Too many of my clients ask me how they should know when it’s time to break up with their spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend. How do they know if their displeasure in the relationship is a phase, or simply a general disinterest in continuing to pursue a connection with this person? If you or a friend is in this situation, address these five criteria and the answer should be clear.
How long have you been feeling this way? Has it been a slow decline in interest, or was there an incident that changed the way you feel about this person? If it’s the former, you’re likely in a routine that’s making you feel lethargic, but don’t simply expect them to shake things up! He/she probably feels the same way! Be up front with them, tell them you’re bored, and start proactively reintroducing activities and conversations into your lives that make your relationship exciting! If a singular incident is to blame for your feelings, them you need to work on addressing why, which brings us to the next point…
Communication is everything! Have you discussed the issues that have been contributing to your feelings with him/her? You haven’t? Then how do you expect anything to change? 99.9% of the time you aren’t dating a psychic, but people constantly expect their spouse to inherently know what he/she wants and needs at all times! Remind yourself that you are not psychic either, and there are certainly things your spouse isn’t communicating to you as well. If you’re afraid of bringing the subject up, then your relationship has even bigger problems—the free-flow of information between couples, especially life-partners, is vital to a healthy relationship. Start by asking yourself why you’re not comfortable being honest with this person. This may reveal this issue you have between each other, and what to work on.
Are they your best friend? If you had never dated this person, would you choose to be friends with them now? If the answer is ‘no,’ then break up with them. Ideally your spouse should be your best friend that you get to be intimate with. If they’re not, then you’re selling yourself short.
Don’t expect them to drastically change. Many people in relationships (especially women) expect their mates to change for the better over time. In a perfect world, this always happens, but since this is certainly not a perfect world, don’t expect the bar to move much higher. Statistically, over time people become more set in their ways, not less. Unless the person you’re with is going through unique circumstances (like getting studying to pass the Bar exam, or dealing with a death in the family), their personality is most likely set in stone, and you will not be able to change this. If you don’t like them now, then you better start trying to learn to like them this way. Otherwise, hit the road.
Time expended is no reason to stay together. “But we’ve already been together for two years! Breaking up would mean this time was for nothing!” This relationship is not like renting an apartment where if you break your lease early you don’t get your deposit back. Time in a relationship, whether it lasts forever, five years, or three months should be informing you about yourself, and what you want/don’t want in the next relationship. Learning is one consolation prize in a breakup, but the bigger prize is the freedom to finally find the person you really belong with!
Life is short! Unless you’re simply interested in having a casually good time, why settle for mediocrity? You owe it to yourself to give you and your partner the chance to discover a better match. But… if you feel that some of your responses to the questions above reveal some optimistic potential, do the work and enjoy the ride with him or her!