7 Signs You Should Break Up With Your Partner, According To Couples' Therapists
Imagine being able to download an app that helps you identify signs you should break up with your partner. Hypothetically, it would work like WebMD but for relationships. You would plug in your relationship symptoms and the app would tell you if your relationship is dying or not. If it's anything like WebMD though, the results would probably indicate that your cancerous relationship is already dead, which is why I'm always quicker to trust an in-person, licensed professional.
In lieu of WebMD for relationships, I spoke with Dr. Gary Brown, a Los Angeles relationship expert who works with dating singles and couples, and Dr. Carolina Castaños, a clinical psychologist who specializes in marriage and family therapy, and the founder of MovingOn, a program designed to help heal broken hearts. They got real with me about when it's time to end your relationship.
Relationship dealbreakers will, of course, be different for everyone. But Dr. Brown's most urgent advice is that "everyone in a relationship is going to be unhappy at times, even in the best of relationships." So if you and your partner are guilty of one or more of these breakup indicators, you should have an honest discussion about whether you think you can work through your problems or if you'd prefer to move on. No relationship is perfect but sometimes, it's in both partners' best interests to walk away from an unhappy, unhealthy situation.
Only One Of You Is Truly Committed
Dr. Castaños says that all relationships have their ups and downs but if only one of you is making an effort to keep the relationship going, it is likely to fail. The very idea of being in a relationship with someone is that you have a partner to lean on when things get rough and someone to enjoy the good times with, as well. Being in a relationship is not and should never be a solo job.
Your Love Is Conditional
Love, acceptance, and affection aren't things you reward your partner with for ~good behavior~ and vice versa. Instead, these should always play an active role in your relationship. If you find yourself withholding your love from your partner in hopes that they will do something to please you or stop doing whatever it is that's upsetting you, you're playing a dangerous game. This suggests that communication between you and your partner has completely broken down. Instead of rebuilding it, you're only making things worse by being passive-aggressive.
One Or Both Of You Have Invested Your Emotional Energy In Someone Else
This isn't the same as being attracted to someone outside of your relationship. Dr. Brown says, "Even if you find yourself attracted to someone else, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's time to end your relationship." He adds, "It's normal to be attracted to others." The real problem arises if you or your partner has spent time and energy getting to know someone else on an intimate level. An emotional affair is just as damaging as a physical one because it suggests that the cheating partner has already mentally checked out of the relationship while the other partner has no idea.
There Is No Empathy Between You And Your Partner
According to Dr. Castaños, a lack of empathy in your relationship means that one or both of you are unable to see things from the other person's perspective. This makes it almost impossible to resolve arguments or to compromise on things you disagree on.
You Feel Perpetually Unhappy In Your Relationship
It's never a good idea to stay in a relationship that makes you unhappy, even if you can't pinpoint exactly what's bothering you. Eventually, your dissatisfaction with your relationship will manifest in frequent fights with your partner and may even develop into resentment — which is tough to come back from. For both your sakes, you should take a step back from the situation to evaluate why you feel the way that you do.
Infidelity Is A Frequent Problem In Your Relationship
Sometimes, it's possible to forgive someone who has cheated on you but Dr. Brown says, "Definitely leave if your partner has had more than one affair." Unfortunately, this person has proved time and time again that they don't value your relationship enough to remain faithful to you.
Your Partner Is Toxic Or Abusive
Both Dr. Brown and Dr. Castaños agree that you should never stick around in an abusive relationship. Most people don't recognize that their relationship is toxic or emotionally abusive but it probably is if your partner constantly makes you feel bad about yourself, experiences fits of rage and jealousy, or tries to control your life. Far more recognizable are instances of physical abuse, in which case Dr. Brown says, "You should leave immediately. Don't wait for months if not years of therapy that may or may not work for your partner, as abusers tend to reoffend." Speak to a friend, family member, or licensed professional about your concerns and put plans in place to end your relationship as safely and quickly as possible.
You should never feel trapped in an unhappy or unfulfilling relationship. Always pay attention to subtle and not-so-subtle signs that your relationship isn't the best fit for you.
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