BY Laura Melrose

Our generation sometimes has a skewed perception of permanence. We’re very good at living for the moment, making spontaneous decisions based on current thoughts and feelings.

We get piercings and tattoos, permanently marking our skin with our dreams and inspirations NOW, ignoring the echoes of our parents’ voices in the back of our heads that say “but what if you don’t feel this way in one/five/ten years?”

We seem to lose that ability, however, when it comes to making decisions about relationships. All of a sudden we develop a fear of the consequences and find it difficult to trust the strength of our feelings, delaying making a judgment call for fear that we’ll change our minds.

Some of this comes from the dichotomy between the call of societal norms and the whispers of our youth. All around us we see examples of monogamy and commitment, and it’s drummed into us that the ‘normal’ progression of adulthood involves settling down with one person, a couple of rugrats and a Labrador. By contrast, the tattooed devil on your shoulder whispers ‘you don’t have to worry about that yet, you’ve got time, you’re young…’ A phrase I’ve often heard from friends agonising over this very question is ‘I’d marry them in ten years, but not now.’

The fact is, just because you think you could marry your partner in ten years time doesn’t mean they’re right for you now. Sometimes you need to find out what else is out there in order to be sure what you have is what you want – and that’s a difficult thing to express to someone, but it’s important that we serve our own needs. Que sera sera, whatever will be, and if that person is truly the right one for you then a breakup doesn’t have to be permanent. In the immortal words of OutKast – nothing is forever, what makes love (or breakups) the exception?

When it comes down to making that will-I-won’t-I decision, there are three important questions to ask yourself.

Why am I in this relationship?

In economics, there is a concept called the sunken cost fallacy. The myth is that when you’ve invested your money already, it’s worth persevering in order to increase the value in your reward. In fact, that money is gone, and regardless of whether you persevere, you won’t get it back. It’s like continuing to eat a meal you’ve paid for when you’re already full, or going to a concert sick. Staying with a partner purely because you’ve been with them a long time isn’t going to produce a valuable relationship. Are you still emotionally invested in your partner, or has it become a habit?

Am I a better person for being in this relationship?

Does your partner make you try? Do they actively encourage you to strive and achieve things in your own life? Think about terms like ‘validation’ and ‘self-expansion’, and whether or not they apply in your relationship.

Am I happy?

Not ‘could I be happy if x changed’, but are you truly happy now?

Most importantly, no one else can tell you whether or not your relationship is right. Being in a relationship can be hard work, and just because you’ve hit a rough patch doesn’t mean you won’t work through it – but if those doubts persist, and you don’t have good answers to these three questions, then maybe you already know. Don’t be afraid to make a decision based on honest feelings – you can’t take it back, but you can change your mind, and if it’s meant to be, it will be.

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