Find out if it's time to throw in the towel on your "it's complicated" relationship once and for all

By Emily Abbate
February 16, 2016
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Newsflash: An "it's complicated" relationship status isn't only bad for your social media profile, it's also bad for your overall health.

"On-again, off-again relationships can cause tremendous anxiety because you may feel like you're walking on eggshells, trying to determine if you're about to split up at any moment," says Andrea Syrtash, relationship expert and the author of He's Just Not Your Type (And That's a Good Thing). "A good and healthy relationship has trust, open communication, respect, and consistency-these things are missing from many on and off again relationships." (Here are 10 Weird Ways Your Body Reacts to Stress.)

Why They're Bad For You

First things first: What's in a label? The more proper term for these on-again, off-again relationships is "relationship cycling." "And this cycling puts your emotional well-being at risk," says Lisa Brateman, a New York City-based psychotherapist and relationship expert. "Cycling brings up repeated feelings of instability, loss, trauma, and hurt. This destructive pattern undermines trust and intimacy." (Beware of these 8 Things That Hurt Your Relationship.)

In short: Those that are in these emotionally draining relationships tend to thrive on the good times and really, really dwell on the bad. Not only does this kind of emotional roller coaster give you serious mood swings, it also has the potential to mess with your confidence when it comes to your body, career, and more. "The repetition of back and forth triggers frustration, anxiety, anger and often depression," adds Brateman.

How You Know You Should Give Up

The familiarity of a relationship can make it super hard to walk away when the going gets tough, despite its mental ramifications. After a while, the emotional tug-of-war can leave both parties empty and at a stand-still. "It's time to move on when you feel you've tried everything to make the relationship work, and it's still a struggle," says Syrtash. "If you've discussed your issues openly, worked on a making it better, taking the time to learn about what your partner needs and expressed what you need and it's still not clicking, you can break up knowing you tried."

We know what you're thinking: easier said than done. Here are some major red flags that it's time to go your separate ways:

1. You experience more pain than pleasure in the relationship. When things are in a constant state of flux, it's easy to feel unsure, angry, and upset. "Eventually, the relationship will end leaving you to feeling angry at either yourself and your partner or both which can lead to depression," says Brateman. "Feeling stuck is both frustrating and demoralizing and stunts personal fulfillment."

2. You're losing your identity in the process. Ah, you're the lighthouse. Meaning: Like a lighthouse standing alone in the middle of a bay, you're the only thing providing constant light in the fog. Sure, this may feel natural if you consider yourself a giver. However, if you're not on the receiving end of any emotional support, you'll grow to resent your partner. Even worse, you'll start to lose a firm understanding of the things you want and need from the relationship.

3. Your values and morals do not align.Your opinions on sex, religion, politics, and children matter. While there may be some things you're comfortable compromising on, it's important that you evaluate the weight of your decisions. "Comprising your values or morals is dangerous to your well-being," says Brateman.

4. You're settling because you don't want to be alone. You deserve to live your best life, with a partner that makes you feel like the best version of yourself. Yes, companionship is comfortable, but that companionship becomes more valuable when it's with someone who not only upholds your morals but makes you feel truly special. Plus, there are health benefits to being single.

How to (Really) End It

So you've accepted the facts: It's time to get out of this toxic relationship. Your next step is actually cutting ties and allowing yourself to step away in the most seamless way possible. (Looking for a way to blow off steam? Read 10 Reasons Why Your Relationship with the Gym Is Better Than One with a Human.)

1. Don't place blame. Putting the onus on one person versus another may make things easier at first for your psyche. But ultimately, no matter whose "fault" it is, the chapter is still closing. When you've been relationship cycling for a while, the most important part is simply ending it, not assigning blame. "Break-up with integrity and kindness," says Brateman. "This will pave the way for less emotional chaos and distress. Understand that you can never entirely know what went wrong. Accept what you do know and learn from the experience. Take what you can, and move on."

2. Look to friends for assistance. We've all been the rock when a galpal is going through it with her man of the moment. Just as essential as it is to have a friend to talk to during the rough times (and spoon into a pint of Ben & Jerry's with), it's also super important to have someone checking in on you when you ghost.

"Ask a good friend or family member to help you stay away from a relationship that doesn't feel healthy or good," says Syrtash. "If you don't trust yourself, ask someone you trust to help you stay accountable. This person can also remind you of what's not working when you feel tempted to try again. Ultimately, your loved ones want to see you happy and will do what it takes to help you get there."

3. Cut all social ties. That means, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn...all of 'em. It's hard to see what your ex is up to, even after the best of breakups.


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