How to Tell If It’s Really Time to Dump Your Partner
Breaking up with a partner is hard enough as it is, but the time you spend silently agonizing over whether you should pull the plug can be The Worst.
Shouldn’t realizing you no longer want to date someone be the most obvious thing in the world? Why is it so impossible to know for sure?!
Turns out, it’s normal to be indecisive about breaking up when you can’t quite figure out if the problem is the relationship or Y-O-U. Here’s how to tell the difference, based on your biggest complaint:
1. YOU THINK ABOUT HAVING SEX WITH OTHER PEOPLE.
Your sex fantasies don’t end with sex. You can’t train your brain to literally only find your partner attractive and that’s normal and fine. Having ~thoughts~ about other people, even in the happiest of relationships, is something everyone experiences. But if you catch yourself imagining a happy life with the person whose bones you’re mentally jumping, or feel like you’d rather have sex with anyone but your partner, you may already be halfway out of this relationship.
You’re actually just due for an open convo about your sex life. Sometimes a (healthy, normal) fantasy about getting it on with someone else is actually just your brain’s way of telling you it’s time to mix it up. Especially in a long term, super cozy relationship, falling into a small sex rut can happen without either of you really noticing. Borrow a tip from Babeland’s Lisa Finn and print out (or pull up on your phone) a yes/no/maybe list of sex acts if you need a guide to this slightly-awk-but-very-steamy convo.
2. YOU FEEL LIKE THEY’RE BEING WAY TOO CLINGY.
They’re keeping you from seeing your friends or hanging out without them. It could be love bombing—a manipulative tactic commonly used by narcissists—or just straight up excessive clinginess, but either way, it’s never cool for a partner to control your schedule, even if they seem to be doing so “out of love.” You should be totally free to live your own life, and anyone who tries to interfere is probably not someone you can safely date.
You’re actually just having a super stressful week. If every single phone notification—including those from your partner—is sending a tingle of anxiety down your spine, it’s probably not your relationship that needs a break, it’s your schedule. Tell your partner you’re having a wild week and need to keep communication on an as-needed basis. They should be understanding and maybe they’ll even offer to take some chores off your hands.
3. YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’RE ON TOTALLY DIFFERENT PAGES.
One person has consistently felt more “in it” than the other. It’s normal for feelings in a relationship to see-saw a little bit. But if it feels like your partner is super into you and you’re only kinda meh about them or vice versa, then this thing may have been doomed from the start. Unfortunately, you can’t force someone who totally doesn’t want to be in a serious relationship to suddenly want one. It’s not the right person if the timing is off, and that’s one of the hardest relationship lessons anyone has to learn.
You haven’t had a frank conversation about what you’re looking for yet. Feeling like you’re ON BOARD for a serious ‘ship and your partner totally isn’t? Tell them that! It’s not fair to project your private expectations onto someone else—they should be just as clued into what’s going on with your situation as you are. Have that convo, and then see how you feel after.
4. YOU FEEL STUCK OR BORED IN THE RELATIONSHIP.
You feel unsatisfied regardless of the cool things you do together. If you and your partner have tried BYOB painting, rock-climbing, and weekend trips, and you still catch yourself disengaging from him or her when you’re together, it might be a sign to move on — particularly if you imagine how your lifestyle would be different without your partner, and the vision is appealing, according to Dr. Suzanne Degges-White, Ph.D., chair and professor of counseling and counselor education at Northern Illinois University.
Think flying solo would make your social life superior, or help you enjoy your day-to-day more? A fresh start with a new partner could help you live the life you want.
You’re just sick of your Netflix routine. When you first started seeing your partner, you may have gone out to dinner more often or on more exciting dates, whereas now you’re more likely to stay in and watch TV. “There is a difference between feeling bored with your partner and feeling bored of your partner,” says Dr. Mariana Bockarova, Ph.D., who teaches “The Psychology of Relationships” at the University of Toronto.
She suggests challenging yourselves to switch up your date nights, pick new hobbies, or expand your friend group – anything to give yourselves a chance to bond over something new together.
5. YOU CONSTANTLY FEEL SNIPPY AROUND YOUR PARTNER.
Your partner triggers anger. “When you feel like you’re going to scream [every time] your partner starts telling the same dumb joke or boring story, then you probably need to sit down and talk honestly about [the relationship],” Dr. Degges-White says. If his or her mere presence irrationally irritates you even on good days, that’s a much bigger issue.
There’s something deeper and unrelated bothering you. If school is beyond stressful or your new boss has been making you miserable, you could be taking your anger out on your partner. “You might be experiencing a common defense mechanism known as ‘displacement’,” Dr. Bockarova says. “Because you aren’t, for whatever reason, able to take your frustration out on the situation at hand, you displace it on your partner instead.”
Keep track of exactly when you lash out – if it’s every time you’re hangry or you get a work email on the weekend, take note. And, you know, be nicer to your partner.