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What to Do If Your Partner Wants to Break Up, But You Don’t

Let them go; they are holding you back.

Key points

  • Even if you support the desire for growth and change, it can be difficult to accept when a partner ends a relationship.
  • If your partner is still on the fence, suggest counseling. Individual therapy can be a good place to start.
  • Coping skills including cultivating a realistic view of the relationship, grieving, and being open to the idea of a better future.

At different times in life, it is normal to feel restless, unsatisfied, or annoyed. Particularly when there is a fork in the road or if circumstances are changing, you may question your life path or priorities. Some people even decide to leave a long-term relationship due to a vague feeling of dissatisfaction.

If you’re on the receiving end of this, you may have been observing your partner’s restlessness or ambivalence, and you may even support their desire for growth or a new path. But when your partner has decided that you two should go your separate ways, you might not support that path!

If your partner is still on the fence, suggest counseling. Couples counseling may be called for, but often, individual counseling is recommended as a good place to start. Why? Because each of you likely needs to clean out your own closets before you can start working on common areas. If your partner doesn’t want to, but you do, go for it. As the quality of your life improves, the quality of your relationship can improve as well. And even if your partner still leaves, you’ll be better off with counseling than without it.

If your partner is convinced they must go, here are some strategies for you to try. Note, this isn’t about changing your partner, but all about changing the one person you do have control over — you.

Cultivate a realistic view of your relationship and interactions

Sure, you’re focusing on the positive, which is why you don’t want to lose the relationship. But because your partner is focusing on the negative, you need to look at the negative as well. And yet, what if you do the math and the positives still outnumber the negatives? This is only true for you. For your partner, there is something going on internally that apparently makes leaving their best option. Accepting this fact will help you contemplate the idea that, in the long run, breaking up could be best for you too.

Be realistic about your partner’s ability to stay

If they are on their way out, or if they’re gone, they’ve obviously given up their desire to do the personal growth required to stay. And the last thing you want is to be with someone who isn’t willing to grow closer to you, and instead wants to grow apart. You deserve better.


A breakup can be a devastating loss, especially if you’ve been together a long time or if you’d imagined spending the rest of your lives together. You’re attached and your attachment distress can run deep. Your bond may have many facets, including emotional, sexual, physical, social, financial, educational, occupational, intellectual, and familial. You may be raising a child together or sharing a beloved pet. There can be many consequences and wide-ranging adjustments to make. And because attachment is biologically-wired, there are no shortcuts; you simply have to accept that your distress must run its course. Your grief may feel like a bottomless pit, and you may worry you’ll never crawl out of it. But by expressing your grief — whether diving into emotion and/or jumping into action — getting support from others (including counseling), and focusing on your own self-care, over time your grief enables you to let go of what might have been, and accept what is. And as you adjust to all the changes, your distress will subside and a new you will emerge.

Be open to the idea of a better future

Especially when you’re in the thick of grief, a better future is hard to imagine, or even want. But that’s simply how life unfolds. Change is inevitable and always offers an opportunity for growth and improvement. As one door closes, another opens. Now, you can decide to keep banging on the doors that are closing and you can ignore the ones that are opening. But by doing that, you’re focused on recovering what might have been rather than accepting what is. And you are choosing to remain stuck and closing yourself off to a future that could be far better than you’ve dreamed possible.

Remember that you create your own reality by what you focus on

If you cling to your misery and the idea that your future will be worse and you are doomed, you are creating a miserable life. Instead, subscribe to the power of positive thinking. You may be skeptical about this, especially if you were raised by negative people and/or are surrounded by the downtrodden. And if you have any unhealed trauma, you will struggle with emotional dysregulation, as in, you may feel unstable, scoff at the idea of positive thinking, or have trouble believing that there is any light at the end of the tunnel for you, or you just don’t feel like you can count on positive outcomes. You may also feel disconnected from yourself and others, making it harder to know what you really want and difficult to get support. Again, individual counseling, perhaps including brain-based treatment for trauma, may be key to you being able to live your best life. You got this!

To find a therapist, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.

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