Should we break up?

When you’re looking for a relationship it can feel like all you wanna do is be in one. Then, after a while, you might feel like all you wanna do is be single. Confusing, right? If you’re struggling to work out when to break up with someone, The Mix is here to help you work through your feelings.

A young man is on his phone. He is wondering when he should break up with someone.

You’re unhappy with your relationship but can’t decide whether to end it or not. You might think it should be easy if it’s ‘meant to be’, but the truth is that all relationships take some effort, no matter how well-suited you are. Of course, we can’t tell you when to break up with someone. But we can help you do some soul-searching and figure out what you want. Here’s what to consider.

Do you have basic trust and respect?

These things are essential in any relationship. Do you trust and respect each other? Do you feel you can be yourself when you’re with your partner and vice versa? Or are they monitoring your phone calls and flying into jealous rages? If you’re frightened of them or you’re being abused, that’s a major red flag; you may need to take extra steps and get additional support to make sure it’s safe before you leave them. You can call Refuge on 0808 2000 247 for advice and support for domestic violence

If you’ve lost some trust but still have feelings for your partner, the relationship isn’t a lost cause. Working through your problems with honest discussions and good communication might be exactly what you need.

Have you changed?

“The person you wanted a few years ago may not be what you want now,” says Paula Hall, a young people’s relationship expert for Relate. “The majority of your relationships really are just a chapter in your life.” People change. It’s inevitable. But have you grown together or apart? Do you want the same things? Do you have the same core values? 

Have they changed?

However great they seemed at first, you’ll spot their faults sooner or later. Not to mention, they might act perfect on the first date only to show their true nature on the 100th. So if you’re asking yourself ‘should we break up?’ on the fifth one – just know that there are many more hurdles to come. Can you live with their annoying habits? Do they still seem like the same person?

Have you lost that spark, or just misplaced it?

Some relationships become dull and predictable after a while. It’s just the way of life. The important thing is to figure out why the spark has gone. Is it because you’re used to each other, or has something happened? Are you fed up with your partner, or just the boring routine you’re stuck in? Are you both making enough effort? Would it help if you tried something new? 

Remember, any healthy relationship goes through ups and downs. So be careful not to react too quickly or rashly to a dip. Simply sit down with your partner and let them know how you’re feeling.

Should you break up if you fancy someone else?

Your relationship might not be over if you have feelings for someone else – although acting on it is another matter. Paula says it’s normal if you find yourself fancying other people from time to time. “If your feelings are just sexual attraction, that’s most likely a sign that you need to put more energy into the relationship you’re in.” Do you really want to be with someone else? Or do you just need some excitement in your current relationship?

If you’re lacking intimacy and feeling alone in a relationship while having an eye for other people then that’s never a good sign. On the other hand, if you’re just experiencing fleeting feelings for other people, there’s no need to panic. You may find the feelings disappear as quickly as they arrived.

Do you think they’re ‘the one’?

Maybe you used to think so, but now you’re not so sure. “It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be together. Nobody has a perfect relationship. There are bound to be times when you have doubts and worry about the future.”

And besides, what does ‘the one’ mean anyway – a perfect match in every way? Most experts agree there’s no such thing. “I don’t believe there’s one perfect soulmate for each person,” says Paula. “There are people we click with at different stages in our lives. And they each teach us something different. Getting the feeling that someone is ‘the one’, while nice, doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stick with them.”

Did you settle down young?

“If you feel like you’re missing out, you’re basically craving sexual variety,” says Paula. “Ask yourself how important that is to you. Are you happy to walk away from what you already have to pursue that?” She says couples who settle down young should talk about these feelings. “Have open conversations about it. You’ll probably both feel this way at times. It’s whether you can live with those feelings that’s important.

Are you comparing your relationship to other people’s?

What if your friends’ relationships seem way better than yours? Or everyone says you’re the perfect couple and you’re starting to feel the pressure? It’s sometimes useful to compare. Problem is, in this scenario you don’t know what other people’s relationships are really like. Equally, they don’t know what it feels like to be in yours. This means that any decision to break up should be based purely on your individual circumstances and how the two of you genuinely feel about your relationship.

So… should I break up with my boyfriend/girlfriend/partner?

Consider taking these steps before answering ‘should I break up with my boyfriend/girlfriend/partner’:

Talk to your partner: Tell your partner you’re unhappy. Sounds awkward, we know. Thing is, maybe they’ve noticed and want to know why. Or they’re totally unaware and need a wake-up call. Either way, talking through your emotions could help you make up your mind. You might even figure out ways to improve things together, if that’s what you wanna do.

Ask close friends and family for advice: Talk to some trusted friends who can offer you love and support. Although, this comes with a disclaimer. “Just remember, it’s your relationship and your life, not theirs,” says Paula. “Break-ups can make people insecure about their own relationships. If a friend says you shouldn’t end it because you’re so good together, it might be because they think your relationship is better than theirs.”

Consider couples counselling: It could be worth talking things through with a counsellor if you’re 100% decided on working on the relationship. “Some people just go for two or three sessions to work on things like communication skills,” says Paula. “For example, maybe you find arguments difficult because of your family background. A counsellor can give you some tips and techniques to help with that.” However, counselling is never recommended for abusive relationships.

Take your time: I get that it’s uncomfortable not knowing if a relationship’s going to work. But it’s better than making the wrong decision,” says Paula. “This is about the rest of your life. So don’t rush yourself. It’ll just lead to more pain in the long-run. Also, there’s no right time to figure out when to break up with someone.

More help deciding ‘should we break up?’

Here are some useful links to help you get through this:

Next Steps

  • Do you want to understand your relationship better? Love Smart helps you work it all out.
  • The Mix's Stresshead tool was designed by young people to help relax and distract you when it all gets too much. It also has great stress-relief advice.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.

By Anne Wollenberg

Updated on 30-Jun-2022