Makin’ up and Breakin’ up
Breakups almost never feel like the right move at the time they are happening. If you have been with someone for a while, they are now connected with good memories and life events. They often occupy a large part of your daily routine. You may be used to spending a solid chunk of time with them everyday, and if you break up you will experience an awkward void that you may have no idea how to fill. You may also have a shared home or kids, which could make the practicality of breaking up much more complex than staying together.
How do you know the difference between the normal ups and downs that are part of all relationships and knowing that breaking up is the right decision? Staying with someone who no longer makes you happy ends up causing both of you more harm in the end, particularly if there is harmful behavior taking place. Waiting for a stagnant relationship to improve can breed resentment and waste time. There is not one simple answer to when time is to call it quits, but there are certain patterns that suggest that it may be time to cut a relationship loose.
You keep hoping your partner will change
I’ve talked to so many people who have said, “everything would be great in my relationship if my partner…” Unfortunately, your partner is the way they are and forcing them to change, especially when they don’t really see the problem, rarely works. For example, my current partner drinks more than I would like him to. I keep thinking to myself, we would be PERFECT together if he just laid off the drinking. However, the question I should be asking instead is, is my partner drinking the amount he does a deal breaker for me? Can I accept my partner for who he is? If you can’t accept them for who they are and they don’t seem to be making the changes you want them to, that is a sign that you should break up.
You cheat on each other
I’m going to preface this by saying that cheating doesn’t always have to be a deal breaker. I know many couples who have cheated on each other, worked through the pain and ended up stronger than before. If there is cheating in a relationship, I highly suggest reading Esther Perel’s book 'The State of Affairs', as she has great suggestions on how to work through infidelity. However, very broadly, if your partner is looking for sexual or romantic gratification elsewhere and is willing to risk the relationship to do so, it is not a great sign. In fact, lying at all in relationships is not healthy. I suggest talking to your partner about why the cheating took place. If it was a situation where desire took over for a short time, but afterwards they felt a lot of shame and realized they wanted to do anything to make the relationship work, this may be something that can be worked through.
You keep makin’ up and breakin’ up
We already discussed how breaking up sucks. Whether it was a good idea or not, there will be that moment (or thousands of moments) where you miss your partner and wonder if you couldn’t just deal with your issues to feel close to them again and go back to the safety and comfort of a relationship. However, if you keep breaking up and then missing each other and getting back together, but then remembering the issues and breaking up again, this is not healthy. It is normal to not be ready to break up yet, or to break up a couple times before it sticks, but for the most part this means that the relationship is unsustainable.
There is an extreme inequality in the relationship
We have all seen relationships where one partner is clearly more into it than the other. This is really unhealthy for the relationship because it gives the person who is less into it all of the power. It is hard for the person who cares less to not take advantage of this, by threatening to leave or doing what they want, knowing their partner will do anything to be with them. The person with less power ends up doing all the sacrificing, which is really painful and can lead to a lot of resentment post-breakup.
You don’t feel any excitement about the relationship
After you are with someone for a while, it’s normal to develop patterns with your partner that aren’t super exciting. Maybe you’re doing a little too much Netflix and not enough “Netflix and Chill”. If this is the case, perhaps you just need to make an effort to infuse some excitement into your relationship. On the other side, if you are no longer excited to hold your partner, to kiss them, or to hang out with them, this is a sign that your relationship may have run its course.
You want different things
If your partner hates cheese and you love it, this is certainly an issue, but it can be worked through. However, if you fundamentally see your life going in different ways, that is very difficult to work though. Does only one of you want kids? Do you see yourself in different countries? Living different kinds of lives? These types of things are often pushed to the back-burner in the beginning of relationships, due to the lust and excitement of fresh love; long term these issues can break couples apart if you choose to ignore them.
You fight all the time
Some disagreements are normal, even healthy in relationships. However, if everything about your partner bugs you all the time, perhaps you are no longer making each other happy. If this continues for some time and you are unable to work through the disagreements, this is a sign that perhaps you are no longer suited for each other.
There are no hard rules here. If you resonate with some of the statements above, perhaps it is time to end your relationship. You deserve to be in a fulfilling, happy, communicative and exciting relationship. If you are not getting that from your partner, perhaps you can find it elsewhere or spend some time enjoying your own company. It is normal to feel emotional after ending any relationship, but remember that after feeling awful for a little bit, you will heal and feel stronger than you did when you were in an unhealthy relationship.