We Broke Up Ages Ago, I Just Haven’t Told You Yet  

Feeling checked out from your relationship? Denise Curtin looks at why too often, we hold on longer than we want to. 

I would definitely describe it as a form of self torture; the thoughts that do laps in your mind when you think about breaking up with someone again and again and again. Thoughts that are stuck on repetition as you try to play out every single way this breakup could go until you’re one foot in the grave. Will they hate me forever? Will I be single for the rest of my life? Is this the best I can do? Wait, what if this is the best I can do? What happens if the next guy is a total asshole? Right, maybe I am happy? Maybe I’m blowing this totally out of proportion? Yeah, maybe I should stay.

To put it briefly, mentally checking out of a relationship and processing where it’s inevitably headed is both heartbreaking and tiring. You know how you feel, you understand that for you – at least – the feelings have changed and now, it’s come to that emotional block whereby you don’t know which road to take next and so, you start doing laps. Playing everything through one more time, figuring out your next move. That’s the one horrific thing about adulthood isn’t it? Responsibility. How easy it would be to decide you don’t want to deal with something or someone anymore and thus, you just crawl away and hide under your bed until everything is grand and dandy again. You tell your parents about what’s gone on and get them to sort it for you. ‘Mom, can you ring Micheal’s parents on the landline and tell them it’s over between us?’ But unfortunately, that’s not only unfair on the others that are at play here, but not how the world works.

Speaking from a past experience, I would definitely say that if I could go back and do things again, I’d do them a lot differently – cliched and not surprising, I know. But my biggest regret was how scared I was to end things, predominately because I was nervous to be on my own. I was in a relationship for a large part of my teenage years and college life – what even was being on my own I’d ask myself. Would I like it? The only thing I knew for sure was that my feelings had changed and I wasn’t the same person as the one who went into that relationship, guns blazing. And growing up – I suppose – that can happen. People don’t always develop in parallel to each other and we were proof of that, meeting somebody new proved that.

‘There’s being blinded by love, and then there’s feeling blinded with confusion, and throughout the course of my relationship, I experienced both, with the second being far worse,’ explains Daisy*. ‘I think that all-engrossing feeling was always heavily present when I was with Luke*, everything to do with that relationship felt like a sugar rush of highs and lows, but when I started to check out, it all began to feel pretty shit.’ Adding that although nothing drastic caused her change in feelings, Daisy* couldn’t shake the fact that over time, things were beginning to fizzle out and she just didn’t feel connected to Luke* anymore. ‘I remember driving to his house one night, singing along to Frank Ocean’s album and imagining myself on loads of future dates with everyone but Luke*. I know that probably sounds awful, especially typed on a page, but I was really going through it. I was done, but I wasn’t. What I needed was some advice and a push,’ she adds.

But trying to find advice isn’t always that easy. A quick Google search of ‘what to do when you feel emotionally checked out of a relationship’ results in a lot of articles about what to do when it’s your partner that’s feeling that way. Signs to spot, red flags to look out for, but not a lot of help when the roles are in reverse.

So, what’s the next step? What should you do? Well, according to systemic psychotherapist Alice Kelly, if you’re thinking it’s time to call it a day on your relationship, it’s always important to seek some outside advice, be it from a friend, a family member or even a psychologist. ‘When you’re solely figuring things out in your head, you need someone to challenge some of that thinking around certain things. If you only have you own perspective, it can be a very narrow perspective on how things actually look,’ explains Alice. Continuing, she notes that although it’s an age old saying, “communication is key” and if these feelings are festering inside of you, it’s important to talk to your partner, regardless of whether or not you think the situation is redeemable.

‘You need to remember to take your partner into account’ adds Alice. ‘There might be other reasons why the relationship isn’t going the way you want it to and when you’re focused on your own thoughts, you might not have the full picture. So even if it’s the end for you, do consider your partner, there’s more than one person in this relationship.’

A valid point to make as I know too well how frustrating it can be when you’re constantly overthinking the situation, yet getting nowhere close to solving the issue. Like the opening line of this feature reads, when you’re in that breakup mindset it can feel like a hamster wheel of self torture, but sooner or later a decision has to be made, for everyone’s sake.

And naturally, what’s slowing you down could also be a number of factors from what your friends will think to how you’ll break the news, the living situation to your status and the countless what ifs. But, WHAT IF I never find someone again?! “I know it’s a really difficult thing to think about, possibly ending up alone, but if you’re thinking of ending a relationship, those feelings aren’t going to go away and it becomes a case of figuring out with your partner whether you can work through your issues or come to terms with the fact that it’s not going to work out for you both longterm,”  explains Alice.

It’s a shitty situation to be in and naturally, as humans love to people please, it’s understandable that you might be thinking of every possible outcome and every person’s reaction to the news of this potential breakup. But, in the midst of the madness, it’s also important to think about those actually involved in this scenario – yourself and your partner. What’s actually best for both? Two grown-ups who right now aren’t happy. “You can still love somebody but not be in love with them, and I think sticking it out because you’re worried you won’t find anything better or because that person is a really good person and you think you should just stay, is a recipe for disaster. It’ll result in you feeling far lonelier while still being in that relationship than it would if you were on your own. Things like that just don’t end well. Realistically, it’s either fixable or it’s not, and if it’s not than it’s best to exit gracefully, for both of ye.”