It’s sad but true: sometimes even a long-term relationship comes to an end. The key is figuring out how to know when to break up.
If there’s one thing we all have in common, it’s that we’ve all been through a breakup. Whether you were the one to do the breaking or you got your heart smashed into a thousand pieces, you know that breakups can be hard for both parties.
But if it’s been a while since you went through a breakup — or the last big one was major, like the end of a marriage or long-term relationship — you might not know when to break up, when to throw in the towel.
How to Know When to Break Up: 20 Warning Signs
Every relationship is, of course, different, and what every person is willing to deal with in a relationship varies. Also, your past experiences may dictate what you’re willing to suffer through now.
If you were married to an emotionally abusive man, you might think your boyfriend, who simply doesn’t care about you as much as you care about him, is so much better that you’re willing to accept the fact that it’s a lopsided relationship.
Yes, the man you’re with will have some things that completely get on your nerves, you shouldn’t settle. If you aren’t happy- at least the majority of the time- you’re in the wrong relationship. There is someone out there that you can be authentic and blissfully happy with…but you’ll have to break up with this Mr. Wrong to find him.
Here are some of the signs that it’s time to break up.
1. You Don’t Feel the Same Way
At one time, you loved this man like you’ve never loved anyone else. And while it’s normal for feelings to settle down from those early days of infatuation, your love for him should grow and remain steady and deep.
If you’ve felt a disconnect with him over the past few months and you can’t figure out how to reclaim the deep love you once had, it may be because the relationship has outlived its purpose. It’s time to move on.
2. You’re Fighting All the Time
Many couples think that arguing a lot is totally fine. But they scream, shout, and call each other nasty names…and then apologize and say they didn’t mean it.
Truth comes out when you’re angry. If, in the heat of the moment (over and over again), you wonder why you’re with this guy and loathe him, then probably you don’t need to be with him, even if you calm down later.
So how do you know if your arguing is normal or a sign of a bigger problem? If you’re able to resolve the issue at hand by talking it out, you’re probably okay. But if you continue to bicker over the same topics and they’re not improving, then it might be a sign it’s time to break up.
3. He Seems Distant
You’re having trouble connecting emotionally to your guy. He just seems to be…somewhere else. You’ve tried talking to him about it, but he’s shut you out.
He may be processing his feelings about your relationship. Or something else. If he’s going through something like stress at work or having a loved one sick or dying, cut him some slack and wait it out. But if things are otherwise good, but your relationship feels disconnected, things may be ending.
4. One (or Both of You) is Avoiding the Other
He goes out with his friends after work for drinks. When he comes home, you pretend to be asleep. You plan girls’ getaways so you don’t have to be home with your boyfriend. Clearly, the two of you aren’t comfortable being in the same room for long, so it’s time to get to the bottom of why.
Likely one or both of you sees the end in sight and is avoiding the conflict that may come with the breakup. Or you just can’t find the right time to do it. Know that there’s no “right time” for when to break up. Just rip that Band-Aid off!
5. You Worry He’s Cheating
You’re fairly certain you’re not being paranoid; you’ve found enough evidence that your man is being unfaithful. So what do you do about it? Accuse him and have things blow up? You’re worried that you won’t be able to live without him, despite him being a cheater.
If you’re looking for information about how to know when to break up and your man is cheating, let me just say: DO IT NOW!! Don’t wait any longer because you will convince yourself that you were crazy and that he’s faithful to you. But you deserve better, so get out now.
6. You’re Fantasizing About Other Men…a LOT
Let’s first get this straight: it is completely normal and healthy to occasionally fantasize about being with someone else. In fact, 46% of women have fantasized about another man while having sex with their partner.
So if you’re doing this now and then, you’re totally normal. But if those fantasies are taking up more space than your man is in your head…or if you’re in danger of acting on them, then you know it’s time to end this relationship. You need to be fair to him, and cheating (if only in your head) isn’t a quality of a good partner.
7. You’ve Stopped Having Sex
Again, this is something that’s completely normal for many. You might taper off how frequently you have sex from those early monkey-sex days. You might have weeks or even months where you don’t get frisky.
But if it’s going on and on and neither of you are making an effort to connect physically, it could be an indicator of a bigger problem. There may be underlying issues that you two haven’t addressed that are making it hard for one or both of you to want to feel physically intimate.
8. You’ve Caught Him Lying
He told you he was going out with Phil to shoot hoops, but then Phil stopped by the house to drop something off. You’ve caught him in other lies, too. You don’t know if he’s cheating or it’s something else that he’s lying about, but you know that your relationship isn’t okay.
In no way can you trust a liar. Even if you call him out and he promises not to do it again, how can you believe him? Cut your ties and move on. You deserve honesty.
9. He’s Physically or Mentally Abusing You
Here’s another complete deal breaker. If he lays a finger on you — even once — or belittles you, you need to leave this man immediately. There’s no reason to put up with that. It doesn’t matter that he always brings you flowers and apologizes after. You are not safe.
Speaking of safety, you need to figure out how to know when to break up with an abuser so that you don’t put yourself in danger. He will get angry that you want to leave him, and he may hurt you. Leave when he’s not around and go somewhere that he can’t find you. Or bring a big, strong friend to go with you to break the news to him.
10. You Want Different Things
You’re puzzled. The man you’re with is a great guy. He’s been nothing but wonderful to you. But you’ve reached a point in your lives where you realize you now want different things.
Maybe you want to really focus on your career, but he wants to retire early and travel the world. Maybe he wants to move to Seattle, while you want to stay close to your ailing parents.
It happens sometimes. You might have wanted the same thing for months or years, but sometimes you reach a fork in the road and you have to make a big decision.
