How to Know When to Break up, According to 8 Experts

What are the signs of a failing relationship? How do you know if it’s time to break up?

We asked experts to provide some insights.

Table of Contents

Jacob Brown

Jacob Brown

Psychotherapist | Registered Associate Marriage & Family Therapist

There is no single litmus test on when to break up with a partner. Moreover, there are also a lot of reasons why do people break up.

In my therapy practice, I use questions to help my clients identify some “red flags” that it may be time to move on.

It is time to break up if you feel exhausted to work on your relationship

Do you feel exhausted by the idea of continuing to “work on your relationship”? This indicates you may be experiencing some form of “relationship burnout”. You’re working hard to improve the relationship, but not feeling as if you’re getting enough back for all your efforts.

It is time to break up if you feel sad when thinking about spending the future with your partner

Do you feel happy or sad when you imagine still being with this individual in five years? If you can’t look forward to being with your partner in the future, then you have to ask yourself why are you with them now.

It is time to break up if you don’t feel excited hanging out with your partner anymore

Do you feel happy and excited when you’re driving home or going to meet them for a date, or do you feel a sense of dread? That sense of dread is your inner self telling you “I don’t want to do this anymore”. You should listen.

It is time to break up if you feel your partner doesn’t make you a better person

Do you feel that you are a better person when you’re with them or do you hate how you behave? Our partners should bring out the best in us. It is concerning if being around them brings out your worst traits.

It is time to break up if intimacy is gone

Has the sex gone from good to bad or from good to no sex? Your sex life is a window into the relationship. When sex goes from good to bad it often indicates that you and your partner have lost that core emotional connection.

Dr. Elaine Sanders

Elaine Sanders

Author | Empowerment Specialist, Harlem Girls, Inc

It is time to break up when there are a lack of communication, lack of motivation, and insecurities

Communication is vital for any relationship to flourish and once the communication is gone from one or both partners the couple needs to analyze the reasons they are staying together and going through the motions (i.e. children, finances or fear of starting over).

As it relates to a marital relationship; I have heard it said, “If you have to get out of bed to talk to your best friend, then you married the wrong person.”

It is time to break up if there is a lack of motivation between the two of you

Lack of motivation can hurt a relationship because one partner may feel as if the other partner is leaving them behind. This may cause resentment towards a partner’s work, schooling and/or a new hobby.

The persons in the relationship who lacks motivation may feel they were not informed, aware, did not notice the change or shift in their partners; dreams, aspirations or life goals. The lack of motivation is stressful on someone who is an overachiever, a go-getter, or a vision chaser.

It is time to break up when there are major insecurities issues

Insecurities can appear as controlling and/or smothering. The person who is insecure may use tactics such as criticizing and remind their partner of their personal and professional flaws or failures.

The person who is smothering will always feel the need to just be present and letting others know this person is their partner. This person will also look at other people as a threat to their relationship.

These are just a few indications it is time to break up, move forward and find the happiness both partners deserve!

Related: How to Break up With Someone Nicely

Justin Lavelle

Justin Lavelle

Chief Communications Officer, People Looker

It is time to break up if the cons outweigh the pros

Whether deciding on where to move or what car to buy, writing out a pros/cons list can help you make hard decisions. The same goes for relationships.

If you’re not sure whether to keep moving forward with your partner or not, sit down and write out a pros/cons list about the relationship. The writing may clearly be on the wall.

When you compare the lists, you might determine that the reasons for staying together outweigh the reasons to break up. But if the opposite appears to be the case, that may be a sign it’s time to move on.

It is time to break up if you have differing values

Our values are an important part of who we are as a person. Your values may include honesty, dependability, generosity, compassion, loyalty or consistency.

If you’re noticing that your values are vastly different than the person you’re dating, you may want to step back and take a hard look at why you’re staying with this person.

Values that differ radically—on any one major value or several less significant ones—are typically a cause for conflict or heartache.

It is time to break up if you’re having challenging communication issues

True intimacy depends on strong communication between two people. When partners have a significantly different level of communication, the relationship will likely suffer and ultimately end.

The healthiest relationships include the sharing of your deepest feelings, thoughts, dreams, and fears. When this is not part of the equation, it may be time to look for a partner that’s on your same level of communication.

It is time to break up if you’re feeling constant doubts and uneasiness

New relationships always test our deepest insecurities. We’re hoping the other person likes us, values us, finds us attractive, wants to spend time with us, and more.

But after a few months, these insecurities should subside some and you should be feeling good about the developing relationship. If after a few months you’re still feeling uneasy and insecure, then maybe there’s a reason?

Don’t ignore the warning signs if those thoughts become increasingly frequent. You don’t need a defined reason to break up with someone if you constantly (or even frequently) feel insecure and uneasy, wishing you were dating a different person or could change the person you’re with.

