Should I Break Up With My Partner?

Two relationship experts help answer this difficult question.

Unhappy couple.
 Eugenio Marongiu/Cultura/Getty Images

Deciding to break up with someone you love can be a difficult decision. When you've built a life together, bonded with mutual friends, and developed a routine, the choice to start fresh can be intimidating. How do you know when it's time to break up with your partner? Maybe you're facing more problems than you used to, or you just simply don't feel the spark anymore. It might be tempting to take some time apart. No matter the reason, it's important to make the right decision for your own mental health and wellbeing.

It's not always easy to let go of a relationship. You may wonder if you're giving up too soon, or if you're just in a rut rather than approaching the breaking point. But if you're constantly asking yourself the question, it might be time to part ways. Before you think about how to break up with your partner, consider whether you're doing it for the right reasons. It's okay to break up with someone you love if they're not the right person for you.

Read on as experts Suzanne Degges White, Ph.D., and Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., explain six factors to consider as you decide whether or not it's time to move on.

Meet the Expert

You're Fighting All the Time

Having disagreements with your partner from time to time is normal. No two individuals can always agree on every topic—but the problem comes when arguments are happening too often. Healthy relationships involve strong communication, and the ability to approach problems by intending to work together. "Every couple has different reasons and assigns different purposes to fighting or arguing," says Degges-White. She notes that healthy people don't just go through life without conflict, but instead use conflict to direct change and growth. "Conflict happens in every relationship, but if neither you nor your partner are using the conflict as a motivator to change your behaviors to enrich the connection and the relationship, that’s not a good use of differences in opinion."

If you're constantly at odds with your significant other, you can find yourself feeling angry or being in bad moods often. Fights that go unresolved aren't productive to a relationship. Rather than spending your days arguing, it might be time to consider breaking up.

You Feel Taken for Granted 

Another clear sign is when your partner's actions make it feel like he or she doesn't care about your feelings. Their needs shouldn't always come before yours: A healthy balance is necessary. Being in a healthy relationship requires making each other a priority, and that can't happen when one person feels like they're being taken for granted.

Goldsmith says that when you can't support your partner, "you are communicating that it’s not worth your time and energy. This makes your loved one feel invalid. If you can’t be there for your other half, and don’t care to change, it’s time to leave." When you're on the receiving end of someone's halfhearted efforts, it can make you feel unimportant. So, if your partner doesn't pay attention to you—or seem to care whether you're around—believe them.

You're Not Yourself

To be truly vulnerable and connected with another person, you should be free to be yourself. It's not a good sign if you feel like you're playing a role to be the person your partner wants you to be. Do you feel comfortable opening up about your sincere thoughts and beliefs? If not, you could be denying your needs. Bringing out the best in each other means being your authentic selves. If you find yourself hiding what's really on your mind, changing who you are, or acting in different ways than you would with your best friends and family, the relationship could be wrong for you. Your significant other should inspire you to be the happiest, most genuine version of yourself.

You Want Different Things

When you think about your future together, do your life goals align? Children, career aspirations, where you want to live, and even devotion to friends or family are common expectations that couples disagree on. "There will be times where you might feel like you and your partner are on different wavelengths, or living parallel lives rather than intersecting lives," says Degges-White. While it's normal to go through lulls in relationships, you'll need to determine if this period is temporary or if you want different things long-term.

She recommends imagining how your life would be different if your partner wasn't a part of it: Would your plans change drastically, or are your futures similar? If you want children one day and he or she doesn't, this major difference in your priorities can lead to heartache down the road. While it's tough to break up with someone you love, you owe it to yourself to find someone who wants the same things to make your relationship fulfilling and long-lasting. 

There Are Red Flags

Another key indicator that it's time to break up has to do with relationship red flags. Your partner may act in certain ways that concern you, but for one reason or another, you ignore it. That's all fine and well if you're just annoyed when he doesn't do his chores, but it becomes a problem when you're overlooking toxic behaviors.

Be aware if your significant other has tried to control you, has emotionally or physically abused you, refuses to introduce you to important people in his life, or betrays your trust. When you're experiencing these behaviors, the alarm bells go off. Consistent dishonesty is another red flag to be aware of; if you feel you can't trust what your partner says, this is almost always a sign to walk away

You're With Them for the Wrong Reasons

When you first started dating, did your heart flutter when you saw him? Or were you just happy to find a companion? It's important to be honest with yourself: There's no one here to judge but you. Many people are afraid of being single, or low self-esteem makes them feel like they can't do better. You might even worry that you're running out of time to find someone. But in the end, life is full of ups and downs. You can find the right relationship at any time in your life; it just won't happen when you're focusing on someone else. If you're with him for the wrong reasons, you owe it to your partner (and yourself) to respectfully break up.

You deserve to be with the partner of your dreams. Whatever the reasons you're feeling unhappy with your significant other, it's important to consider your own best interest. If you do decide to break up, be understanding and kind. In the long run, it could lead you both to live happier lives apart.

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