21 Reasons To Break Up With Someone Even if You Still Have Love for Them

Photo: Getty Images/Klaus Vedfelt
Imagine this: You’re in a healthy relationship, but you don’t feel much real chemistry. You’re indecisive about breaking up, though; after all, the relationship is far from toxic or abusive (in which case, to be sure, developing a safe plan to leave is always in your best interest). Naturally, no relationship is sunshine and rainbows 24/7, but how do you know if your concerns are reasons to break up with someone? In a scenario where you still have love for your partner, but aren’t totally happy, it can be a tough call.

To determine whether the indecision you’re feeling reflects just a rough patch vs. a reason to break up, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of staying and going. This is easier than done, especially since it relies on a lot of self-reflection. But if you feel something’s off about your relationship, you owe it to yourself to ask why. Perhaps it’s just that the honeymoon phase has ended, or maybe your day-to-day lives are no longer aligned… or you’ve emotionally checked out. Whatever the case, it’s vital to be honest with yourself about your feelings.

Experts In This Article

Below, relationship coaches and therapists share how to figure out if you should break up with a partner when you’re on the fence, plus a list of common reasons to most definitely break up with someone (and exactly how to do that). These scenarios will help you determine whether your relationship is worth working for—or if you’re clinging to a prior or nonexistent version of your partner at the expense of your well-being.

How do you know if you should break up?

There’s a lot of gray area in deciding when and whether to break up with someone (assuming your relationship is not a toxic or abusive one). According to clinical psychologist Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, the first step is to check in with your emotions. “You should take inventory of the relationship and consider how the relationship and your partner’s actions have been making you feel,” she says. “Try to be objective and create a pros and cons list of the relationship, and talk with a friend or therapist.”

Dr. Romanoff adds that if there are repeated issues in your relationship (and there seems to be no progress toward resolving them), it’s likely best to separate. “If you’ve tried to directly work on the cons with your partner and are still at a standstill, or they are unwilling to make the changes to meet your essential needs, you should consider ending the relationship,” she says. Consider whether you’re arguing over the same thing repeatedly, or if there seems to be a lack of fun or enjoyment in the relationship—both are common signs that it’s time to end things.

“If they are unwilling to make the changes to meet your essential needs, you should consider ending the relationship.” —Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, clinical psychologist

Another thing to look out for? Feeling negative emotions like resentment or bitterness toward your partner. If you find that you’re frustrated with them over small things, it could be a sign to break up, says clinical psychologist Patrice N. Douglas, PsyD, LMFT.

It’s also helpful to reflect on why you think you may want to end the relationship. Dr. Romanoff recommends asking yourself introspective questions like: “Am I staying in this because I am afraid to be alone?” “Am I trying to change this person?” and “Do I believe I could find someone who is better suited to me?” If your answering is a clear “yes” to any of these questions, that’s your sign that it may be time to break up.

Keep in mind: Relationships change as people change, so staying in touch with your emotions is key to knowing if the relationship continues to be viable—or if there are valid reasons to break up with someone.

21 reasons to break up with someone

1. The lust stage has ended

One of the most common reasons to break up with someone is the end of the lust stage, aka the honeymoon phase, says Dr. Douglas. To be clear, the lust phase will end in all relationships and what follows typically isn’t as hot and heavy—but if you feel like you don’t actually like the person who you’re with once the initial spark fades and you get to know them for who they really are, that’s a sign to see yourself out.

“On many occasions, we are infatuated with our partner for a limited amount of time due to this new relationship feeling good, exciting, and loving,” says Dr. Douglas. “But when the dust settles, some people realize they actually don't like their partner as much as they thought they did, and that leads to problems.”

2. You can’t move on from a breach of trust

Working to save a relationship in the wake of a breach of trust—whether it occurred via cheating, lying, or some other negative event—involves commitment from both parties to rebuild that trust and shared sense of emotional safety and connection.

If you find that you have lingering resentment toward a partner for their actions and are not able to genuinely forgive them, or on the flip side, if they don’t seem interested or willing to put in the work to regain your trust after losing it, then it’s best to break up to preserve your emotional well-being.

3. You aren’t sexually compatible

You and your partner don’t have to have the exact same level of sexual desire or interest, but you do need to find a middle ground where each of you can feel mostly sexually satisfied. (And with exception of an asexual relationship, each of you should feel a sense of sexual attraction to or chemistry with the other.)

A lack of physical intimacy or trouble connecting sexually is usually a sign that a relationship is going downhill, says Dr. Romanoff. If you and your partner cannot get on the same page regarding physical intimacy, it may be time to call it quits.