11. He’s Got Deal breakers
Maybe you want to buy a house together…but he wants to live in an RV to save money.
Maybe you don’t want kids…but he does.
Maybe he never wants to remarry…but you do.
These are all huge life decisions that should be in sync between partners, so ignoring them now only delays the inevitable.
12. Your Friends Think You Should Break Up
The frustrating thing about good friends is that they often see what you don’t see in your relationship…and you’re likely unwilling to admit that they’re right.
You might bury your head in the sand about the fact that your boyfriend is kinda mean to you…but your BFF Laurie is quick to point it out and remind you of what a strong woman you are. You make excuses for the guy, but she’s not accepting them.
If you want to know when to break up…pay attention to what your friends are saying about your boyfriend.
13. You’re Unhappy
There’s no scientific measurement of how happy you should be in a relationship, but you should be happy at least 80% of the time. That means that yes, you’ll have some rough patches over the years, but the overall forecast for your relationship is sunny weather.
If, when you think about it, you realize you’re unhappy much more than you are happy, this isn’t the right relationship for you.
“But Adam,” you say, “we have some really great times together. Don’t those outweigh the dark periods?”
Only you can answer that, but if you’re settling for a relationship where you have extreme highs (but few of them) and deep lows (lots), then he’s not right for you.
14. You’re Doing all the Sacrificing
You work while he stays home to develop his comedy career.
You gave up your dream to move to Belize because he doesn’t speak Spanish.
You never get to go to your favorite restaurant because he hates it.
If you’re giving up many things that you want so that he can be happy, this isn’t fair to you. A relationship should be about compromise…on both sides. That means you have a win, then he has a win. You give up something, then he gives up something. If you’re accommodating him nonstop then your own needs aren’t getting met.
Don’t wait to figure out when to break up…or you may give everything you’ve got and be emotionally drained.
15. You’re Cheating
Maybe your fantasies about being with other men came to life and now you’re having an affair. Realize that if you’re cheating, it’s probably because there are bigger issues in your relationship.
Maybe he hasn’t made you feel cherished in a long time.
Maybe you stopped having sex a year ago.
Maybe you know deep down that this isn’t the man for you.
Dive below the surface to figure out what’s really wrong in your relationship. Probably it can’t be mended. You’ve broken his trust, whether he knows you’re cheating or not. The best you can do is end things and then work through the issues that led you to cheating so you can have a healthy relationship next time.
16. You’ve Known It’s Over for a While
For some couples, the question isn’t if to break up, it’s when to break up. You both have known for quite some time that the relationship is dead, but you both hate conflict and upheaval.
Breaking up means dividing years’ worth of combined personal items. Finding a new place to live. Separating your finances. Letting go of someone you’ve grown accustomed to being in your life.
It’s tough. But consider how long you can go on in this state of limbo. Where do you see yourself in five years? Avoiding him and your problems? Or living a full life, maybe with a new partner?
Keep that vision in mind to help you make the decision of when to break up.
17. You’ve Been in Therapy…and It’s Not Working
The two of you have struggled for a while, and you’ve agreed that should you to go to couple’s therapy. It’ll fix things, they tell you.
So you’ve seen a therapist together for several months. The problem is: all you do in each session is blame one another. You’re not solving any of your problems, you’re just rehashing the same old sh#%. Even your therapist has admitted she doesn’t know how to help you.
18. You Resent Him
Every time you look at your man, you feel a swell of anger. Maybe he begged you not to take that job across the country so you could be together, and now you resent him for it. Maybe he convinced you that the two of you were better off not having kids, but your biological clock is still ticking.
Whatever the cause of your resentment, realize that it’s not healthy for the two of you. Unless you can get over your anger, the relationship is doomed.
19. You Feel Stuck
You might have thought his video game habit was cute when you first started dating, but now you feel like you’re with a teenager. You are ready to level up in your life (buy a house, get married, advance your career), but you feel like this relationship is a handicap for all the things you want to achieve.
Your partner should match you in terms of what he wants out of life. He should have similar ambition and drive to what you have. If that’s not the case, you’re stuck on a hamster wheel.
20. You’ve Tried to Change Him, to No Avail
Many women have tried and failed to change a man. Inevitably, they waste years of their lives and walk away frustrated.
You can’t change him. Stop trying. It’s time to break up with this guy because he will never be what you need.
Now that you’ve admitted to yourself that it’s time to end things, you need to figure out how and when to break up.
Plan how you’ll do it, particularly if you live together. Where will you go? How will you deal with breaking your lease or selling the house if you both move out?
Set aside your anger to discuss the deeper issues. Avoid blame; you’re leaving and it’s over, so the nicest thing you can do is be honest about why you’re leaving without pointing the finger angrily.
If you think he’ll try to convince you to stay, make a list of reasons he’s wrong for you so you can stick to your guns. Talk to your friends so they can remind you why you’re leaving and can support you through the process.
If you’ve broken up and gotten back together a million times, ask yourself how this time will be different. Don’t go back again. It’s a dead end.
Have no contact after the breakup. If he keeps pushing to stay in touch, ask him for a 3-week no contact rule.
Own your part in the breakup. You can’t put it all on him. It takes two people to make and break a relationship.
Stick to your guns. You’re making the right decision.
Give yourself some grieving time before you date again. You may be ready to put this guy behind you, but you need to honor the time you had with him, reflect on what went wrong, and then find who you are now, post-relationship.
Learning how to know when to break up requires you to be completely honest with yourself about the situation, your feelings, and what you want in a relationship. It will get uncomfortable. There will probably be tears.
But after the rains come the rainbow. After you end this relationship, you will find your way back to happy again. And you’ll find a man that is so much better for you, you’ll wonder why you ever settled for the last guy.