Occasionally wondering whether you should stay together or break up is just part of being in a relationship for most people.
Every couple, regardless of how they might look on the outside, goes through rough patches. And even if you deeply love your partner, it’s not unusual to occasionally wonder if the relationship is a good fit.
Understanding the difference between the normal ups and downs of a healthy partnership and signs that a relationship has run its course isn’t always easy. Still, there are some clear signs to watch for.
Read on to learn more about these signs and what to do if things seem unsalvageable.
If you recognize some of the following signs in your relationship, it’s time to take a hard look at whether things are worth repairing.
You keep breaking up and getting back together
Remember how back in middle school everyone you knew was dumping each other and then making up? And you’d wonder why they even stayed together at all?
This kind of yo-yo behavior seemed like all fun and games back then, but it’s not as alluring when you’re an adult.
It’s OK to drift apart when you’re going through a significant challenge. But if you’re constantly separating and coming back together, it’s possible neither of you are acknowledging the underlying reasons for why you keep ending things.
You’re doing all the sacrificing
Every relationship requires sacrifice. This can be a healthy way to show each other your love and support.
Sometimes, this is just a matter of letting your partner choose which restaurant you’ll eat at or what show to watch on Netflix. But other times, these can be bigger decisions, such as moving across the country for a new job opportunity.
If you find yourself constantly giving everything for your partner without the gesture being reciprocated, it can create a power imbalance that breeds long-term unhappiness and resentment.
You can’t trust them
Always questioning whether your partner is telling the truth or feeling the need to go behind their back and search through their phone is an emotionally draining experience.
If your significant other has a history of lying or cheating, this causes a buildup of resentment that can quickly poison your relationship over time.
You’ve grown apart
Have you felt a rift between you that can’t be explained? Has it become increasingly difficult to communicate or share your likes and interests?
Many couples will often hold on to memories of when they first met and overlook the ways in which both people have changed. Feeling disconnected more often than not may mean you no longer want to hold on to the past.
Your major values aren’t aligned
Even if you connect with and care deeply about the other person, you might not be on the same page when it comes to big-picture things.
If your partner wants to settle down and start a family but you’d rather spend your days traveling, it’s a significant sign things aren’t meant to last.
You’ve stopped caring or putting in the effort
Have you stopped checking in with your partner to see how their day is going? Did you used to make an effort to reconnect but can no longer find the motivation?
While we all have our down days as a partner, if you consistently can’t seem to summon back the interest you once had, it’s a sign things have cooled off.
You’re experiencing physical or emotional abuse
Any form of abuse is a clear red flag that the relationship has become toxic. It’s never OK for your partner to attack, frighten, control, or isolate you.
While it’s easier to recognize the physical signs of abuse, it can be harder to identify the mental and emotional ones. Remember, you deserve to be treated with care and respect.
You don’t like yourself
Not liking yourself when you’re around your partner can wear you down over time. A healthy relationship should bring out the best in you.
If you feel like your partner brings out the worst in you, it’s probably a sign that things have become unhealthy.
You fight nonstop
While disagreements are an inevitable part of being a couple, you shouldn’t feel like you’re always waiting for the next explosion. Unresolved conflicts that turn disrespectful and demeaning over time can severely affect your emotional well-being.
Ask yourself whether you’re both finding a new reason to argue every day. If the answer is yes, it may be time for you to part ways.
You’re not getting your needs met
Part of being in a healthy duo involves actively working on good communication. When the lines of communication break down, you may start to feel a sense of longing, unease, and even bitterness.
Something’s off if you’re constantly craving affection that isn’t provided, or if you find yourself daydreaming of a more fulfilling relationship.
You think about breaking up all the time
Wondering whether to stay together every once in a while is normal. It’s when you can’t stop thinking about being apart that you should worry.
Being with someone shouldn’t be a continuous struggle of hoping for the other person to change. If you can’t imagine growing older with them as they are right now, it’s probably time to throw in the towel.
Aside from those related to abuse, the signs discussed above don’t always mean you need to end things right away, especially if there’s still love in the relationship. Think of them more as a sign that your relationship could use some extra attention.
Before ending things, consider trying some of these approaches to see if things are salvageable.
Have an honest conversation
Ignoring problems will only make things worse. Don’t try to pretend everything is fine. Instead, lay everything out on the table and have an honest talk with your partner about your concerns.
