Should I Stay or Should I Go? How to Know When to Break Up

A women wondering how to know when to break up with someone looking out the window and thinking.

You’ve been in a relationship for a while now but lately—or perhaps for months or years—you’ve been feeling like the relationship has lost steam. So, how do you know if the relationship is worth holding onto? The fact is, it’s hard to know when to break up, and the factors that go into the decision are never black and white.

“The decision comes in waves and shades,” says licensed marriage and couples therapist, Dr. Paul Hokemeyer. “About 5% of my patients end their relationship with 100% conviction. The other 95% reach their decision after months and years of struggling. Most of the struggle comes from looking for external direction. They want their partner to call it off or do something so egregious there’s no option but to break it off.”

Many times, that external direction doesn’t come and you’re forced having to look deep inside. If you’re feeling that something is off in the relationship, it may be time to simply end it. Here are five factors that let you know it may be time to think about breaking up.

You’d rather be alone.
Would you prefer spending time alone than with your partner? It’s okay if this happens once in a while. We all need our private time. But if you feel this way all the time, make excuses not to be with them, and make other plans on purpose, this says a lot. “If you’re totally fine NOT spending time with your partner—it’s probably a sign you need to move on,” says Sameera Sullivan, a professional matchmaker and CEO of Lasting Connections.

You feel miserable when you’re together.
“Sometimes we stick it out with someone we’ve been with for a while and tend to forget our own happiness is at risk. If you spend way too much time crying or complaining to others about your partner, it’s time to move on,” says Sullivan. It’s important to remember that it’s not your partner’s responsibility to make you happy, but the both of you together in the relationship, should make you happy.

You’ve stopped having fun.
If all you do is fight and argue, that’s a clear sign you need a break. “A relationship can’t flourish when all you ever do is argue. Pleasant outings (like going to concerts or parties) can turn sour if you and your partner are constantly fighting and not enjoying yourselves,” says Sullivan.

You’ve felt this way in other relationships.
This could be a sign you have a relational pattern problem—or keep falling for the wrong person. “A key part of therapy and identifying if you should stay or leave a relationship is looking for patterns in ourselves. If you discover this pattern isn’t serving your life and well-being, the answer to end a relationship may emerge,” says Hokemeyer.

You can’t look past the little (and big) things.
In the beginning, you may brush off that your partner leaves their clothes all over the floor, voted for the different candidate, or drinks more than you like. “Over time, these things become harder to ignore and move past. If you’re unable to tolerate certain behaviors after several months or years, you’re only going to resent them more,” says Sullivan.

However, it goes without saying that some relationships are worth holding onto.

“Communication is key when it comes to troubled relationships. If you’re both communicating about your likes and dislikes, it means you’re both putting forth the effort that a solid relationship requires,” says Sullivan.

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