Should we break up?

Not feeling the love but not sure what to do? Deciding whether or not to break up is a terrifying, huge, and often really sad decision. The Mix is here to help you work through your feelings.

sad couple outside

Had yet another fight? When do you call it quits?

You’re unhappy with your relationship but can’t decide whether to end it or not. You might think it should just work if it’s ‘meant to be’, but relationships take some effort, however well-suited you are. We can’t tell you whether to stick or twist, but we can help you 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? If you’re frightened of them or you’re being abused, it’s definitely time to leave.

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 counsellor for Relate. “A relationship can belong to a time period in your life.” People change. It’s inevitable. But have you grown together or apart? Do you want the same things, or do you have different hopes for the future?

Have they changed?

However great they seemed at first, you’ll spot their faults sooner or later. Can you live with their annoying habits? Do they still seem like the same person?

Have you lost that spark, or just misplaced it?

Most relationships become dull and predictable after a while. 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?

Do 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 sometimes fancy other people. “If your feelings are just sexual attraction, you probably need to put more energy into the relationship you’re in.” Do you really want to be with someone else? Or do you just want something different from the person you’re with?

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 feel they’re not the one.”

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’re people we click with at different stages in our lives. Getting the feeling that someone is ‘the one’ doesn’t mean you have to stick with them.”

Did you settle down young?

“If you feel 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 not knowing when you’ll meet someone else?” 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.”

Are you comparing your relationship to other people’s?

What if your friends’ relationships seem loads better than yours? Or everyone says you’re a perfect couple? It’s sometimes useful to compare, but you don’t know what other people’s relationships are really like – just as they don’t know what it feels like to be in yours.

So… should we break up?

Consider taking these steps before you decide.

Talk to your partner: Tell your partner you’re unhappy. Sounds awkward, we know, but maybe they’ve noticed and want to know why, or they’re totally unaware and need a wake-up call. Either way, talking it through could help you make up your mind. You might even figure out ways to improve things together.

Ask close friends for advice: Talk to friends whose opinions you value. “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 could be because they think your relationship is better than theirs.”

Consider couples counselling: It could be worth talking things through with a counsellor. “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 and you need some tips and techniques.” However, counselling is never recommended for abusive relationships.

Take your time: “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.”

Photo of sad couple by Shutterstock

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.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By Anne Wollenberg

Updated on 29-Sep-2015