Deciding to break up with someone is a feast of uncertainty and determination and doubt and resolve. Rarely is it uncomplicated.
Even if your partner has done something unforgivable, the weight of your history together – the way you walk down the street touching shoulders – stays pooled around your feet like glue. Making it difficult to leave in the first instance, harder to leave for good.
Sometimes you see other people who’ve made the decision and you think: How was it so easy? (Hint: It wasn’t.) And the doubt returns. You confuse indecision with ‘not being ready’ and nostalgia becomes false hope.
In the first study of its kind, new research has found this ambivalence – this confusion and uncertainty – is completely normal. For every person contemplating a break up.
It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.
First, 447 volunteers answered a series of questions about relationships in general – such as, “what are the reasons someone might want to stay or leave a romantic partner?”
From the answers, the study’s authors at the University of Utah identified 27 common reasons people might want to stay in a relationship, and 23 reasons people might want to leave.
The second part of the study involved participants who were, at the time, contemplating breaking up with their partner.
When presented with the 50 above 'reasons', the participants were asked to mark any factors - for both staying and going - that they had considered in their decision making process.
Almost every respondent marked reasons for both staying and going, showing how uncertainty is normal and no one is ever 100 per cent sure.
Listen: Should I warn this women about her cheating partner? (Post continues below...)
The most common reasons for wanting to end a relationship were the same in married people and in those who were dating. They included emotional distance, inequity of power, a violation of trust, or an aspect of their partner's personality.
The reasons for staying in a relationship, however, were different between married people and those who hadn't yet tied the knot.
The majority of married people were motivated to stay mainly because of obligation or investment and the messiness divorce entails. Those who were dating however, were more likely to consider the fun and emotional closeness they share with their partner as reasons for trying to make it work.
There is never an easy answer when it comes to deciding to end a relationship, or not.
The most important realisation though? You are never going to be 100 per cent sure - but don't confuse this uncertainty with 'not being ready'.
No one ever is. Not really.