Honestly, if you catch yourself regularly wondering how to know when to break up with your partner, we need to talk.
We’ll get into that in more detail soon but overall, this can be a difficult topic in general. A long-term relationship feels safe, comfortable and “normal” which can make us overlook what others see as obvious.
In this article, I’m going to run you through a list of things to think about and potential deal-breakers. By the end, you’ll either have a decision or you’ll have a lot to think about in your own time.
How to Know When to Break Up with Your Significant Other
The trouble with relationship problems is they tend to be insidious. Nobody enters a long term relationship with someone they hate. Instead, things change very slowly over time. So slowly that we just don’t realize they’re happening. This is exactly why it’s so hard to know when to break up.
It can take an opinion from the outside or, who knows, maybe a helpful article on the Internet *cough* for us to see that we’re unhappy.
If that’s where you’re at right now, don’t worry. It’s normal and we’ve all been there. What’s important from this point is that you think it through properly and act on it. Now, let’s talk about how to know when a relationship is over.
Remember how a healthy relationship is meant to feel
Think back to about the nine-month mark in your relationship. You were through the highs of the honeymoon period and had settled into (what I hope was) a happy, healthy relationship.
You enjoyed being around each other, missed each other when you were apart and felt supported in everything you did.
How does that compare to the current state of things? If that’s not where the two of you are at, you should talk about that. Are the negative changes fixable or have things gone too far?
Try to be objective and figure out what the real problem is
Being objective about a situation we’re so close to is hard, I know. Do your best to think about it as though it were someone else’s relationship instead. Like you’re looking in from the outside.
If it were your friend talking about their relationship, what advice would you give them?
By thinking it through this way, you can get a much better understanding of what the real problem is. Rather than focusing on the symptoms (they don’t tell you when they change their plans for the night), you can see the underlying problem (poor communication or maybe a lack of respect).
When you know what the real problem is, then you can decide if it’s fixable and better understand how to know when a relationship is over.
You’re constantly asking yourself this question
As I said in the beginning, if you’re struggling with how to know when to break up, this is a red flag to look out for. For me, If I find that I’m often wondering if I should end the relationship, the answer always ends up being “yes.”
The reason for this is simple. If the core problems were minor and your relationship was strong, you’d work together to iron out the kinks and move on. Instead, you’re thinking about this on your drive to work and pondering it in the shower. Alone with your thoughts, constantly wondering.
You only enjoy being with them when you’re physically together
For me, this has become the other canary in the coal mine. When we’re apart, I’m filled with doubt, wondering if I should end the relationship because it just doesn’t seem to be working.
When we’re together though, things feel “normal.” It’s a comfortable routine and things feel “right”. . . until we’re apart again.
These two points always go hand in hand for me and it seems this is very common among relationships in general. In a strong relationship, you’ll feel the same about them no matter the distance between you.
If you feel pressured to change, know that it's time to break up
A relationship is meant to be a happy, loving and respectful bond between two people. Accepting each other as they are and loving them that way.
If, on the other hand, you feel a constant pressure to change who you are, this is a big problem. Whether it’s direct or indirect, what it leads to over time is self-resentment.
You begin to feel as though you aren’t enough for them which eventually leads to a general feeling of being “less than.”
If your partner wants to be with a different version of you, let them. . . with someone else.
You feel as though you’re constantly under their control
Trust and respect are a couple of cornerstones of a healthy relationship. Neither of you should ever be “in control” of one another emotionally.
The moment this begins, it’s time to make your exit. This situation only ever spirals out of control, one small step at a time. It starts with controlling what you watch on Netflix and before you know it, you’re asking permission to see your friends. If this is the path your relationship is on, it’s time to leave.
Just keep in mind that if you break up with an ex who wants you under their control, they can manipulate you to come back. There's always the temptation of being friends with your ex, which they can use to lure you back in.
You know you should break up if your partner is abusive
Taking this a step further, verbal, physical and emotional abuse are all no-gos. No matter who you are or what your relationship history, it’s time to move on and forget your ex. That’s all there is to it.
Trust is a regular source of arguments
Remember how I said trust and respect are important? If either of you are struggling to trust one another, this is almost always an unfixable problem. Even if you live with your partner, you might not always be able to trust each other.
You may find a way to mask it in the short term but it never really goes away. If you don’t trust your partner on a night out with their friends, no amount of talking will fix this.
The same goes the other way around as well. Whether that distrust is a result of something that happened between you or baggage from a previous relationship, it won’t go away. If you break up because of this, it's often easier to get over the breakup.
You aren’t getting what you need from your relationship
This is something that might be hard to see sometimes and another example of why it’s so hard to know exactly when to end a relationship. Both of you are allowed to expect certain things from a relationship and demand them.
If what you need from a long-term relationship can’t be found in this person, it’s time to look somewhere else. Compromise is important but not when it comes to the fundamentals of what you need to be happy.
You deserve to be happy and so does your partner. Neither of you should be trying to change the other to fit what you need!
While common, this relationship problem is something that might keep you thinking about your ex. If you feel like you don't "deserve" certain things from your ex, try to figure out where this idea is coming from. The sooner you realize why you've allowed yourself the minimum in your relationship, the easier it becomes to get over it.
You’re constantly fighting. The relationship feels like work.
I think we’ve all been there at some point in our lives. In a relationship that really isn’t working and yet we try to fix it anyway.
There just seems to be a constant barrage of problems that pop up. Patience gets low, tempers flare and things that would otherwise be resolved quickly turn into aggressive arguments.
The thing about arguments is they never have a winner. You both finish up feeling bad about yourself and harbor increasing resentment toward each other.
Relationships do take a certain amount of work, but they shouldn’t feel like a full-time job.
You’ve lost your sex drive, at least with them
Sexual attraction is about so much more than their body. A happy sex life needs physical attraction, trust, respect and overall happiness if it’s going to last.
Chances are if you’ve lost interest in having sex with your partner, one of these other elements may be missing.
Like all of these issues, it’s something you should talk about with them and attempt to fix. Still, it’s a serious red flag that you need to be aware of. Don’t allow yourself to make excuses for it.
Knowing When to Break Up is a Process
Unfortunately, it’s just tough no matter how many times you go through it. As difficult as a breakup can be, it’s important to know when to end a relationship for your own well-being. Staying with your partner and dragging things out because of uncertainty just isn’t healthy. Take these factors into account, think things through carefully and make sure you act on them.
As a bonus point, don’t be afraid to reach out to some friends you trust as well. If you’ve been through this list carefully and still aren’t quite sure when to break up, outside opinions can help.