4. You’re religiously or culturally incompatible

Being from a different religious or cultural background than a partner is certainly not a reason to break up, in and of itself, but if you find that your religious or cultural beliefs conflict with those of your partner (whether in terms of how they would like to live their life or raise a family), that may be a reason to end things, says Dr. Douglas.

For example, if your partner is religious and expects you to convert, but you’re not willing to, that can be an unresolvable dilemma. The same thing goes if your partner expects you to uphold certain religious or cultural practices in your everyday life (for example, attending church or saying prayers), and you don’t wish to do so.

Though these issues may not arise until children come into the picture or a political situation (like an election) puts culture or religion into the zeitgeist, Dr. Douglas suggests being proactive and having conversations with your partner on these topics. That can look like asking your partner if they will take their children to a house of worship, what holidays they like to celebrate, whether their child will speak a different language at home, and so forth, to determine if you’re on the same page.

5. You hold conflicting beliefs about finances

Finances are important in relationships because a relationship is an investment. It’s totally okay—in fact, completely normal, says Dr. Douglas—to have expectations about bills and what financial responsibility your partner should have. But when those views don’t align with those of your partner (for instance, you have differing beliefs about who should pay for what or how to handle debt), that may very well be a dealbreaker—particularly if there isn’t any wiggle room for compromise.

6. You or your partner is experiencing a mental health crisis

A major negative change in your partner’s mental state—depression, anxiety, or another mental health issue—can lead to conflict down the line, says Dr. Romanoff. It’s important to lend a supportive hand to a partner who is managing a mental health crisis, but if their issues are taking an outsize emotional toll on your mental health, you might have to leave to prioritize your peace and emotional well-being.

Similarly, if you are experiencing a mental health crisis and cannot fully check into the relationship, it’s only fair (to both yourself and your partner) to take a step away and focus on yourself.

7. You have cyclical arguments

When you both feel past the point of compromise and effective problem-solving, you’ll have the same argument repeatedly. “No matter what you do and how you try to rectify issues that arise with your partner, there seems to be no peaceful solution,” says relationship expert Susan Winter. “This process is exhausting and disallows any partnership growth.”

On the one hand, it’s possible that the arguments are highlighting a fundamental difference of opinion. But, on the other hand, incompatible communication styles could be to blame. “Maybe it feels like you and your partner speak different languages,” says matchmaker and dating coach Tennesha Wood. “You’re both talking, but it doesn’t lead to a deeper connection, reflecting poor communication.” In either case, putting a final end to the cycle may be well worth it.

8. There are long-standing resentments

Different from outward conflicts, these are the issues that seem to curdle within you over time. Whether your partner previously broke your trust or made a big life decision without looping you in first, the thought of this thing or misstep alone leaves you brooding, despite the fact that you’ve talked it over and said you’ve forgiven them. “Resentments kill our attraction, desire, and intimacy,” says Winter. “And resentments that are allowed to linger will eventually destroy our love.”

9. The relationship isn’t balanced

Speaking of resentment, one of the most common ways bitterness can grow in a relationship is with a power imbalance. Every relationship requires a certain level of give and take, and the giving involves sacrifice—whether via small actions like letting your S.O. choose the movie or bigger ones like turning down a job offer because it’s in a different state from where your partner lives (or wants to live).

But when one person does all (or most of) the sacrificing in a relationship, it gives the other person a disproportionate amount of power, which can, in turn, breed long-term resentment and general feelings of dissatisfaction.

10. Your needs are not getting met

“The main factor of deciding to end a relationship is if you both aren't able to come to a mutual understanding of the needs within the relationship,” says Dr. Douglas. A healthy relationship thrives when both partners are getting their needs met.

“The main factor of deciding to end a relationship is if you both aren't able to come to a mutual understanding of the needs within the relationship.” —Patrice N. Douglas, PsyD, LMFT, clinical psychologist

Consider if you’re always asking your partner for affection, sexual intimacy, attention, or anything else you “need” from them. If you’ve clearly communicated your needs to your partner and still feel as if they are regularly going unmet, chances are, you’ll feel unfulfilled and dissatisfied—in which case, it’s worth breaking up.

11. You are growing apart

People change, and sometimes, the person you entered a relationship with won’t be the same person you end up dating. Consider if you’re dating the memories of the person instead of who they actually are. It’s up to you to determine if you’re okay with the new version of your partner, or if it’s best to break up and seek out someone new who embodies some of the qualities of who your partner used to be.

