Even when you know deep down you should break up with your boyfriend, you sometimes feel confused, sad, and even afraid. Here’s how to know if you and your boyfriend should break up. You’ll also find tips for coping with the pain of letting him go.
Deciding if you should break up or try to fix your relationship with your boyfriend is never easy. You love him; maybe you even think you need him. I wrote this article for a reader who asked if she should move on or wait it out. “I try to talk to my boyfriend but he just gets frustrated and I feel like I’m nagging. Should I break up with him?” Another reader said she “kinda sorta” thinks it’s time to break up with her boyfriend and leave her relationship, but is unwilling to sacrifice everything she invested in.
“I feel very emotionally drained,” says Willow on Emotionally Detaching From Someone You Love But Have to Let Go. “Is it time to break up with my boyfriend? I’ve been with him for almost five years, living together for three. I’ve put up with his emotional abuse because he always apologizes and promises he’ll change. He says it’s not my fault, it’s his. He won’t talk about his feelings. Sometimes he says he loves me. Mostly he’s quiet but I feel so unhappy and alone. I also feel depressed at the thought of being in this relationship for another five years with my boyfriend, I can’t imagine 10 or 20! But I don’t know if it’s time to break up with him because I don’t want to just walk away from everything we invested in. House, relationships, family, friends, even some financial investments together. I don’t want to lose everything. How do you know when it’s time to break up??”
Do you tend to overanalyze and overthink your choices? It’s important to carefully think about your big life decisions – especially if you’re wondering if it’s time to break up with a boyfriend you love. But sometimes you know what you need to do…but you can’t do it because you lack courage or strength.
Here are four quick ways to know it’s time to break up with your boyfriend:
- He is emotionally abusive
- You keep hoping he’ll change but he never does
- Your boyfriend doesn’t talk about his feelings
- You feel unhappy and alone in your relationship
Those “signs it’s time to break up” are from my reader’s comment. I think Willow knows for sure that she should break up with her boyfriend, but she doesn’t want to lose everything she invested in. As she said, she doesn’t want to sacrifice what she’s gained. Even though it’s time to break up with her boyfriend, it will set her back.
So she stays in an unhappy relationship.
Is that what you’re doing? Staying in an unhappy relationship because you don’t want to break up with your boyfriend…even though you know it’s time? You don’t have to be unhappy forever! Breaking up is never easy, but it is something you will survive.
12 Ways to Know It’s Time to Break Up
A relationship breakup is very painful, which is why you’re having a difficult time deciding when and how to end a relationship. Your past feelings of being in love stimulated powerful and pleasurable neurochemicals in your brain and body. Rejection and breaking up can feel exactly like withdrawal from a drug, and can even lead to obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. It’s important for you to be aware how painful and sad a breakup is – and to know that this is why you’re struggling to know for sure it’s time to break up.
1. You can’t stop thinking about breaking up
This is one of the surest ways to know it’s time to break up: all you can think about is ending this relationship.
You keep struggling with thoughts of letting go your boyfriend, moving on, and starting over. You may not even have rational reasons to break up (or maybe you do); you just can’t stop thinking about what it would be like to be free. It’s over, and you know it. Your boyfriend may not know it, but you do.
2. You’ve identified what is missing in your relationship
Here’s a really important thing to do before you decide a relationship breakup is in order: do a “personal inventory” of your expectations of your boyfriend. A personal inventory requires you to assess what you’re getting from and giving to your relationship. Are your needs being met, your goals being supported, your health uplifted and your love returned? A personal inventory is like a “pros and cons” list that can help you see you, your boyfriend, and your relationship more clearly. If you’re honest in your assessment, you’ll find it easier to decide if it’s time to break up with your boyfriend.
3. You’ve done a “relationship inventory” with or without your boyfriend
A relationship inventory might include these questions:
- What aren’t you getting from your relationship?
- What are your getting from your relationship – what is good about it?
- Is your boyfriend meeting all, most, some, or none of your needs?
- Are you meeting all, most, some, or none of your boyfriend’s needs?
- Are you expecting your boyfriend to make you happy? (this is a mistake)
- How does your boyfriend keep you safe?
- What would you experience if you gave this relationship up?
- What are you not willing to do to change your own behavior towards your boyfriend?
- Why are you searching for tips on how to know if you should break up with your boyfriend?
I don’t think it’s wise to overanalyze a decision. But, I do believe that if you really want to know for sure it’s time to break up, you need to think carefully about your own expectations and behavior in your relationship. That’s what a personal inventory can help you do. It’s especially helpful if your boyfriend takes time to do his own inventory – and if you can do a relationship inventory together.
4. You don’t trust your boyfriend
Ah, the most obvious sign you should break up with your boyfriend: you don’t trust him. Need I say more? I think not, but if you have questions feel free to ask in the comments section below. I can’t offer you personal relationship or boyfriend advice, but I may have an insight or idea to share with you.
5. You know your boyfriend doesn’t love you
This is one of the most painful things to admit to yourself: you recognize the signs your boyfriend doesn’t love you. Sometimes we know things we don’t want to admit to ourselves because they’re too painful. Sometimes we refuse to face what we know to be true, because it hurts. You may know for sure it’s time to break up with your boyfriend because he doesn’t love you or you don’t love him…or you don’t love each other…but you aren’t ready to face it. And that’s okay. When you’re ready, you’ll deal with it like a superstar.
