How To Tell When It’s Over

Start looking around your relationship and realize that nothing — absolutely nothing — looks the way it did when you started. All of the little things about them that used to make you smile to yourself when on your way home from a date have been somehow transformed into grating tics that they can’t get rid of. Start to notice things that, once seen, can no longer be ignored. Latch onto their more negative habits and pick at them, as you might a scab in a particularly irritating location on your body. Become overwhelmed with the desire to tell them to just stop being… themselves. Realize that that would be ridiculous, and instead swallow your constant frustration like an oversized antibiotic. Feel oppressed by their presence.

Stop being interested in sex. Be repulsed by their touch, even when its offered only in kindness and comfort. Find yourself increasingly tense when you know that sex is expected, and nothing short of resentful at the implication that you should be having sex with them. Know that letting your sex life together wither and die like this isn’t constructive for anyone — and it certainly isn’t making them feel good about themselves — but feel completely unable to force yourself to fake it. Watch them go through the motions of trying to make things good ahead, like they were before (and be painfully aware of all the connotations that now come with the word “before”), but remain completely indifferent to their affection. Feel nauseas when you see them on top of you.

Realize that almost your entire time together is now spent in some variation of a fight. There are the quiet, seething, passive-aggresive fights; the screaming words we don’t actually mean but which feel good to say fights; the bringing up problems that we’d long-since resolved to be spiteful fights; and everything in-between. No indiscretion or slight is too small or too petty not to launch into a tirade, to go back-and-forth until you’re apologizing and someone is swallowing their pride to take the blame for this particular scuffle. Be unable to admit that the problem may just be inherent in the two of you together, and not just a series of thousands of tiny injustices foisted upon you by the hands of fate. Consider everything “just a fight,” instead of a symptom of a much more profound problem. Blame each other for everything.

Know that the moment is going to come, likely sooner than later, where you’re going to have to end this. Dread the conversation the way one does a test that they haven’t studied for but which is incredibly important to their overall grade. Run over what you’re going to say enough times that every word in the sentence has lost its meaning. Be so tired, so physically tired of fighting that you want to begin nearly every sentence with “I can’t do this anymore,” but be unable to do so when you go to actually tell them how you’re feeling. Understand how much it’s going to hurt them, how it wasn’t always this way, and though the fleeting visions of the love you used to share aren’t enough to make you stay, feel a sharp pain in your stomach when you remember them. Know that the person you once loved with every fiber of you is no longer going to be a part of your life, and feel the emotion of it all like quicksand.

Finally have that one fight that you know is going to do it. Get so angry and, more than that, so exasperated, that you can no longer walk away from this one and lick your wounds. Come to a kind of calm silence in which the clear inability to exist together is far more prominent than any joy you get from spending together. Start to speak the words you’ve been saving up like bullets inside you for months now, for which you want to soften the blow, but know that nothing is going to make “I don’t want to be with you anymore” less hard to swallow. Tell them that you don’t want to fight, but that you don’t want to make up, either. Stay for their protests, and perhaps their pleading, but be ready at the end to say “no.” Though breaking it off on the tail end of a fight, and not in some calm moment in which you both could have collected your thoughts, may not have been the most mature route — it had to end. Repeat things about how hard it’s gotten, about how mean you are with each other, and about how you “just can’t do this anymore.” Hope it sounds as sincere and pained as it actually is.

Know that they will hate you for a while, but know, beyond all doubt and even through your guilt, that you did the right thing. TC mark


image – Agustina Mauro

Chelsea Fagan

Chelsea Fagan founded the blog The Financial Diet. She is on Twitter.


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  • melissa

    this post is sad :(

  • Bao Nguyen


  • Only L<3Ve @

    […] Thought Catalog » Love & Sex Add a comment […]

  • Doug Hart

    “Stop being interested in sex.” Chelsea. Everything else is so well written. But you lost me on this. Can you explain what you mean?

    • Erica Allison

      I’m guessing she meant, “Stop being interested in sex [with them].”

    • Clara

      Surely that’s self explanatory??

      • Doug Hart

        It’s a joke goils. It’s a joke. My penis laughed but he is easily amused.

  • Mcheezy

    Out of all the articles I’ve read, this is right on point with how I feel and what I just went through!

  • blake

    thanks cousin, going through the most difficult breakup ive ever had.
    really appreciate you taking the time to write this (almost as if its just for me!) hope paris is treating you well!
    love your cuz

  • guest

    nauseas. awesome.

  • stephenduffy

    This was about as difficult to read as it is to have the conversation you’re writing about.

    • Doug Hart

      HAHAHAHA You go boy.

  • Sarah

    agreed. This has actually happened to me. Only the last “fight” wasn’t really a fight at all, just two annoyed people picking at another for existing. It ended with two people saying “We can’t do this anymore. Maybe we should just stop trying now.” We were bitter for a short time. Now we are both happily married, and not to each other. and we still have inside jokes and exchange emails or texts once in a while.

