1. The idea of being alone doesn’t freak you out anymore.
On-again-off-again relationships offer an ironic form of security – every time you’re sick of being single, you can run back to the same person and be reasonably sure that they’ll take you back. It’s difficult to terminate this cycle if you aren’t comfortable with the possibility of being alone, potentially for a long period of time. You know that things are fizzling out with your on-again-off-again relationship when the idea of being alone doesn’t freak you out as much as it used to – in a lot of ways it even seems desirable.
2. Your fantasies of the future don’t involve them anymore.
Even when the two of you were broken up, you always used to picture a future with them. After all, they were your “someday” person – your lobster. You know that things are starting to change when the image of them subtly sneaks out of your future. When you look five or ten years ahead, you see only yourself – your successes at work or in life and maybe a partner as well. But that partner is nameless and faceless – they’re not your ex and you don’t want them to be. For now, you are okay with them being a question mark.
3. You’re no longer angry with them for past wrongs.
There’s no score to settle or loose ends left to tie up. You are not angry with your ex for the ways in which they wronged you, nor are you waiting for them to apologize for anything. You both made a lot of mistakes and it’s all water under the bridge. You can’t change the past so you might as well move forward.
4. You don’t fall into past habits around them.
You don’t immediately assume the girlfriend role around them, nor do you expect them to act like your SO. You can hang out and be civil – no blaming one another, no long, intensive talks and no suggestion of sex looming over your heads. You’ve both grown a little and changed a lot and meshing your lives back together doesn’t sound easy or natural the way it used to. It just sounds painful and unnecessary.
5. You don’t compare new love interests to your ex.
Your ex is no longer the yardstick you use to measure up all potential love interests. It’s not a game of “He can offer me x, y and z and you can’t, so goodbye.” Your ex is just out of the picture. If the new person wants to offer a, b and c, that’s cool. Change is good. And you are open to what new potential partners have to offer.
6. You’ve stopped putting yourself in situations that cater to re-kindling things.
You know what? Getting drunk at that party that you know your ex will be at doesn’t seem like such a hilarious idea anymore. You don’t get off on the excitement of are-we-or-aren’t-we-going-to. You aren’t going to. That’s a decision you’ve made and it’s one you’re going to plan your actions around.
7. Your days of emotional masochism are over.
The never-ending DRAMA of breaking up and getting back together no longer appeals to you. You don’t want to rehash it over brunch with your girlfriends for the eight hundredth time. You just want something stable and real. The rush of passionate make-up sex isn’t worth it anymore.
8. You can look at your relationship objectively.
It wasn’t entirely their fault that things didn’t work out. And it also wasn’t entirely your fault. You were just two well-meaning people whose differences overwhelmed your similarities. It was never going to be able to last forever and that’s okay. Some things don’t.
9. You know what you want and deserve – and it’s vastly different than what your ex-partner has to offer.
You aren’t captivated by the troubling idea that you’re never going to do better. You don’t want to run back into the arms of the last person who loved you because you’re scared that nobody else will. You know what you want. You know what you deserve. And just because you don’t have someone else lined up in the interim doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen one day. You’re okay with holding out for the person who can offer you what you need from a relationship and you know that that person is not your ex.
10. You’ve stopped holding out hope that they will change.
On-again-off-again relationships are kept alive almost entirely by unrealistic hope – hope that the other person will change, that the situation will shift and that everything will become different than the way it once was. It’s the eternal one-foot-in-the-door syndrome that only ends once you realize that one foot will also always be out. Your ex will never be who you wished they were. You will never be who they wished you were. And that’s okay. You’ve made peace with everything that both of you are not.
11. You’ve lain the past to rest.
You no longer find yourself analyzing what went wrong or what you could have done differently or why the two of you didn’t work out. You just didn’t. Moving on is sad and sometimes difficult but you no longer want to drudge the questions of your past into the promise of your future. You have bigger, better things to look forward to and you’d like to leave the past where it belongs.
12. You can imagine a future with someone else.
Maybe not someone else specific, but someone else period. You understand that someday you’re going to fall in love with someone entirely new and it will be completely, ineffably different than the way it was with your ex. And that’s okay. You don’t want the relationship you had back. You want the promise of someone who it isn’t a constant battle to make it work with. Someone you probably don’t know yet. But someone who you can be on-again with for good.