We all hear of those mythical mutual breakups, the ones where both sides politely part ways. But let’s be honest, it’s rarely that simple, especially when there are still feelings involved. So what happens when you’re considering a breakup with someone you still care about?
The stakes are definitely higher: one, because your feelings are fresh and two, you’re making a decision that can have a big impact on your day-to-day life. There are lots of reasons why relationships don’t work out, and many of them have nothing to do with feelings not being strong enough, or people not loving each other. That’s what can make breakups so heartbreaking, you could care deeply about someone, you could care deeply about each other, but the dynamic and the relationship isn’t working.
If you’re not sure if it’s the right time to break up with someone you still care about, here are some reasons that may tell you it’s time to walk away:
1. You have clashing values.
Shared values (or lack thereof) can make or break a relationship. When you coexist with someone, you should be on the same page about things like family, religion, drugs, politics, etc. Otherwise, you may be facing some serious conflicts.
On the other hand, maybe you’re the one compromising your values and making all the sacrifices to keep the relationship going. Maybe you agreed to travel more or get engaged earlier. These kinds of major compromises can lead to resentment and bitterness down the line, so be careful if you find yourself making too many.
Couples should also have a similar time frame for when to reach milestones like moving in together, marriage, and children. These types of conversations should be addressed early on; otherwise, you may realize, too late, that your partner doesn’t share your life goals.
2. They cheated.
This is a touchy topic. When somebody cheats, whether it was just a peck or the whole nine yards, it’s a painful breach of trust. Can you learn to forgive someone who cheated? Some people think they can, and maybe you’re one of them. But many people continue to feel haunted by the hurt and can’t move on.
If you’ve lost trust with your partner, or can’t stop thinking about how they’ve hurt you, it may not be worth sticking with a relationship that isn’t making you happy. Unless you two can genuinely move forward and put the past behind you, the likelihood of having a functional relationship is low. You need to decide if your relationship can survive this blow.
3. You don’t put any effort into the relationship.
Effort is the glue that makes a relationship stick. It can be as simple as a good morning text or a spontaneous shower make-out session. Whatever keeps the spark going, it takes two.
Once someone stops putting in effort and lets things sail, your relationship is no longer moving forward, it’s drifting.
Never make excuses for abuse in your relationship. Whether it’s physical or emotional abuse, your partner is not secure or stable enough to love you properly. “An abuser is morbidly insecure. S/he (yes, potentially she) has little sense of his/her own social value and makes an effort to gain or regain some semblance of that value through domination and control,” says Michael J Formica MS, MA, EdM, author of Understanding the Dynamics of Abusive Relationships.
Remember that love is not about control; it’s about support. Don’t confuse the two. A relationship that isn’t grounded in mutual respect is a throw-away. Leave it and don’t look back.
5. You’re growing apart.
People change; the real issue is: are you changing together? Sometimes couples can grow apart because they no longer share the same interests or goals. Maybe when you first met, you were both introverted vegans who enjoyed video games, but now your partner is an outgoing meat-lover who attends music festivals. Or what if you were outdoorsy people, but now your partner is a total homebody.
Couples should have similar life destinations in order to keep following a unified path. If you aren’t growing together, either motivate them to rekindle that energy you once saw or let go.
6. Your arguing is unhealthy.
Communication is the most important thing in a relationship—more important than shared interests, values, even sex! Without healthy communication, your disagreements become a shaky battleground of anger, ego, and misheard needs. It’s like you’re in a competition of right vs. wrong where both of you are stomping over each other to win. It’s toxic.
Conflict should be resolved with a team-effort mentality (as cliché as that sounds), filled with respect and open dialogue. If your partner is more concerned with dominating you than listening to you, move on.
7. Your personalities don’t mix.
Opposites may attract, but they don’t always equal yin and yang. In other words, just because you two are different doesn’t mean it’s a good match. Sometimes dating our opposite may feel exhilarating and spicy, but other times, it can feel like a lot of drama.
For example, if you pair someone who’s emotionally sensitive and vulnerable with someone who’s arrogant and impatient, you’ll get quite an unequal, chaotic partnership. Even if the chemistry is super hot, a bad mix of personalities can cause trouble in the long run.
8. There’s no more spark.
Ah, the famous spark—you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you always know it’s either there or it’s not.
Down the line, we may lose attraction for our partner. It may be something physical, spiritual, or some other reason we can’t quite place. Once that magic or positive energy is gone, it’s very difficult to revive. And although couples, especially long-term ones, don’t have sparks flying all the time, there should still be some sort of something.
9. Trust is broken.
Trust in a relationship is like water; it ensures growth. It fuels both partners with the unwavering belief that you both have each other’s back—no matter what. If your partner did something to hurt your trust, you have to decide if it was a minor setback, like an innocent white lie, or an unforgivable backstab.
As much as you may love the person, the pain of struggling along in a relationship without trust may feel worse than moving on together. You need to evaluate if your trust can be mended. If not, you need to walk away.
10. You have a gut feeling.
It’s not logical, but does it have to be? Sometimes we just feel off and no longer see our partner in our future. It could be any number of hints or weird vibes—maybe you’re not that excited about bringing them around your family or the idea of marrying them gives you anxiety. These bad feelings are the body’s way of protecting us from future harm, so listen to your gut.
Breaking up with someone you still care about it hard, it may even feel wrong or like you’re making a mistake. But trust your judgement and consider the reasons above. If you find yourself relating to some of these reasons, or if they remind you of where you’re at in your relationship, it may be time to think about walking away.