When Nan and I were 19 we had a breakup. We had been dating for about three years and she had gone off to live on campus at UCLA. We did our best to keep things going for a while, but somewhere into her second year we called it quits. It was painful. And it was a good choice. We were too young and too inexperienced. We both needed to stretch and grow and experience a bit more life.
We stayed apart for less than a year, but it was long enough to know that the grass was not greener on the other side of the fence.
I am concerned, however, when dating couples experience multiple breakups, especially when they are not in their teen years. When I see this happening it is a red flag for me. I can imagine that these are the same couples who threaten divorce often when things get strained in their marriage.
What is going on here?
Just like Nan and me were back then, one or both people are not mature or emotionally stable enough to sustain an adult relationship.
I see a breakup as a good thing most of the time. The couple has recognized through the process of dating that there are factors that are, or would become long term problems. It especially takes courage when the relationship has a lot of time and effort behind it.
Why might a couple get back together after a breakup?
- Anxiety that they made a mistake — Even though the choice was a good one, there might be fear that they missed something.
- They tried dating other people but it didn’t work out — The fear of being alone is greater than the fear of being in a potentially weak marriage.
- Low sense of self worth — They believe that they probably can’t do any better, so they settle on going back to a conflictual relationship.
- Family pressure — Sometimes their family has bonded with the person they have been dating and doesn’t agree with the decision to break up.
- Sexual connection — They have engaged in a sexual relationship and find it hard to give up, even though they know they will eventually break up again.
There may be many other reasons as well. I am not saying that all breakups should remain permanent, but many should. It is difficult to go through the grief of a separation – but it is less painful than doing it multiple times, or enduring a troubled marriage.
Proverbs 26:11 (NLT)
As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.