to a chain of accusations and counter-accusations or promises of improvement from your partner which you may again find hard to evade. Rather, admit that you both had a role to play in the ending of the relationship and it was probably about differing priorities and fulfillments.
Stay calm
Whether or not your partner has been wise to your deteriorating relationship, any announcement of a breakup is bound to cause him/her pain. Recognize that it is natural for him/her to be upset but don’t get defensive or rush into a mud-slinging match since that is not the purpose of your conversation. No matter how hurt and angry you feel, it is your responsibility not to start a row. Accept that nothing you say can possibly make it any easier for your partner to go through all of this. So be kind but at the same time determined to get done with it.
What not to do
If you are looking to end the relationship gracefully, make it a point to do it yourself. The prospect of tears and tantrums from your partner may tempt you to simply to cut off all without giving an explanation. You may figure that if you perhaps stop returning calls, meeting him/her and are ‘unavailable’ all the time, your partner may get the picture and conclude that the relationship is over. However this is not only an unfair and cowardly thing to do but is the easiest way of leaving behind a messy trail of unresolved feelings and guilt at the ending the way you did. For the same reason, don’t just text, leave a message on the answering machine or use the telephone to announce your decision of ending things. Neither ask a friend to pass on your intention or dump the breakup on your partner just before he/she has an important commitment. Also refrain from walking out in the middle of a heated argument when neither of you are seeing things clearly and unless it is a matter of personal safety, avoid breaking up at a public place.
One of the surest ways to establish good will with your soon-to-be ex is to take it on yourself to deal with the practical consequences of breaking up. If you have been living together, have pets or a joint mortgage, consider how to disentangle financial or practical responsibilities that you have shared until now. And if there are kids from the relationship, consider preparing them for what is about to happen. Though this will not lessen the pain of a breakup, it will surely leave a minimum of mess and allow you to part gracefully.
Break ups have a way of being messy, on again-off again affairs, which only end up causing more pain. So if you are trying to move on gracefully, create as much physical distance between you and your new ex as is possible. Stop mailing, texting or calling him/her on the pretext of “continuing to be friends” or “keeping in touch”, unless there are child visitation or other legal issues. Feel free to throw away letters, cards, photos and gifts that your ex might have given you. You could delete emails and photos from your computer or mobile and chuck away all the personal stuff that may be still lying around your place. Alternatively you could return his or her junk, but just mail it instead of taking it over to your ex’s place yourself. At the same time see that this no-contact period is a realistic one – like say a month or four months, depending on how long you have been together. By agreeing to not connect with each other for the said period of time, you give each other the space to grieve, begin emotional separation, and let go to stand on your own two feet again.
No matter who initiates the breakup, it is bound to be painful for both partners who have been together so long. However with a little planning and patience, you can make it a less traumatic and even an amicable way of saying goodbye to each other.

In This Section

  • Relationships
  • What makes a relationship unhealthy?
  • What is sexual and reproductive control?
  • How should I end a relationship?

Getting over a breakup isn’t easy — and neither is ending a long term relationship. Here are some tips on how to break up and make things easier on you and ex.

What’s the best way to break up with someone?

Relationships end for a lot of reasons. Maybe you’re not happy with your partner, or maybe you just don’t want to be in a relationship right now. Whatever the reason, breaking up can be tough. These tips may help:

  • Prepare. Think about what you’re going to say in advance. You may even want to practice on a friend or in front of a mirror, or write out your thoughts.

  • Pick the right spot. Talk to your partner somewhere that’s comfortable for both of you. If you’re worried about safety, somewhere public might be the best choice.

  • Say it in person. If you feel safe, talk to your partner face to face. E-mailing, texting, or talking on the phone may sound easier, but it’s usually not the best option. And don’t ask a friend to deliver the news for you.

  • Be respectful. If your partner asks you why you’re breaking up with them, be honest — it could help them have better relationships in the future. But don’t insult them or try to hurt them.

  • Make a clean break. If you really want to be friends, that’s fine. But if you’re just saying “let’s be friends” to let your partner down easier … don’t. It can lead to more hurt feelings. Even if you plan to stay friends, give your partner some space. It may help to take a break from seeing or talking to each other for awhile.

  • Stick with your decision. If you feel like you’re doing the right thing, don’t let your partner try to convince you to stay together. It’s normal for someone to cry or get upset during a breakup, and that can be really hard to deal with. But feeling bad or guilty isn’t a reason to stay in a relationship.