It is time to break up if you see red flags

If you’re sensing something isn’t quite right or the person doesn’t seem to be who they say they are, it makes sense to do a little research.

Perhaps you’re catching your partner in (small or big) lies on a fairly regular basis, stories don’t add up, friends/family have different versions of events and inadvertently contradict things your partner has told you, he or she asks you for money, isn’t where they say they are going to be, etc.

Take the step to investigate to see if anything, in particular, pops up that you should be aware of. It may not give you the full scope of what’s going on with your partner but it may shed some light on issues you should be aware of.

It is time to break up if you have different relationship goals

Sometimes, relationship goals and expectations are like mixing oil and water. While many people seek a stable, long-lasting relationship, others want something casual and exciting.

If you find yourself unable to invest whereas your partner is already thinking about marriage, kids, and buying a house together, understand that having different relationship goals is completely normal. However, the determining factor of this situation is whether or not you are able to compromise.

Take time to decide if you may change your perspective in the future. Then, discuss solutions with your partner (like him or her waiting until you reach the point of wanting to invest) and be willing to let go if compromising is unfeasible. The last thing you want to do to anyone you care about strings them along.

It is time to break up if happiness becomes a foreign concept

Day by day, you notice little things about your relationship that no longer excite you. You value time apart more than time together.

Furthermore, you have sacrificed passions that once defined you in order to keep your relationship afloat. Something inside you slowly drains away, and you wonder how you will ever climb out of the pit of negativity and exhaustion.

Many people are unaware or in denial of the loss of their happiness, a key factor in a relationship, and flounder in bickering, resentment, and dissatisfaction.

Your relationships may not necessarily be the only cause of this unhappiness, but it may certainly be contributing to that lack of fulfillment feeling.

It is time to break up if you’re having the inability to communicate

Do you ever feel like you and your partner are on different wavelengths when it comes to communicating? You say one thing, and he or she takes it as something completely different? Your partner becomes defensive or dismissive, and you want to rip your hair out with frustration. Quite often, when you do try to communicate, the results are explosive. \

How can you pursue a healthy relationship when you cannot sit your partner down and have a productive conversation about stressful issues if his or her immediate response is to clam up or deny?

There are ways to ensure you are communicating effectively: have a light but serious tone, avoid blaming and using the word “you,” balance positives and negatives, etc.

However, that is not always enough. If you and your partner cannot learn to communicate, it may be time to find someone more tuned into your signal.

It is time to break up if everything is stagnant

Unless you have been married for 40 years, this might be a sign that it just isn’t meant to be. If you are sitting on the sofa bored out of your mind it is probably because one of you, or both, are no longer engaged with one another.

Related: What to Do After a Breakup

Marina Resa, MA, LMFT

Marina Resa

Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist

It is time to break up if you’ve both become apathetic

Arguing is healthy, so long as there is rupture & repair. In other words, arguments should happen. You are two different people. But if you don’t even have the energy to argue anymore, this might be a sign that the relationship is doomed.

It is time to break up if you realize that your long term goals do not align

For example, if one partner really wants children & the other doesn’t, this can be a deal-breaker. In order to stay in the relationship, one person is really going to have to make a major accommodation that they will likely later resent.

If you’ve both done the internal work & can’t get on the same page, then it is probably time to part ways.

It is time to break up if the relationship is overall off balance

Are you the one always accommodating the other? Are you feeling used? Do you listen on and on to your partner about their difficult day at work but when it’s your turn to talk, they tune out? Healthy relationships about giving & take.  Also, if your partner insults you or puts you down, both privately & publicly.

Robyn Koenig, ACC, CPC, ELI-MP

Robyn Koenig

Certified Professional Dating Coach

Start by defining your wants and think about how does this person align with them

Breaking up is hard to do just like the song says! In order to really know if you should stay or go, you have to really understand what you want versus what you need. There’s a difference! Needs fill a void and want to fill a desire.

Think about what doesn’t work for you which is just as important as knowing what you want

For example, if you like kissing and this is something your partner doesn’t enjoy and isn’t willing to do to provide you with what you need in a relationship, then this person isn’t for you. If kissing is critical to your desire for physical intimacy then it’s a dealbreaker.

Dealbreakers are something that you cannot sustain for the long term. You might be able to go along with it or allow it for a period of time, but after a while, you just can’t…that’s a dealbreaker.

There’s no substitute for something that’s important to you. There’s nothing like a kiss that can replace this if you really want and desire this as a part of your relationship and connection with your partner.

The best thing to do is determine how important this truly is for you and communicate it to your partner so you can determine if your wants and desires will be met or if it’s time to find someone new.

Focus on you, what you want, what you desire, what you value and don’t worry about being the type of person someone else is looking for.

