Woman doing yoga or meditating on the beach
photo: Corbis

So, you and your boyfriend broke up AGAIN for what feels like the millionth time. You’ve been down this road many times before and yet you’re still not 100 percent convinced it’s really over this time. A part of you wants to just move on and put this inconsistent relationship behind you but another part of you is hoping he’ll call and try to make things work. You’re tired of the back and forth but you still love each other – no question about it! But how do you know when it’s time to finally draw the line and call it quits? We spoke with Love and Relationship Life Coach, Vicky Barrios and got the scoop on what you need to know to end your on-again-off-again relationship for good.

Understand why you keep going back: “The main reasons we stay in on-and-off relationships are because we are: 1. Either fearing the unknown or uncertainty of starting over and building a new relationship. 2. We are attached emotionally and or physically in an unhealthy way to the person or 3. We are not ready emotionally or circumstantially for the fullness of a long-term commitment in which the partners handle and resolve their conflicts and grow from it,” says Barrios. Regardless, the problems you had in the first place are most likely the same problems you have now, so think about that the next time you consider giving things another shot.

Let go of the fantasy: Many times we find ourselves going back because we get stuck in the mindset of what things could be versus what they really were. “Often there is a fantasy about what the relationship has become,” says Barrios. “There is usually a person that is more invested in the relationship, many times that is the woman in a heterosexual relationship, but it can certainly be the man too. If a woman has her heart set on the fantasy she has constructed in her mind – "he’s the one for me, and we are supposed to be together,” but in reality he’s showing her that is not what he is offering, it might be difficult to break off the relationship.“ If they do both want to come back to the relationship there needs to be a conversation clarifying what each person’s needs, wants, boundaries, and expectations are.

Recognize if it’s unhealthy: Barrios says most on-and-off relationship tend to be unhealthy, but not all. "If coming together and breaking apart is repeatedly a storm of unresolved emotional pain and anguish, chaos, and unmanageable conflicts, then this is not healthy,” she says. “If the main feeling is confusion, shame, contempt, than this is not a healthy relationship.” Something has to change the next time around in order for there to be any chance of things actually working out.

Know when to call it quits: “If you’re feeling unheard, disrespected, invalidated, and unhappy more times then you feel loved, respected, validated, and happy then it’s time to reevaluate things” Barrios says. “It’s time to end things for good when after exhaustively attempting to ‘make things work’ and possibly seeking professional help for yourself and potentially for the relationship. You then ask yourself, if this is the kind of relationship that you want to have in your life and the answer is no.”

Don’t be friends right away: “I personally believe that friendships are possible with an ex, but it is nothing like the relationship dynamic from when you two were an item – it can’t be,” says Barrios. No contact in the beginning is necessary to fully heal. “It’s easy to fall into old patterns of "how you used to be together. Give your mind, body, and heart the time to close off that chapter. Then there’s possibility of some kind of friendship later.”

Learn from this: Like with any experience, use this final breakup as a lesson learned. Know what you want, your worth, and make sure not to settle for less than you deserve in your next relationship. Barrios recommends taking time to invest in yourself. Do some inner work even if that means working with a life coach or a therapist.