How can I get over a breakup?

No matter how old you are or how many relationships you’ve been in, getting over a breakup can be really hard. Let yourself be sad, angry, and hurt. Cry, listen to sad music, go for a run, write in your journal — whatever helps you get your feelings out.

Friends or family can be a great support system, and talking it out may make you feel a lot better. If nothing seems to help and you’re feeling depressed, you may want to see a counselor — you can get a referral to one from your local Planned Parenthood health center.

A few more tips:

Don’t feel like you have to stay friends. It may seem like a way to keep your ex in your life, but it can be really hard to scale a relationship back to a friendship — especially at first. Same goes for being “friends with benefits.”

Making a clean break may be hard to do, but it can help you focus on moving forward. Resist the urge to post bad things about your ex on Facebook or other social media — it can lead to a lot of embarrassment and regret. Finally, try not to feel bad about yourself. Your relationship didn’t work out, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you — or that you’ll never find love again.

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9 Crucial Steps to Ending a Long-Term Relationship

When you first fall in love, the hope and passion you have for the relationship is endless. You don’t know if this is your future spouse or a short fling, but you know that in this moment you are happy. Unfortunately, this feeling doesn’t last forever. At some point, every relationship comes to a crossroads where it either moves forward or comes to a halt. During this transition, both parties have to evaluate their feelings for their partner and how that person fits in with their goals and plans. It’s a difficult time that often leads to breaking off the relationship.

Whether you’re no longer happy in the relationship, feel like you’ve moved on, or just feel that spark is missing, it is important to end the relationship gracefully. When two people have invested large amounts of time in a relationship, breaking it off can be devastating. Make sure to be kind and break if off in the right way by following these steps.

1. Be realistic

Always be realistic in your relationship. | iStock.com

Ending a long-term relationship is tough. Be prepared for a roller coaster of emotions as you get ready to have the conversation, as you’re ending the relationship, and after the deed is done. Even if this relationship is not what you want, it can be difficult to leave someone familiar for the unknown. The process may be even more difficult for your partner, especially if this person doesn’t expect it. Have realistic expectations for how the breakup will play out to be best prepared for the moment it ends.

2. Plan it out

Choose the right spot to break off the relationship. | iStock.com/AntonioGuillem

Choose somewhere where you both feel comfortable to talk at length. Don’t do it in public, and don’t do it somewhere where there is a time limit. Hopefully this one is obvious, but never, never, never end a long-term relationship over the phone, email, text, Snapchat, sticky note, and so on (you get the idea). Have the courage to face your partner.

3. Remain calm

Stay calm when talking to your partner. | iStock.com/Wavebreakmedia

Even if the breakup is instigated by something your significant other did or didn’t do, it’s not time to get angry or frustrated. Wait until you are calm before you have the conversation. Out of respect for each other, you should end a long-term relationship gracefully. There should be no yelling or blaming. Be calm and reasonable in your manner and with your words.

4. Honesty wins

Always be honest. | iStock.com

During the conversation, be honest about why you are ending the relationship. You don’t have to be mean, but let your partner know truthfully why it didn’t work for you. Maybe you wanted different things from life, or maybe the physical connection was lacking. Let them know all the things you appreciated about them, but be firm in your reasons for leaving. Avoid the clichés like “I just need to focus on my career,” or “it’s not you, it’s me.” Everyone knows those aren’t the reasons, and saying them will just leave your partner obsessing over what they did wrong.

5. Stick to your guns

Stand by your decision. | iStock.com

When you end it, your partner may argue with you, tell you you’ll regret it, or cry and beg for you to change your mind. They also may walk out and not let you finish the conversation. Whatever the outcome, stand strong in your reasoning. Don’t be persuaded or act regretful. Remember the reasons why you initiated the breakup, and stick to them.

6. Decide how to tell others

Decide how you’ll tell your friends and family about the breakup. | iStock.com

After you’ve ended the relationship, you’ll need to decide how you want to tell your friends and family. Make sure you discuss it together as your ex may have reasons for wanting to tell certain people right away or waiting a bit to tell others. Be open to their needs but firm in the fact that this breakup is not temporary.

7. Plan how to move forward

Plan out your next move. | iStock.com

Talk about your future without each other, and make sure you lay down some guidelines. There should be no drunken texts or booty calls and no changing your mind two days later when your Tinder profile doesn’t blow up as expected. As difficult as it may be, for both of you to be happy, you’ll want to instigate a clean break. As much as you may want to, you may decide not to try to stay friends. Remaining in each other’s lives could hold you back from moving on.