It is time to break up if the relationship isn’t safe

We all know physical violence is a red flag, but it’s equally important to think beyond your body. Consider your emotional, spiritual, and financial wellbeing within the relationship.

Your partnership should be a place of security, acceptance, encouragement, and growth. If you’re not receiving respect, if you’re not feeling aligned, and if you’re being oppressed then it’s time to break up.

Nicole Miller, MS, LAPC, NCC

Nicole Miller

Psychotherapist, Inner Edge Counseling, LLC

It is time to break up if you start thinking that someone else is good for you

It’s typically the time to break-up when the question of, “Is there someone better out there” runs through your mind on a semi-consistent basis.

Individuals in happy, committed relationships are significantly less likely to entertain this type of thought because they believe they are currently with the best possible partner.

Do you find that your partner’s quirks that were once cute and endearing are now daily annoyances that become the start of many arguments?

Every couple exits the “honeymoon phase” of a relationship where everything is seemingly perfect and reality begins to set in.

However, couples who will withstand the test of time are often able to look past their partner’s annoying habits, whereas couples who are more prone to breakup have difficulty getting past the annoying quirks.

Related: How Long Does the Honeymoon Phase Last

Our partners are intended to be one of our greatest sources of support and understanding. If you feel that despite numerous attempts to improve the issue that your personal and emotional needs are not being valued and supported it may be time to break up.

Adina Mahalli


Certified Mental Health Consultant, Enlightened Reality | Relationship Expert, Maple Holistics

It is time to break up when you finally know that your core values and beliefs are not compatible anymore

Knowing what your own core values are is vital in knowing what you’re looking for, and you should figure out your own values before getting someone else involved in your life.

People tend to start dating someone based on relevant preferences in their current lifestyle, including things like going to the gym, hobbies, and other fun activities.

These do not transfer over to long term vital values like thoughts on family life, choices in raising children, and religious beliefs. These are non-negotiable values and if you and your partner do not share them, it may be time to break up with them.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I know if my relationship issues are temporary or indicative of a more significant problem?

It’s important to remember that every relationship has ups and downs, and not every issue means it’s time to break up.

However, if you find that the same problems persist despite your efforts to resolve them or if the issues are causing significant distress, this may be a sign of a more fundamental incompatibility.

In these cases, it’s important to assess whether the relationship still fulfills your needs and whether it’s worth continuing to work on it.

How can I distinguish between a rough patch and a relationship that is no longer working?

Distinguishing between a rough patch and a relationship that is no longer working can be challenging. A rough patch is usually a temporary phase characterized by increased stress, conflict, or emotional distance.

This phase can often be overcome through open communication, mutual understanding, and a shared commitment to resolving issues.

In contrast, a relationship that is no longer working may be characterized by ongoing, unresolved conflict, lack of emotional support, or fundamental incompatibilities that negatively impact the well-being of both partners.

Reflecting on the nature of your issues and assessing your willingness and ability to resolve them can help you determine whether this is a rough patch or a more serious problem.

Should I consider couples therapy before deciding to break up?

Couples therapy can be helpful for couples facing challenges in their relationship, especially if both partners are willing to work on their issues.

A therapist can provide a neutral space for open and honest communication and help you explore the root causes of your problems and develop strategies for resolving them. If you feel that your relationship has potential for growth and improvement, consider couples therapy before deciding to separate.

Can taking a break from a relationship help in deciding whether or not to break up?

Taking a break from a relationship can give both partners a chance to think about their feelings, needs, and problems. This can help determine if the challenges you’re facing are temporary or indicative of deeper incompatibilities.

However, it’s essential to set clear boundaries and expectations during this break and maintain open communication throughout the process to ensure that both partners are on the same page.

How can I deal with the fear of being alone or starting over after a breakup?

Fear of being alone or starting over is common for those considering a breakup. It’s important to remind yourself that ending a relationship that is no longer fulfilling is an act of self-care and self-respect.

While the prospect of being single may seem daunting, it’s essential to prioritize your emotional well-being and give yourself the opportunity to find a more suitable partner.

To cope with these feelings, surround yourself with supportive friends and family members, pursue activities that bring you joy, and take time to heal and grow from this experience.

How can I identify and break unhealthy relationship patterns to avoid similar issues in future relationships?

Recognizing and breaking unhealthy relationship patterns is critical to fostering healthy and fulfilling relationships in the future. Start by reflecting on your past relationships and identifying recurring patterns or behaviors contributing to their downfall.

Engage in self-awareness and consider working with a therapist or counselor to deepen your relationship patterns. Focus on personal growth, setting healthy boundaries, and improving your communication skills to build stronger and more satisfying relationships in the future.

How to Know When to Break up

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