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How to Know When It’s Time to Break Up

Some of the primary reasons therapists see couples end things.

RODNAE Productions/Pexels
Source: RODNAE Productions/Pexels

As a couples therapist, a breakup isn’t the desired outcome we work towards but sometimes it is the right choice. It can be a hard and heartbreaking decision to end a relationship and it can be hard to know when it’s time to move on. Although there is no definite way to evaluate the decision there are some signs that let you know it may be time to move on.

Recurrent Domestic Violence or Abuse

A big reason and one you’ll often hear therapists talk about is when there is a pattern of abuse in the relationship. Many couples experience situational domestic violence; a one-time or occasional incident where they put their hands on each other or break things. This type of violence can be worked on by managing emotional flooding and taking time outs. Domestic violence that is one-sided or has happened on a regular basis is usually a sign that things aren’t healthy. If you find yourself in this situation and feel scared to leave, reach out to your local domestic violence shelter or the national hotline at 800-799-7233 or text START to 88788.

Trust Has Been Broken and Is Unrepairable

Events like infidelity or recurrent affairs can cause major ruptures in trust. Some couples are able to rebuild trust and recover through hard work and therapy they. In other cases, even when the couple tries to do this, they find that they are not able to regain trust. If you find that you are in a position where you feel like you can’t trust your partner despite their best efforts at repair it may be time to move on. Some ruptures, for some people, just can’t be repaired.

Your Future Goals and Dreams Don’t Line Up

Sharing goals and dreams can be such an important part of building connection and a life together. For major issues like not agreeing on whether or not to have kids or where to live, couples can find themselves making the tough decision to break up. We all have dreams that become dealbreakers if we can’t get them met—and there is nothing wrong with that. You shouldn’t have to compromise on something really important to you in a relationship.

Your Heart Just Isn’t in It

You don’t actually need any big reason to decide it’s time for a relationship to be over. If you just have a gut feeling, or you aren’t feeling fulfilled, that can be a sign it’s time to end things. Sometimes it just doesn’t feel right to be in a relationship or with a specific partner and you have to listen to your heart. If things don’t feel right, that can be a subconscious sign that you may need to move on. The reason often may not be apparent in the moment, but after ending things it may become more clear where that gut feeling came from.

You Have Feelings for Someone Else

You may not have acted on them, but you may have noticed that your mind is occupied by someone else. This doesn’t work for couples who are in monogamous relationships or may not fit into the boundaries of an open relationship. The other person may have no interest in you or a relationship. There can be underlying reasons your heart is straying, but it can be better to end things with your partner before you both really get hurt.

Therapy Isn’t Working

Perhaps you realize things have been difficult and have reached out for therapy. After giving it a chance and time to work, if you haven’t noticed any improvements it may be time to move on. If you feel the therapist isn’t a good fit, though, it never hurts to try someone new. If you feel like either of you hasn’t put in the work or isn’t able to be present, things could be too far gone to work on.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of reasons it may be time to break up, but some things to reflect on if you find yourself questioning things. If you're having trouble making the decision, therapy can be helpful in allowing you to process all of your emotions about your relationship.

To find a therapist, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory

More from Kari Rusnak, MA, LPC,CMHC
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