8. Don’t bad-mouth your ex

Don’t talk badly about your ex. | iStock.com

Even if you broke up on bad terms, don’t go around disparaging your ex. Be discrete. Let your close friends and family know that you broke up, but don’t slam the person in front of them. Take the high road, and give your former partner the benefit of the doubt.

9. Take time to heal

Take time to heal from the breakup. | iStock.com

As tempting as it can be, you should probably avoid immediately jumping into another relationship. Take time to evaluate where your past relationship went wrong and what you want in a future partner. Use this time to reflect on yourself and your downfalls as a romantic partner (trust me, you have them), and work on improving yourself.

How to Leave a Long-Term Relationship

Source: wavebreakmedia/

Leaving a relationship is never easy, even if there is relief on the other side of the process. But obviously leaving a short-term relationship is different from a long-term one: With more investment in time and intimacy, the tangling of lives of these relationships makes the untangling more difficult. And when there are kids or money or the literal breaking up of a household as part of the mix, it’s made all the harder.

Here are some guidelines to hopefully make the emotional untangling less painful:

Be clear about your message.

Sometimes your leaving is not a surprise: It’s been talked about for months. Or no, it’s one you’ve been privately gnawing on. Whether or not there’s advance warning, unless the ending is truly mutual (and few are), your announcement will be a shock to the other party and set off a grief reaction. Likely their first question is: Why?

You want to work out your explanation to this question carefully in advance. Ideally talk more about you and your feelings, rather than about the other and their behavior. You don’t want to be angry, you don’t want to be blaming. Instead, you want to be as calm as you can, be clear, give a reason that you can state in one or two sentences.

The danger here is that your message is not clear. If you offer vague or contradictory reasons, the person is likely to be confused, or will instinctively look for cracks in your argument to push on, or will read into your message what they want to hear. Similarly, if you pile on too much information while the other person is understandably in shell-shock, they will either get overloaded and not be able to process what you are saying, or will again hear what they want to hear, rather than what you are intending to say.

Be clear about your bottom line.

This is the answer to the other person’s likely next questions: What does this mean, where do we go from here, what are the next steps? Again, you emotionally want to sort this out in your own mind ahead of time: You want a divorce; or you want a separation so you have time to sort out your feelings. Be honest and clear, even if your clarity right then is that you are not completely sure. But if you feel you are sure, don’t be cruel, but don’t mince words or beat around the bush.

Like your why-message, if you are vague in order to avoid hurting the other person’s feelings, you are only giving hope where there is none, or leaving the other person confused and tempted to hear what they want to hear rather than what you are saying.

Be clear about the rules of engagement.

This is the second part of what happens next. Are we going to see or talk to each other — when, how often? If children are involved, are we still going to do things as a family — when, how? By being clear about you want, about what you are willing to do and not do, it not only allows you to get what you want on the table, but by your clarity helps the other person become clearer too.

Start with your own ideal vision of next steps, and decide on your bottom lines — what you absolutely are or are not willing to do, what you are willing to negotiate and compromise on — so you don’t get emotionally pulled into doing something that you don’t want to do.

Control contact.

Sometimes the other person copes by pulling in and cutting you off for a period of time. But more likely you will be barraged with texts or calls or emails in an attempt to change your mind, to get more information, to see you and talk, to draw you in. Under such a constant message assault, it’s easy for you to quickly feel frustrated, annoyed, overwhelmed. To avoid this, be proactive rather than reactive. Define your own policy on communication, set boundaries — that, for example, you won’t respond to text messages, or will only talk on the phone at certain times.

And you want to follow through on what you say. If you don’t, if you are inconsistent, the danger is that you create intermittent reinforcement. If, for example, you say that you’re not going to respond to texts, but then suddenly do because you’re lonely or feeling regretful, the other person will read into this, thinking that you’ve possibly changed your mind, that what they said tugged at you in some way. This only stirs up hope or encourages the other person to reach out in the same way again and again. To avoid this, it’s usually better to define a contact policy for yourself that you can follow.

Hold steady, but be compassionate.

You want to be calm, clear, and consistent, but that doesn’t mean you want to be insensitive. Hold to your bottom lines and message, but also acknowledge the pain that you have created and what the other person is feeling. You don’t generally have to do anything more than say, “I know this is difficult for you, that you would like this to all be different and change, and I’m sorry this is so painful for you.” The acknowledgment itself can be soothing to the other. By showing empathy, while taking responsibility for your actions and staying clear and firm, you are compassionately affirming the reality of the situation.

