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To Break Up or To Get Engaged?


Tools and tips for every day relationship problems. Blog posts on how to stop conflict, how to have more intimacy and how to have better communication with your husband, wife or partner.

To Break Up or To Get Engaged?

Erika Boissiere

If you are in a romantic relationship, it is quite normal to experience different levels of closeness with your partner at different times. At times, you could not be happier with how things are going and the possibilities for the two of you together seem endless, and other times, you may not believe you are considering a divorce or ending the relationship. Although vacillating between these two outlooks may be difficult, experiencing both the highs and lows of a relationship present the opportunity for us to understand ourselves more deeply, and identify different needs within ourselves and our relationships. And, this process, hopefully, leads to a stronger relationships and sense of ourselves. 

However, it isn’t unusual for chronic ambivalence to plague a couple. One party in the relationship may constantly waver between wanting to stay with their partner, or end the relationship. A person with this perspective may say things like, “I really love her, but I’m not sure she’s the one…but I also don’t want to break up with her.” Or, “We’ve been dating for 3 years, and I’m not sure if we’ll break up or get married.” This is quite the paradox, isn’t it? Years go by and people stay in these relationships not being able to fully commit either to the relationship or moving on. 

Often this sort of ambivalence causes stress in the relationship and chronic unhappiness – for both individuals. If you are chronically ambivalent about the status of your relationship, here are a few questions to consider that can help move you out of a state of ambivalence to action.

Question 1: What scares you about either committing to your relationship or calling it quits? 

Seriously think about what scares you about fully committing in your relationship or leaving it. Do you fear that you might miss another opportunity? Or that he is not the perfect match? What keeps you from breaking up? Do you fear that you won’t find another partner? Or maybe, this is as good as you can get? Get down to brass tacks on yourself and ask yourself what is feeding your ambivalence. 

Question 2: Do you find yourself looking over your partner’s shoulder for someone else? 

Often, ambivalent people will continue to search for “perfect person while in relationship. This doesn’t necessarily mean there is cheating going on, but suggests the person continues to wonder “is there someone better for me.” For example, a friendly conversation at the bar or jovial conversation on the bus leads some people to wonder, “Maybe I’m with the wrong person…maybe I can do better.” 

Question 3: Is being in a state of ambivalence comfortable for you?

Some people are actually comfortable constantly tussling between the two extremes in their relationships - breaking up or staying together. Some become an expert at being in the “in-between” and find it to be quite normal. Review other areas in your life – is this something you struggle with across other parts of your life? Or, do you have a history of this behavior? 

Question 4: Do you constantly seek others advice regarding your relationship, but rarely take it?

Ambivalent people tend to search for answers by asking others, but rarely act on any offered advice as it usually entails making a decision or taking action. Some even say, “If only he would break up with me…it would be so much easier.” Is this the case with you? 

Question 5: What would cause you to make a decision, either way? 

What would it take for you to decide one way or another? Think out loud with a trusted friend, or consider entering counseling as a way to process these tough questions. Often people hope, “it will get better…I just need to give it time.” And while that can be true for some cases, decide how long you are willing to wait (for both you and your partner’s sake), so maintaining your ambivalence doesn’t become more important than you reaching your relationship goals.