Love, Heartbreak

6 Deep Questions To Ask Yourself Before Breaking Up With Someone

Photo: getty
6 Deep Questions To Ask Yourself Before Breaking Up With Someone

There is one thing that everyone in a relationship can expect to experience: disappointment.

Uplifting, I know.

The degree of disappointment varies from relationship to relationship as well as from partner to partner. In some cases, this disappointment can gain enough momentum that you begin to question, “Is this the right relationship for me?” 

RELATED: 8 Unavoidable Signs It's Time To Break Up (Even If You Still Love Him)

When this question surfaces, it is past the time to get serious about whether or not you are invested in making things better or making matters worse. After all, energy flows where attention goes, and every choice you make either adds to or takes away from your relationship.

So here's how to know if and when to break up with someone, based on a few deep questions to ask yourself.

1. Specifically, what am I dissatisfied with in my relationship?

Flawed logic goes like this: “I’m unhappy <I feel emotional pain>, and I am partnered with you, so you must be the reason <perceived problem> that I am unhappy.”

Unfortunately, many people leave one unhappy relationship for another, mistakenly identifying their partner or the relationship as the problem, when, in fact, in many (not all) situations, the very thing we run from (the relationship with our partner) holds the greatest hope for our healing. The actual source of our pain (our relationship with our self) we can never outrun.

2. What is my unhappiness/pain telling me?

Pain can be our friend and pain can be our enemy. It depends on how we respond when pain surfaces.

Pain is neither good or bad, it is just information. Of course, it feels bad, which is how it commands our attention. Emotional pain is akin to physical pain: both function as a warning that there is a condition that needs attention. The pain is not the issue; the pain is the messenger telling us that there is an issue.

Do you know what your pain is telling you?

Finish these stem statements. Be as specific as possible.

  • The pain I feel is …
  • Because …
  • How I know this is true is …
  • This should not be happening because …
  • The reason I know this should not be happening is that …
  • And how I want to feel is …
  • What I have attempted to do to feel this way so far is …
  • So that I can …
  • If I stay in this relationship, I will never …
  • For me to be able to feel the way I want to feel in this relationship, what needs to be different is...

3. Am I considering my highest need or my highest want?

Sometimes we are so eager to end our pain (highest want) that we focus on immediate relief instead of long-term, sustaining growth (highest need). If you miss the message your pain is sending, you are likely to hear from that pain source again in the future.

For example, when we begin to experience conflict in a relationship, we experience emotional pain. In a rush to avoid that pain we may prematurely decide it’s the conflict we want to escape, and therefore we may conclude that ending the relationship is the best way to achieve that goal.

When in fact, what we may need is to learn how to tolerate conflict; how to negotiate differences (which create conflict) by establishing flexible, effective boundaries for ourselves so that we don’t continue to live our lives according to the demands and desires of those whom we love.

When we do not learn how to take care of ourselves in one relationship, we will not magically develop the skills in another one unless we stop at some point and do the work of growing through our pain.

RELATED: 5 Easy-To-Miss Signs You Should Break Up (Like, Yesterday)

4. How can both of us to get our needs met in this relationship?

Every relationship has its struggles. When you realize the somewhat cruel trick our biology plays on all of us, it is easier to understand the difference between disappointment and an outright partner mismatch.

We are lured together by a chemically assisted process that is designed to enhance our experience of attraction — the romantic phase of courtship and commitment. In her book, The Nature and Chemistry of Love, Helen Fisher describes in great detail what she learned through scientific research about the effects of attraction, lust, and love has on our system.

Essentially, Dr. Fisher concludes that when we become attracted to someone, a series of chemical changes take place in our body and our brain which fuel our increased energy, obsessive thoughts about our new love interest, and creates an overall increase in our ability to experience pleasure.

The working hypothesis behind this series of chemical changes in our body is that it is nature’s way of bringing two people together long enough to commit. Sadly, as Dr. Fisher explains, once a commitment between two people is made, the feel-good chemicals, which I like to call the naturally-produced-love-cocktail, begin to diminish, returning us to our natural states slowly. Without the love-cocktail coursing through our system, the euphoria fades, reality surfaces, and disappointment sets in.

Often this disappointment is internalized as a belief that “something is wrong,” and many people mistake this for falling out of love, losing attraction, or a loss of passion.

Once we commit, we are free to begin seeing our partners for who they authentically are, rather than who we needed them to be to feel comfortable committing! This allows us to start connecting on a deeper level and positions us to move toward a more enduring and stable love over time.

5. What is the source of my discontent?

When relationships become challenging, it is natural to begin fantasizing about being single or to compare your relationship to what you imagine other people are experiencing in theirs.

Where you put your thoughts will drive how you begin to feel about your situation. You may start decorating your new place in your mind, creating it exactly the way you want it; and picture yourself spending time doing things that you want to do without any pushback from a partner, or envision yourself feeling happy and free. If you think these thoughts enough, they become beliefs (whether they are true or not).

The wildcard is whether or not you have identified the actual source of your discontent. If your unhappiness is caused solely by your relationship and the dynamics involved, then you are likely to experience relief. If, however, your unhappiness stems from your inner dissatisfaction, and your difficulty showing up in a relationship with others in a way that works for you, then you will end up feeling some new version of the same pain you felt while in a relationship.

The deal is, we are wounded in relationships, and we are healed in relationships. The emotional muscles and skills you use when you are single are not the same as those you use in a relationship. If you exit a relationship every time the going gets tough, you prevent yourself from healing the pain that keeps knocking at your door.

6. Am I adding to, or taking away from my relationship? 

We can always expect the highest return from our most significant investments. A relationship is nothing but an empty container that offers both partners a place to invest themselves. You can not expect to get from a relationship anything that you do not give to the relationship (unless your partner is providing it).

In life, the single greatest resource available to you is yourself. This includes your time, your, energy, your thoughts, your behaviors, your feelings, and all that is you.

Every choice you make is a statement about what is most important to you, and when it comes to your relationship, all choices either add to or take away from, your relationship. Have you considered what you are contributing to the relationship and whether or not it is a significant enough investment to experience from your relationship what it is you desire?

It is no secret that the greenest grass is the grass that gets watered. Therefore, “The grass is always greener on the other side” … if you spend your thoughts, energy, and time watering it instead of your own.

Decide where you want to put your energy, and you can expect to experience better results. The question is, how can I invest the energy of me in the best way possible to live the life I desire?

RELATED: What To Do When He's Ready To Settle Down — But You're Not Quite There Yet

Michele O’Mara, LCSW, Ph.D. is an expert lesbian relationship coach with a comfortable obsession with all things related to love and relationships between women. She is particularly fascinated by lesbian couples in blended families, issues of infidelity, lesbian sexuality, and recovery from lesbian breakups.

YourTango may earn an affiliate commission if you buy something through links featured in this article.

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.