  • Marc Hlaktoong

    Oh well, it’s over. life goes on, you were with me and now you’re not, as long as you realize love is a nice deluded fun illusion then like anything else when it’s run it’s course move on. Just be honest up front and if the person doesn’t get it or won’t pay attention then end it sooner than having to go through this articles self torture fest.
    Love never conquers all, but Reality does………….M

  • jojijoja

    This reminds me of my favorite scene of my favorite movie “2 Days In Paris”.
    The movie ends with a breakup and this beautiful monologue:
    “It always fascinated me how people go from loving you madly to nothing at all, nothing. It hurts so much. When I feel someone is going to leave me, I have a tendency to break up first before I get to hear the whole thing. Here it is. One more, one less. Another wasted love story. I really love this one. When I think that its over, that I’ll never see him again like this… well yes, I’ll bump into him, we’ll meet our new boyfriend and girlfriend, act as if we had never been together, then we’ll slowly think of each other less and less until we forget each other completely. Almost. Always the same for me. Break up, break down. Drunk up, fool around. Meet one guy, then another, fuck around. Forget the one and only. Then after a few months of total emptiness start again to look for true love, desperately look everywhere and after two years of loneliness meet a new love and swear it is the one, until that one is gone as well. There’s a moment in life where you can’t recover any more from another break-up. And even if this person bugs you sixty percent of the time, well you still can’t live without him. And even if he wakes you up every day by sneezing right in your face, well you love his sneezes more than anyone else’s kisses.”

    • Erica

      Love this.

    • Farah

      I love that scene too!! Sums up most of my break ups.

  • sara

    doesn’t every relationship get to this point, at some point? if you can’t make it through it, how can you expect to be in a relationship that lasts longer than three months or three years?

  • Shatha_A

    Nicely said

  • S

    how can it be a good thing when it hurt someone? the other person is pleading and STILL it was the RIGHT thing? are you crazy? break someone’s heart, just like that?

    • Jack

      Recently spurned much? Why should pleading make an unhappy person stay in a relationship with you? Jeez.

    • Doug Hart

      Spoken like someone that never found that one special person. That one out of million that you know the powers that be placed here just for you. The person that after spending that first glorious year together, that you just want to reach over slowly, and gently, cup that sweet face with one hand, and knock the living shit out of them with the other.

      • Alex

        Who are you talking to? Because if it’s Jack, I just can’t even comprehend how you could think that. They clearly aren’t that special person if they don’t love you (anymore). Someone else shouldn’t have to be unhappy just because you say so/because it wouldn’t suit you not to be with them. If you love someone, truly love them, their happiness comes before anything in the world. And if it makes them happy not to be with you, then that’s what has to happen.

      • Doug Hart

        Nope. Not talking about Jack. Talking about the chick whose tactic for mending a relationship is to get a death grip on the person’s leg as they walk out the door. Even if I was talking to Jack I
        would have to be joking because I wouldn’t know Jack or what he was about if he was standing next to me. I am guessing Jack is a good guy since you are defending him.
        If I could give you one bit of advice that will remain valid over the ages, and that is to lighten up a some.

      • Alex

        Apologies if I sounded rude, I just couldn’t fathom that you could agree with the original poster – S. Now I realise you don’t and couldn’t agree more with you about the person who clings onto a dying relationship. There is simply nothing worse when a relationship has run its natural course than to ruin it further by acting ridiculously. I don’t know Jack either, just thought it was easier to refer to his commenter’s name rather than calling them commenter #1 & #2. Peace :)

      • Doug Hart

        No worries. I read it again and it was ambiguous. Yow. I am glad I went down and checked around. Your name is Alex and I was about some to say some very gender specific things. But you are the wrong gender.
        Take care !

      • Alex

        Haha I’m a male Alex, just to clarify!

  • SaraLily

    besides the fighting paragraph, this is 100000x spot on for what I went through a year ago. We didn’t fight as much as slowly grow quieter and quieter (we barely talked anymore and we lived together!!) and the distance between us was unbearable! This article is a blow by blow!

  • cara

    so painfully accurate.. i still get those pains in my stomach when i think of his face after i told him i didn’t want to be with him anymore.. its for the best but hard

  • Charlotte

    Describes the end of my last relationship terribly perfect.

  • Nick

    I usually relate to Fagan’s writings as if it was from my journal, but I struck out on this one. That’s not a criticism. It’s me being surprised I’m not CF’s complete clone. I still appreciated it very much, though! It let me see it differently and made me realize I may be even less skilled at relationships than I thought! The best way I can describe how I tell when it’s over is: it feels like I’m taking a test, I’ve answered about 10% of it, I’m certain that I have about 160 minutes left out of the 180 total minutes of test time, and then someone says “time’s up” and takes away the test after just 20 minutes. It almost always feels abrupt and premature, even (and especially) if it’s a long term relationship. Sure, sometimes (rarely, in my opinion) the most constructive thing is to never communicate again particularly if some big Huge Unforgivable Revelation or Transgression (i.e. a big HURT) is committed. But usually I think, “If only I had more time and talent, I could potentially salvage the friendship and convince the other person that we should not pretend we are dead to each other.” Very thought provoking piece.

  • Lo

    this. was. amazing.

  • tripstovenus

    Reblogged this on Trips to Venus and commented:
    The hurt is deeper because all of these are true.

  • Crystal

    Mint Condition “Nothing Left To Say”.

  • emmylgant

    Yep, that’s about right. It was over for me a long, long time before it was absolutely impossible to live one more minute in the same space. By then, guilt had been overcome by survival instinct. Don’t wait that long.

  • Emily

    Thank you for this.

  • http:/ aeslehc

    Reblogged this on Wandering Thoughts and commented:

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