To do so, ask yourself the following questions about your partner: Do they still meet your emotional and sexual needs? Are they a good communicator? Do you want to be with them now, or are you waiting for them to return to the person you originally met? Your answers will ultimately help you decide whether to stay or go.

12. You’ve been thinking about breaking up for a while

If the thought of breaking up has come up multiple times, take that as a sign, in and of itself, that you’re not satisfied in your relationship. Occasionally thoughts about being single or ending your relationship are completely normal, but you shouldn’t be in a relationship that you’re always (or regularly) thinking about ending. It’s true that relationships require work, but they shouldn’t feel like a struggle all of the time.

13. The thought of freedom is exhilarating

Perhaps you feel trapped by your partner, at times, or you’ve started daydreaming about what your life might be like without them in the picture. Maybe you watch shows about people living single, freewheeling lives, and you envy them—and not because they get to drink and play pool with strangers, and not even because they can have the kind of thrilling sex that knocks over bookshelves. Instead, it's because the only person they have to deal with is themselves.

“Having solitude and alone time is necessary in every relationship, but if you find yourself wanting to be away from your partner consistently, it's time to consider leaving,” says Wood.

If you aren’t sure whether you just need some healthy separation or you’d be better off separating, Wood suggests the “garage door” (or front door) test: When you’re home and you hear your partner open the door, are you happy or sad at that moment? If the answer is the latter, you'll know a break-up is overdue.

14. You don’t get to be your full self in the relationship

It’s a cliché for a reason: Your partner should bring out the best version of you… or at least a really good version that jibes with your own understanding of yourself, pre-relationship. If you’re finding that certain core elements of who you are have been suppressed or changed in the relationship, it might be time to do some self-exploration or call it quits, says matchmaker Maya Maria Brown.

“Do you find that you used to be really silly and joke around, but since you started this relationship, you haven’t really been that goofy version of yourself at all? Or maybe there’s a part of you that wants to take life more seriously, but with your partner, it’s always fun and games and running away from the tough stuff,” she says. Any relationship that gets in the way of your own sense of self or identity is not one that you should stay in.

15. Your partner brings out the worst in you

Notice if, when you’re spending time with your partner, the personality traits you dislike in yourself tend to surface more often, says Brown—for example, a pessimistic or judgmental streak. Not liking yourself in a relationship creates unnecessary emotional baggage, especially since a healthy relationship is, again, supposed to bring out the best in you.

16. Your points of view are exceedingly different

Rather than reflecting simple disagreements, perhaps your differences of opinion feel fundamental and high-stakes. Maybe something in the news shines a spotlight on a key divergence of political perspectives, or a conversation with friends reveals a side of your partner that you never knew they had and which you simply can’t subscribe to. Any of these differences may be reasons to break up with someone, particularly if they seem to come up often.

“If you feel embarrassed in front of others when your partner speaks, breaking up might make you happier,” says relationship therapist Laurel Steinberg, PhD. “Additionally, you may be left wondering if people feel bad for you because of having this partner, which could cause you to distance yourself to avoid feeling this way.”

17. The relationship is on-again-off-again

Hate to say it, but if you’ve broken up two to three times already, there’s a good chance it should stay that way. An on-and-off relationship is typically chaotic and full of ups and downs. Ask yourself: When you are back “on,” are any of the issues (the ones that led to the initial breakup) getting resolved? If the answer is no, then perhaps you’re simply denying the inevitable and continuing a toxic cycle by breaking up and getting back together.

18. One of you wants to work on the relationship, while the other doesn’t

There are two people in a monogamous relationship, and there need to be two people working on it. You can’t be the only person putting in the work—you wouldn’t go to couples therapy by yourself, right? So if your S.O. refuses to meet you halfway when it comes to resolving conflicts or seems generally disinterested in the relationship, maybe the relationship isn’t worth your investment, either, and it’s best to spare yourself the unreciprocated effort by breaking up.

19. They make you feel less-than

In a healthy relationship, partners work to uplift and support each other. While some constructive criticism is normal, if you find your partner constantly criticizing, belittling, or critiquing you for even the smallest of things, it’s time to pack your bags.

Chances are, if they’re repeatedly putting you down, they may be dealing with some personal insecurities. Projecting onto you the things they feel embarrassed of in themselves—perhaps criticizing you for being too prideful or too loud, if those are insecurities of their own—is a strategy to make themselves feel better. But, over time, it can lead you to feel less-than and to doubt yourself, both of which you don’t deserve.

