How to Know When to Break Up

A woman who need to know how to know when to break up, thinking as she sips her coffee and looks out the window.

Breaking up sucks. That’s probably why we let ourselves suffocate in bad relationships—anything to avoid the dreaded talk. But once you reach that breaking point, usually after a few months of arguing and passive aggressive bitterness, you’ll start considering the inevitable.

It’s a tough choice, but if you’re thinking it may be time to break up but are still feeling unsure, here are a few things to look out for that tell you it’s time. 

You’re sad more than happy.
The easiest way to know when to break up can be a simple question: are you smiling or frowning?  If you’re usually sad, the hardest thing is admitting it to yourself.

Sometimes we get so comfortable in a relationship that we forget what real happiness feels like. The relationship grows on you like a bad haircut, and the idea of fixing it and starting over again feels overwhelming. Truthfully though, it’s more overwhelming in the long run to settle for a bad relationship. So be with someone who makes you happy now, not eventually.

You’ve lost desire .
Desire has its ups and downs. Not every couple has to be googly-eyed and playing footsies under the table, but they should have a reasonable amount of desire for each other. If you often find you’re not in the mood, it’s usually a bad sign.

Couples who are deeply connected, both mentally and emotionally, want to touch each other. Even if it’s not always in a sexual way, they want to be physically close or playful. Little flirtations like cuddling and petting is important. When this desire goes missing, the connection is likely gone– time to break up.

You’ve grown apart.
People change, but are you changing together? As couples grow apart, they no longer share the same interests or goals. Maybe when you first met, you were both quiet hipsters who liked board games at home, but now your partner prefers going out to upscale lounges or dancing in clubs. Or what if you were outdoorsy people, but now your partner is a 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.

You’re always fighting.
As an unwise man once said, “fighting means you care.” Ah, beep, wrong! Caring means you find respectful ways to deal with disagreements. Fighting is a hostile way of getting your point across, while only protecting your own needs—not your partner’s.

So if your version of working things out is full of toxic battling and tears, you’re not making progress. Save all that energy for a new relationship with someone who makes you more of a lover than a fighter.

There’s no effort.
In relationships, effort is like water. You can’t survive without it. Effort is all about making daily gestures that show your appreciation for your partner. Sweet right?

But what happens when this effort stops? You can sense it’s missing because the relationship will start to feel like a pointless highway cruise to nowhere. When there’s no destination driving the relationship, effort dies and so should your online status.

There’s no trust.
Love without trust is mayhem. It’s painful, exhausting and turns you more into a CIA agent than a happy partner. A relationship can’t be healthy when one of you is constantly doing homework on each other’s whereabouts and call history.

Whether it’s you or them who’s struggling with trust, the consequences are drama-filled either way. A person who can’t is never secure in the relationship so they’re constantly battling for proof of their partner’s loyalty. And the person who wants to be trusted will never get the peace and openness they crave. Trying to maintain a relationship without trust is chaos. No matter who’s responsible, both parties suffer. At this point, you know when to break up.

You can’t picture the future.
Look into that crystal ball brain of yours—what do you see? If your vision of a future together makes you uneasy, it’s a red flag. This feeling is your body’s way of telling you the relationship is not right spiritually. Our bodies react to things that aren’t good for us by giving us those icky feelings when we’re at risk of trouble. Think of it as your body’s emotional protection system.

There are other signs that show this person is not your future. Maybe you don’t like bringing them around your family or the idea of having kids with them gives you anxiety. These bad feelings are normal, but make sure you listen to them. They’re saying, “ time to break up.”

Breaking up with someone is hard. But staying in a bad relationship is even harder. If you know these signs apply to you, trust your gut. 

Alex Bocknek

Alex Bocknek is the senior editor of The Date Mix and works at Zoosk, the online dating service. He’s also a recovering music critic and an aspiring fiction writer (probably lost) on the way to an independent bookstore near you. He can be found occasionally musing about politics, philosophy, and love in the modern world.

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