Just as there are countless kinds of relationships, there are also countless reasons for them to end. We all hope the good relationships never end, the bad ones end soon, and they all end in a civil fashion, but sadly that isn’t the case sometimes. Here are 9 different types of break-ups, and what it could mean for the healing process.
The Mutual Split
This is the unicorn of breakups. A good relationship ends on a totally mutual level, very likely resulting in the couple remaining friends or, in some cases, even reuniting down the line if they’ve resolved and corrected all the issues that caused the breakup. A mutual split is easily the safest for your emotional state, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s easy.
The Slow Decline
Some relationships go on for far longer than they should have, and for one reason or another, nobody wants to end it. Maybe they’re isolated as a couple, maybe they’ve gotten used to the boredom or misery that dominates their day-to-day. Maybe only one is actually unhappy, but is afraid of being alone. Either way, it may take an event big enough to shift the couple’s perspectives in order to realize what the relationship has become.
This is one of the more tragic breakups because it may feel as if the couple couldn’t avoid it, although that may not be the case. In this type of breakup, the relationship degrades slowly as the two grow further and further apart in their life’s journey. Maybe one is more ambitious, maybe one reaches stability faster, maybe they started dating when they were younger and one has matured more than the other. It’s unfortunate, but it happens all the time, and often it’s important for both to realize that the “less grown” person in the relationship is not a lesser individual in any fashion. Everyone develops in jumps and starts, some have differing perspectives of what success means, some will unconsciously rest on their laurels until they experience something heartbreaking that rocks their cage. In most cases it’s difficult to avoid this breakup, but a relationship can survive it if the two are accepting of their differences, assuming the differences are actually differences and not one person reaching a roadblock in life and not acknowledging it.
Out of Left Field
A total surprise breakup is potentially one of the most painful experiences one can be faced with. It may be more common in cases where one person actually makes a snap judgement, but it can also happen despite the “dumper” having worked through it for months before deciding to split. Some may be afraid to say anything, some may not realize their partner can’t see the cracks forming. It’s very difficult to express these things to a partner and some may hold it in until it’s too late. In some cases, the two may have different standards as to what constitutes a happy relationship- meaning one maybe less concerned with certain hardships than another, depending on past experiences. This could be toxic relationship habits, or it could be that one has lived through worse and isn’t bothered by situations that would make a relationship unbearable for many others. I was in a long and happy relationship with incredible communication and openness, both very compassionate and caring for one another, and it still ended in a total blindside. I may never know exactly why, but after that I’m fairly certain it could happen to anyone. So be proactive about honesty with your partner, about regularly taking the temperature of the relationship, and above all, fostering a relationship where these things can be addressed openly without risk of argument or panic.
The Unfortunate Circumstance
This one can feel both Shakespearean in how tragic it is (I mean it’s literally the plot of Romeo and Juliet). Unfortunately some couples reach a point where something in their lives just won’t let them stay together. It could be a move, a family member, a difficult career that gets in the way of fostering a relationship. Sometimes forces in our lives can be more significant than the relationship is, which is a painful realization. There may be some relief after the fact though, in knowing that the relationship itself was healthy and maybe you were both good to and for each other. That even though the relationship had to end, as far as you and your former partner are concerned, at least you were great together while it lasted and you treated each other fairly.
There are a lot of ways an ultimatum can form in a relationship, and not all are for good reasons. There are plenty of stories out there of relationships coming to a head because of someone’s hobby- understandable if all of someone’s money and attention is focused on it, or if it’s otherwise damaging their life. Some ultimatums are formed over things that should really just come down to compromise. Regardless of what the ultimatum is, it can be easy to scapegoat something when it’s actually a symptom of a larger problem. For instance, a partner who never wants to go anywhere or do anything may simply have untreated depression, and the person establishing the ultimatum doesn’t know because they see depression as synonymous with being sad. Someone with a crippling shopping addiction may receive an ultimatum- “reign it in or we’re through”- but something caused the shopping addiction, and even if they successfully overcome it, whatever fueled the addiction to begin with may cause something else damaging. Either way, binary approaches to anything are often flawed, and ultimatums are best avoided wherever possible. If the problem is becoming severe, or the partner hasn’t acted on numerous discussions leading up to it, the ultimatum is a possible nuclear option, but in many cases it can look more like washing dishes with a firehose- too much force and not enough thought and care will only cause more damage.
The Petty Breakup
Right off the bat let’s keep in mind that the people most likely to call a breakup reason “petty” are the people that never understood the reasons or the experiences of the other person to begin with. This of course is much more likely in younger relationships, both in the age of the relationship and the age of the partner. If it truly is a petty breakup, a series of mistakes have to occur in no particular sequence. A relationship with quality communication, honesty and openness isn’t likely to end over something petty. A relationship where both partners value each other as people will not end in a petty breakup. In order for a breakup to actually be over something nowhere near significant enough to cause the pain of ending a relationship, the “dumper” would need to lack concern for their partner, open communication, self-awareness, and generally have an apathetic or nihilistic approach to the relationship as a whole. Even then- and this is the kicker- the “petty” reason may be masking a deeper and more significant cause that the person either doesn’t want to address or doesn’t even fully understand themselves.
This may be the most dreaded of them all, and the most discussed. Maybe it occurs because one is a serial or compulsive cheater, or because issues in the relationship went totally unaddressed until one couldn’t take it any more and dealt with it the worst way possible. Either way, the result is painful not only to those in the relationship- especially the one being cheated on- but it even drags an innocent bystander into the crossfire. Although there are people who will knowingly get involved with someone in an active relationship, there many who don’t know going in. The most important thing to say about this one is just don’t do it. Ever. There is never a reason to cheat. End the relationship, open up communication, go to couples counseling, maybe even switch to an open relationship if the issues are purely intimate. Whatever the case, there isn’t a scenario where cheating is the appropriate path. Infidelity can leave the victim blaming themselves, with a damaged sense of trust and faith in others, anxiety in future relationships, all in addition to the pain of grieving and the entire context of the relationship and all those memories shifting to a darker place. That said, if you’ve cheated before, don’t beat yourself up. We all make mistakes. But do improve, learn, do better, and don’t do it again. If you’ve been cheated on, never hesitate to turn to a support network and always remind yourself that what happened isn’t the norm. There are better people out there for everyone.
Have you experienced a breakup unlike any of these? Have tips for people dealing with these? Let us know in the comments and share your advice!
Santos, R. (2018, March 29). 7 types of Breakups ranked by recovery time. Retrieved April 29, 2021, from https://www.marieclaire.com/sex-love/a3865/types-of-breakups/
Rachel Bowie | Apr. 5, 2. (2017, April 03). There are 7 types of breakups (and here’s how to deal with each one). Retrieved April 29, 2021, from https://www.purewow.com/wellness/types-of-breakups
Smith, S., Smith, S., Sytsma, J., & Sylvia SmithExpert Blogger Sylvia Smith loves to share insights on how couples can revitalize their love lives in and out of the bedroom. As a writer at Marriage.com. (2020, November 06). The devastating psychological effects of a cheating spouse. Retrieved April 29, 2021, from https://www.marriage.com/advice/infidelity/psychological-effects-of-a-cheating-spouse/