Have a plan for your worst-case scenarios.

Put these to rest by mapping out a game plan for each of these worst-case situations. Figure out, for example, what you can or want to do if they won’t allow you to see the kids, were to show up at your work, or if they were to bad-mouth you to your friends or family. You may need to do some research about what are appropriate options or next steps; you may want to consult an attorney. What you don’t want is to do nothing, to have no plan. This will only keep you in a state of dread and make you feel like a victim of the other person’s possible actions and reactions.

Talk to the children.

Ideally, you both want to sit down with the kids and let them know in a calm way what is unfolding. If that is not possible, do the best you can on your own. You’ll want to give the kids a few days’ notice to any moving out; this gives them time to process what you are saying and space to ask follow-up questions. If you stretch out the leaving-time too long, young children will think it isn’t going to happen; older children will be anxious the entire time, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

What to say to the children? Obviously, whatever you say will trigger their own grief that they will have to work through with time. But because their worlds are smaller and more concrete, what children usually need to know about most is what will change in my world now that you are not together. Map out as much as know in detail — that yes, they will be staying at the same school, that they will spend the weekend with the dad, etc.

Avoid giving them adult details of your adult problems. Say that this is not their fault, that these are adult problems and adult decisions. And although things are changing, that yes, this is going to be hard for a while, but you are on top of it, ready and able to both care for them and help them through it. Let them know that they are not responsible for fixing the family, that they don’t need to worry or take care of you or the other parent.

Work up lines.

Family, friends, and co-workers are naturally going to be asking you what happened. Decide in advance to whom and what you want to share. For those outside your intimate circle, work up some lines so you are not sidewinded at an office party with questions and trying to think on your feet.

Consider counseling.

A counseling setting, with a mental health professional or a minister, can provide a safe place to untangle, to have deeper conversations about the relationship, to make sure that your messages are heard by the other person, to get advice about managing children, etc.

That said, be clear with the other person what you see to be the focus and purpose of the counseling before you sit down in a session — for example, not to work on the relationship, but to have a safe place to be clear about what is unfolding and why; or a place to figure out how to best support the children; or to have a place to check in on how the separation is going and/or the current state of the relationship.

Expect your feelings to change.

Even if your messages and bottom lines are clear, expect that you, too, will be on an emotional rollercoaster for a while, because you, too, are grieving. Even if the relationship was terrible, grief still sets in, because the grief is a natural element of the untangling and ending process, because it is still a loss that you need to resolve. So, expect to experience waves of second-thoughts, regrets, and loneliness. This is normal.

Get support.

This is a major transition point in your life, one that is difficult to do all alone. Before stepping out the door, line up in advance people you feel comfortable turning to for support. And if, for whatever reason, you lack these supports, consider individual counseling to help you move through this time.

There’s no way to avoid the stress that these changes will create, but your overarching goal is to be clear, consistent, and as calm and compassionate as you can.

It’s the best you can do.

5 Ways to Find The Courage (You Already Have) to Leave

208 Shares Written by Writer’s Corps member Shaneka Seals

It’s difficult to rescue yourself from a bad relationship when you sort of feel like you belong there. It would seem that leaving an unhealthy relationship would be super easy, but it’s not that simple. Like any relationship, leaving is often more of a process than an event. Because of the impact unhealthy relationships can have on your self-worth, leaving can take extra time, mental energy, pep talks with friends, and an extra large dose of self-love before you are ready.

You may find that you’re in a place where the narrative in your head sounds like: Who am I to want more; I’m not perfect either? Who am I to be happy? Who will even want me, if I leave? The very important thing to remember is you are worthy, you will be happy, you do deserve more, and you will very much be wanted.

Know that successfully leaving an unhealthy relationship is complicated, but not impossible. The best antidote to combat these thoughts and help you through the process is to add in some extra self-love. To give yourself love and compassion, consider the following seven tactics.

1. Keep a journal

Writing in a journal can be a great way to air out your thoughts and feelings. Engaging in a free writing exercise where you write without censor will often reveal more about who you truly are and what you want/deserve. Journal writing will give you a way to document any incidents of unhealthy behaviors and mistreatment. Also, having a space to document this unhealthy relationship behavior will help you not discount your experience. The act of writing out what you have kept hidden is a great way for you to find your voice.