20. You don’t feel like you’re part of a team

It’s unlikely that you and your partner contribute exactly equally to the success of your relationship, whether in terms of completing household chores, planning dates, paying for things, or even investing emotional energy. But if you feel as if you’ve taken on a significantly larger burden of the overall workload without recognition, that’ll quickly lead to a dip in satisfaction with the relationship, says Brown.

And on the flip side, if your partner seems to take the lead on all the big decisions or activities, or sucks all the emotional energy out of your dynamic, you could feel similarly siloed—this time sidelined, rather than forced to play the main part. “In both cases, whether you feel responsible for most of the relationship’s well-being or you feel entirely left out, you might want to consider picking a different teammate or being your own teammate,” says Brown. After all, we don’t enter relationships to feel alone or lonely within them.

21. Your visions for the future don’t align

Maybe your five- or 10-year plan involves buying a home in the suburbs and having two kids, and your partner hopes to travel the world with no ties, says Wood: “Staying in a relationship where your plans for the future are drastically different can leave one or both people feeling like they have settled.”

The partner you’re with should be a person whom you can see as a character in your own vision for the future, and vice versa. That also means they’ll be the person standing by your side at future life events, good and bad, says Brown: “Is this the person you want to bring to your brother’s wedding? Do you want them with you at a family member’s funeral? Can you imagine them by your side at the doctor, whether you’re getting good news or bad?” If the answer isn’t a “yes” to all of the above, chances are, the reasons to break up outweigh the benefits of staying together.

How do you explain why you want to break up?

Explaining the reasons why you want to break up with someone starts with doing some self-reflection and figuring that out for yourself, says Dr. Romanoff. “It’s helpful to write out how you feel and what you want to communicate so the conversation doesn’t get side-railed or unproductive,” she adds.

A good breakup script will include a clear timeline of your thought process, says Dr. Romanoff. “When you share your rationale, it can help the other person understand your decision and how you arrived at it, so they don’t feel blindsided.”

Start by introducing the problem, then explain how it’s been an ongoing issue, and how the problem makes you feel, using “I” statements. She gives this example: “We’ve been fighting for months. I’ve been unhappy about X thing since X time. I’ve tried to work on this directly with you [insert times], and I don’t feel like we’ve been able to resolve it. I’m not happy and don’t want to go on like this. I need to take a break from the relationship.”

How do you break up respectfully?

To break up respectfully, it’s important to use “I” statements in order to express your truth and how the relationship felt to you. It’s equally vital to avoid casting blame or taking the opportunity to criticize; instead, stay focused on relaying your reasons why you’ve personally decided to end the relationship based on how you feel, utilizing the breakup script above.

Additionally, aim to be open and honest but not too detailed. If the relationship is over, your partner doesn’t need a bazillion reasons as to why. Summarize the main issue and how it made you feel, and then open the floor for your partner to speak and ask questions. Keep your responses brief and true to you, while still affirming their feelings and acknowledging that they have a right to feel however they feel (even if you disagree).

Lastly, consider the setting—there’s no wrong place to breakup, but think about the most comfortable place for both you and your partner to gently end things. Ideally, you’ll choose to break up in person versus on a phone call or over text, so that you can both be fully present in the moment and read each other’s body language. But, it’s also worth noting: You’re not obligated to break things off in person if the relationship is toxic or abusive; your safety is always the top priority.

How do you accept a relationship is over?

As with processing the end of most things in life, accepting that a relationship is over requires grieving the loss of what you once had. “Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts to speed up the process of healing from a breakup,” says Dr. Douglas.

The first step is to stop all communication. If you feel awkward or nervous about removing this person from your life, you might be tempted to try to be their friend, but that’s a big no, says Dr. Douglas. “Give yourself a significant amount of time of no-communication to allow yourself to adjust,” she says. Not having this person in your life (in any way, shape, or form) can help you accept that your relationship with them is indeed over. “Then, if you still feel inclined to seek friendship, you'll have a better understanding of if it is possible,” she says.

During this no-contact phase, give yourself permission to feel everything—the good, the bad, and the indifferent. Remember: A breakup is a loss at the end of the day, and you’ll need to emotionally and mentally adjust to it. “Consider journaling about your feelings, write a hypothetical letter to your partner (that you don’t send to them), tap back into hobbies or self-care activities, and spend lots of time with friends,” says Dr. Douglas.

Above all, try to be present with your feelings and yourself, says Dr. Romanoff, while acknowledging that everything you’re feeling is valid. And give yourself grace and lots of love during this time, too. You deserve it.

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