Putting it all out there might sound intimidating, but chances are, your partner likely shares many of your concerns.
Try to speak without getting defensive. Be open to listening to what they have to say. This will allow you to evaluate and talk through the areas you both need to improve.
Rekindle your connection
Remember what made you fall in love in the first place. Try to make each other a priority. Go on a couple’s retreat, or start weekly date nights where you can both unwind and reconnect.
Making each other feel important can be an incredible way to bond and communicate your hopes for the future.
Seek professional help
In some cases, repairing an unhealthy relationship requires a bit out outside help, especially if there’s a lot of bitterness and resentment involved.
Finding a therapist who specializes in relationship recovery can help you both work through your emotions and give you the tools to understand and communicate with each other better.
Forgive one another
Before you make a final decision about saying goodbye, consider whether it’s possible for you to forgive your partner and vice versa. Letting go of old grudges is an important aspect for moving forward and developing a healthy relationship.
By committing to forgiving each other, you can strengthen what you have together and make room for a deeper connection.
If you feel like you’ve exhausted every effort and are hitting a wall, here are some practical steps you can take once you’ve decided to break up.
Consider all of the logistics. Things can be tricky if you’ve been sharing a living space with the other person or have a joint bank account. You may need to also look at how to make up for lost income if your partner has been supporting you financially.
Make sure you’ve set up another place to stay. Decide whether you would move your things before or after your talk. Don’t be afraid to reach out to loved ones for help exploring your options and rearranging your living situation.
Choose the right place to break up
The most respectful way to end a relationship is in person, unless that feels unsafe. Choose a private location to avoid an embarrassing scene, but try to avoid having your talk at home so you can leave soon after.
The conversation may last a long time or become distressing. Keep this in mind when deciding on the right location.
Be honest and clear about your feelings
Having this talk can come as a shock to the other person, so it’s important to refrain from becoming overly emotional and remain clear about your intention.
Be honest with the other person without being vague or going into long explanations for why you no longer want to stay together.
Own the breakup
Listen to what they have to say and answer any questions they may have. Acknowledge the real issues, but also let them know about the things that attracted you to them in the first place. You can mention their good qualities without going into depth. Overall, try to remain firm and consistent.
Avoid saying anything hurtful
Letting the other person know the larger issues for the breakup isn’t the same as name-calling or belittling. Try to be respectful and avoid blaming them for the breakup. If they ask why you’re ending things, be honest, but refrain from insulting them by going into small details.
Prepare for their reaction
There’s no way to know how the other person will react, but preparing beforehand can help you manage what to expect. More than anything, don’t allow yourself to be bullied or manipulated.
And yes, tears will probably fall, maybe even on both sides. But that isn’t a good enough reason to stay.
When you’re the one breaking things off, it’s tempting to lessen the blow to your partner by overpromising. You might want to reassure them that you still want to be friends or that you still want to see them occasionally.
But remember that both of you will need space and distance to heal. In the case that you eventually decide you want to keep your friendship, make sure to set appropriate boundaries.
No matter how much you prepare, ending a relationship is never easy. Here are a few tips for how to take care of yourself after a difficult breakup with someone you love.
Allow yourself to grieve
Keep in mind that grieving is a process that has its own timeline. Separating from someone you’ve spent a lot of time with can take an emotional toll.
And if you had big plans for your future or shared a living space, the grief can feel twofold. It’s important that you give yourself permission to express your feelings of sadness, anger, or disappointment.
Confide in someone you trust
Those closest to you can provide much-needed support and comfort during this delicate time. Reaching out to a loved one and letting them know you’re having a hard time can be vital for helping you move forward.
Talking things out may make you feel a lot better, but if you’re not comfortable speaking with a friend, consider seeing a counselor who can walk you through processing your emotions.
Focus on yourself
When you’ve been with someone for a long period of time, it’s easy to lose your sense of self after being caught up in your partner’s needs.
Try to take tangible steps for fostering the areas of your life you haven’t given enough attention to. This could mean spending more time traveling, signing up for a new class, or visiting with friends and family.
Recognizing when a relationship has come to its end can be an emotional roller coaster with many ups and downs. But it’s important to remember that this stage will eventually pass and that you’ve made the right decision for you.
Above all, be kind to yourself throughout the process. By focusing on what makes you happy and brings you joy, you’ll be able to take the first step toward healing and recovery.