6. You ask your boyfriend for what you need, but he doesn’t care
Do you know what you need from your relationship? Maybe your love language involves “acts of service”, which may mean your boyfriend walks your dog or washes your car. Maybe you need “words of affirmation”, which means you feel loved when your boyfriend says “I love you” or shares his affection verbally with you.
If you’re not getting what you need from your boyfriend, you may think it’s time to break up with him. But wait a minute! Have you ASKED your boyfriend to give you what you need? And let’s take it one step further: do you even know what you need in your relationship? These are important relationship questions – not just for this relationship or breakup, but for all your future relationships.
7. Your boyfriend drains the life, spark, and spirit from you
If you feel sad, depressed, lonely, or exhausted after spending time with your boyfriend, then you need to figure out what’s draining you. Is it his personality, or your conflicting life values and goals?
In How to Be With a Boyfriend Who Isn’t Motivated or Ambitious, I share tips for women whose guys are dragging them down. Maybe your boyfriend is an energy vampire, or maybe you’re both just bored with your relationship. Maybe you know it’s not time to break up, but you also know for sure that something needs to change! So, change something.
8. You don’t feel safe in your relationship
When you tell your boyfriend what you really think and feel, can you trust him to respond with respect, love, and kindness? That’s emotional trust in a relationship, and it is crucial. When you give your boyfriend your bank or credit card to take care of financial business for you, can you trust him not to rob you blind? That’s financial trust, and it is important (but you can live without it if you keep your finances strictly separate). Can you trust your boyfriend to babysit your child or take care of your dog or cat? That’s personal trust in a relationship, and it’s pretty high on the importance scale.
The bottom line: how safe do you feel with your boyfriend? If you don’t feel safe with him on any level, then you know for sure that it is time to break up with him.
9. Your friends and family think it’s time to break up with your boyfriend
Ok, you shouldn’t let anyone run your life. But you are smart enough to know that your loved ones really do care about you and want the best for you (unless, of course, they’re malicious or evil – and some people are!). If your loved ones not supportive of your relationship, you don’t necessarily need to rush off and break up with your boyfriend…but you should at least explore their reasons.
Why are your friends and family against your boyfriend or relationship? Who are they trying to protect? When did they start saying it’s time to end this relationship? Where are they coming from? If you can be honest and objective and humble about their perspective, you may find it easy to decide it’s the right time to break up with your boyfriend. And you may breathe a sigh of relief.
10. You and your boyfriend argue or disagree about most things
Is everything a struggle? Are you and your boyfriend constantly fighting about big issues, or arguing about little things? Does he get on your nerves? Do you get on his? Disagreeing about stuff isn’t the number one tip on how to know for sure it’s time to break up this relationship, but it is a sign of disconnection with your boyfriend.
If both you and he enjoy the banter that can accompany disagreements and healthy relationship conflicts, then this is a nonissue. But if any insignificant little thing can become a huge ordeal, then it’s a sign you’re not compatible. Or you’re both unhappy. Or something else is going on, which you’re not talking about.
11. You and your boyfriend don’t connect spiritually – at the soul level
You know how some people just “get” each other? Maybe you’ve experienced this connection with a best friend, family member, schoolmate, or coworker. You understand each other even if you don’t agree on everything (because you’re not the exact same person), you have lots to talk about, you enjoy exploring different ideas…and you even talk about God together. Maybe you even pray or meditate together.
Connecting at the spirit and soul level is an absolute crucial part of a healthy love relationship – especially if you open your hearts and souls to God together, as a couple. This adds a deep layer of love, gratitude, grace, honor, and sacred togetherness to a relationship that will never be achieved without Him. Spiritual disconnection isn’t a reason to break up with your boyfriend, but I know for sure that spiritual connection can make a relationship shine brighter and work better.
12. You can’t put your finger on exactly what’s wrong in your relationship, but…
Something is missing. Something isn’t quite right with your boyfriend, or you, or how you interact. Something just isn’t fitting or feeling good. This is your intuition, your inner voice telling you that you need to sit up and pay attention! Listen! Hark! The herald angels sing! Your subconscious is super smart, and it is sending you signals that you must heed. Ignore them at your own peril.
You don’t need a rational reason to break up with your boyfriend. You don’t need to know with 100% certainty it’s time to end this relationship. You just need to listen to your gut instincts, that still small voice, your inner wise woman telling you what you need from your life.
You are smarter than you think, braver than you realize, and stronger than you ever imagined possible. You know a lot more than you give yourself credit for. Don’t let anyone tell you different.
A few final thoughts on relationship breakups
Breakups can trigger a variety of complicated and painful emotions, such as hidden grief about past issues. A breakup can even cause you to feel irrational guilt, anger, shame, and fear.
Don’t expect that you’ll just “move on and get over it.” Your friends and relatives may urge you to deal with it quickly, and this may make you feel worse. You may even feel ashamed and embarrassed about the breakup – which may have been why you didn’t know for sure if it was time to break up.
Honor your feelings. Recognize that they’re normal, and that they will pass. Know that even if you can’t make the decision to break up now, you will be ready to make a change in your relationship in the future. Be prepared for the stages of grief that may follow a breakup: denial, anger, bargaining, guilt, depression and sadness, and finally acceptance.
How are you doing? This is a lot of information to think about! Feel free to share your feelings – big and little – below.