2. Find Some Joy

It doesn’t take much to shift into a place of empowerment. Sometimes the smallest things can give you enough light to find your way through. Reconnect with an old hobby. If painting, writing, singing, decorating etc. was your thing before the relationship, dip back into that. Enjoy the sunrise or sunset, or listen to uplifting music. Engage in activities that make you smile. Doing things that remind you that you are special and worthy can help you move toward letting go of your partner and stepping away from the relationship.

3. Cut Yourself Some Slack

Go easy on yourself. This road has been hard, but it will get better. One of the biggest things to defeat is negative thoughts you may have towards yourself and the relationship. Replacing old thoughts with new affirmations is a good way to get rid of thoughts that don’t serve you well. Anytime you have a thought that doesn’t make you feel good, switch to a thought that leaves you feeling more empowered. If you struggle in this area, here are a few examples:

Negative Thought: “I’m so stupid to have been with this person.”

Affirmation: “This was a learning experience, I am learning how to love myself better and prepare for a more healthy relationship.”

Negative Thought: “Nobody else is going to want me after this relationship.”

Affirmation:“I am strong, beautiful/handsome and intelligent. The right person will appreciate me.”

Negative Thought: “Relationships take a lot of work. I just need to hang in there.”

Affirmation: “I deserve someone that makes me feel supported and loved for who I am.”

Negative Thought: “Maybe I’m not supposed to be happy.”

Affirmation: “I am a good and worthy person who deserves to be happy.”

Always remember you are not alone. Many have been in your shoes and have made it out just fine. The fact that you are seeking better is a good indication that you are on your way.

4. Don’t Rationalize Bad Behavior

When a person is in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, it’s very common for them to make excuses for their partner’s actions: They are only mean sometimes; s/he’s really a good person, s/he doesn’t hit me (but s/he emotionally abuses me). We don’t argue (but s/he can be passive aggressive). I am to blame because I agitate him/her, I don’t do enough to help him/her, or I don’t do anything right.

If a person is making excuses for their partner, they are usually also taking the blame for their bad behavior. A classic case of gaslighting is when you feel responsible for your partner’s bad behavior. Any given situation can be twisted around and the abused person will mistakenly see themselves as the cause of their own misfortune.

Regardless of whether or not the abuser will ever admit when they’re wrong, it’s not up to you take the blame.

5. Find Support

Being in an abusive relationship can feel very isolating. The shame, guilt, social pressures, and expectations can keep you from wanting to open up to others. When you keep it bottled up inside, it’s easy to straddle the fence and convince yourself that nothing is really wrong. Talking to a professional counselor who specializes in relationship or domestic abuse can be instrumental to getting you the assistance you need. They will most likely have access to resources that you may find helpful.

A professional counselor can help you identify the abuse. For people in an abusive relationship, it’s not always easy to recognize abuse, especially if the only kinds of relationships they’ve known have been abusive. It may not even seem like a big deal. A counselor will reassure you that it is a big deal and help teach you the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships. When this happens, it becomes difficult to turn away from what you know is true. The truth will empower you to make changes. A counselor can be your cheerleader, advocate, or person in your corner that helps give you the push you need.

6. Ignore Bad Relationships Advice

If your loved ones are telling you things like, “At least you have somebody,” or “S/he makes good money, you better hold on to him/her,” and a bunch of other bad advice that is not aligned with the way you feel as a result of being in the relationship, you should ignore them. Sometimes well-meaning friends give us relationship advice that is not healthy or realistic. When this happens, gently offer them some of the healthy tips you’re learning on your own journey.

7. Reconnect With Family/Friends Who Care

Isolation is something people often experience in unhealthy relationships and can happen when a person is separated from their family/friends or anything that gives them a connection to something other than their partner. Isolation makes it easier for an abuser to control without any interference. In the process, the abused person loses their identity. A critical step toward healing and moving forward in the process of ending the relationship is reconnecting with family/friends that have your best interest at heart. They help remind you of those great things that you forgot about yourself when you entered this relationship. Family and friends are critical for reinforcing your self-worth and supporting your decision to leave the relationship.

It’s important to note that the most dangerous time in an unhealthy or abusive relationship is during and after a breakup. If you or someone you know is considering leaving an abusive relationship, it’s critical that a safety plan is created. For help with safety planning, or for counseling and advice, check out our “real-time resources” page to find help from trusted professionals like the National Domestic Violence Hotline and to develop a path to safety.

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