When things aren’t going well in your relationship, you might start to think about other possibilities. Should I break up with my boyfriend? What would it be like if I was single? Should I meet someone else?
Relationships take work, dedicated communication, and a level of commitment, and thoughts of ending them are natural. Rough patches are difficult to go through, and it’s not always easy to tell if a breakup is imminent. Equally, there are no awards for staying in a relationship that has run its course, just for the sake of staying loyal.
So how do you know when it’s time to bring things to an end, or when things are worth another try? Although only you can make the final call, and each relationship is unique, there are common patterns and warning signs that can guide you.
These aren’t deal breakers in their own right, but if you notice your relationship is frequently lacking in most of these areas, it’s time to reconsider the future or roll the dice for the right person. Let’s take a look.
1. Break Up if Your Partner Doesn’t Satisfy You Emotionally
All relationships are a process of give and take. As you develop intimacy and create understanding through expressing needs and desires, it’s normal to have standards and expectations on how your partner responds.
Your emotional needs, such as being able to share day-to-day challenges, feeling safe or respected, and having your emotions met with compassion, are vital to nourishing a healthy relationship. Unmet emotional needs fracture the foundation of any relationship.
This isn’t straightforward, though. Identifying if your emotional needs are met starts with clarity on what your needs are. This sounds obvious, but many people struggle to know and express their needs. A lack of clarity can cause confusion as to whether the relationship is failing, or whether those needs haven’t been communicated. After all, no one can meet needs they don’t know exist.
Meeting emotional needs is a spectrum. We’re all human, and there may be times when your partner is preoccupied with life’s stressors — from a big project at work to health issues — that prevent them from being as present as you’d like.
However, if your partner shows no desire to support you emotionally, to be supportive, encouraging, and respect and appreciate you, it’s a big sign that the dedication required for the relationship to flourish is lacking. Also, if your partner minimizes, ridicules, or invalidates your emotions, it could spill into emotional abuse.
2. End Your Relationship if You Don’t Share the Same Values
Your core values act as powerful guides in your life direction. To enjoy a long-term, harmonious relationship, it’s crucial to have clarity on each person’s core values, and how compatible these are. Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to be completely on the same page.
Different values are healthy, as you may find different perspectives encourage both of you to grow. But if your significant values aren’t shared or understood, it may be time to consider ending the relationship.
The way values are expressed may be different, so it pays to understand the practical application of those values. For example, two people may value spirituality, with one attending Sunday service, and the other taking a secular approach by enjoying meditation and yoga. This can create a beautiful hybrid, where each person learns from the other. Or these approaches could clash, with each person viewing spirituality as the “right way,” in which case, there may be a fundamental incompatibility.
It’s essential to know your core values, your partner’s values, and then discern which are negotiable or non-negotiable. Negotiable values are those which are desirable, but not essential. You may be able to find a middle ground, or have those values met elsewhere. Non-negotiable values, however, are those which have to be met in order for the relationship to continue and thrive.
3. Never Continue a Relationship if You Feel Taken for Granted
Everyone wants to feel valued and appreciated, especially in romance, which requires time, attention, and high levels of intimacy.
If you feel your partner doesn’t make an effort, it could be a sign you’re being taken for granted. This is an uncomfortable situation to be in, of course, for many reasons. Perhaps your expressions of love aren’t being seen or valued. Perhaps you go out of your way to care for them, and they don’t care for you. Maybe you cook and clean, only to receive little to no thanks. Being taken for granted creates a recipe for resentment and unhappiness. It can’t be ignored for long.
This is a trap many long-term relationships fall into, unfortunately, and it can be difficult to escape. The initial excitement and spark start to fade, you’ve gotten to know each other well, and develop habits and routines.
Being taken for granted is often a gradual process. If you notice this pattern develop, the best option is to start by communicating, not through blame or accusation, but by sharing any feelings of sadness or disappointment. If your partner responds well, it’s a good sign. If they don’t, it could be a sign the relationship is heading toward its end.
4. If You Feel Like You’re Not Yourself, Find a New Partner
A healthy relationship should support you, make you feel at ease, and allow you to thrive, both within the relationship and when you’re alone. However, there are numerous ways a relationship can cause you to dim your light, to shrink, and to stop acting like yourself.
Maybe your unmet emotional needs have led to the suppression of sadness or anxiety. Maybe the lack of respect for your values has caused self-doubt. Maybe being taken for granted has led you to start questioning whether you deserve love.
All of these issues indirectly contribute to not feeling like yourself, due to the emotional and energetic drain. Any behaviors that directly stop you from being authentic — from ridicule or judgment — also enter the territory of abusive behavior (for example, if your partner mocks your hobbies in front of friends) and are a significant red flag that this isn’t a relationship built on love, but possession and entitlement.
5. Know if Your relationship Is Damaging Your mental Health
Feeling unlike yourself is the beginning of a slippery slope that could eventually become harmful to your mental health. If you experience anxiety, depression, or other issues with your mental health, and your relationship is a contributing factor, it’s time to seriously consider whether the benefits outweigh the costs.
That’s not to say there won’t be spells of difficulty — two people navigating love will naturally experience times of conflict or heartache. But if your mental health is compromised beyond occasional arguments, it signals an unhealthy relationship.
Often in love, it’s tempting to hold onto a relationship due to the fear of loss, by focusing on everything you’ll lose without your partner in your life. But keep in mind, this is the nature of life, that absence also means the absence of any difficulty or pain that you experience.
Frequent, intense arguments or fights, constant disrespect, or a painful and explosive lack of trust, all take a energy, an energy which will be freed up if the relationship ends.
In an Unhealthy Relationship? Here’s What to Do Next…
Only you can make the final call on whether to break up with your partner. If you’ve found yourself nodding along to the above signs, then the first step is accepting that there are significant issues, and there’s no easy way through. The grass isn’t always greener.
Perhaps you want the relationship to work and you still have the energy to make improvements. In that case, set aside time with your partner to carefully talk through and explain the different areas that are contributing to feeling unfulfilled, or unhappy.
If communication isn’t working out, the impact on your mental health is too much, or you’re delaying the inevitable, then maybe it’s time to say goodbye.