When These 10 Things Start Happening In Your Relationship, It's Time To Break Up

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In a relationship, you don't often think about the signs you should break up and let go of your partner, especially when you love them so much. But when you do, you save yourself from an even more painful heartbreak.

Knowing when to break up and cut your losses gives you more time to heal and find the love you truly deserve.

"Should we break up?" you ask. Based on my own experience plus decades of research by John M. Gottman, Ph.D., couples’ therapist, there are answers. 

Gottman outlined what he called the Four Horsemen which, when they appear in a couple's relationship, more often than not signal the beginnings of a breakup. The Four Horsemen — criticism, contempt, defensiveness, stonewalling — as well as other indicators, may be the driving force to end the relationship.

How do you know if it's time to break up?

So, when should you end your relationship? Even though breaking up with someone you love is painful and no one wants to go through that heartbreak, it may be for the best when your relationship starts falling apart.

You will probably know it's time to break up when you begin to feel unhappy with your partner and overall relationship. Perhaps communication has stopped, your partner doesn't put in effort, there was infidelity on one or both parts, or you just feel like you're living different lives.

RELATED: 5 Immediate Signs That Breaking Up Was The Right Choice

In some cases, it takes most couples a while to break up. When couples hit the 2-year mark, they are most likely to call it quits; however, that doesn't mean your relationship will follow the same pattern. You may be dating for a few months or a few years when you decide you want to leave.

And while most breakups happen in the month of December, that doesn't limit you to ending a relationship then. 

Here are 10 ways to know when to break up and let go of your relationship.

1. Your partner is critical and doesn’t respect you.

When you and your partner lose respect for one another, your relationship is bound to fail. You may start criticizing one another with comments like, "You never help me," or, "You always ignore me."

These sentences inflict pain because they tear a person down and don’t focus on what a person did. There is a huge difference between pointing out behavior that bothers you and attacking that individual personally.

Healthy couples have disagreements, but they discuss them without demeaning one another. When you have so little respect for each other, your union is in real trouble.

2. Your partner is defensive.

When defensiveness enters a relationship, couples quickly become wary when addressing one another.

That type of exchange won’t help heal the situation or move a relationship to a better place. Each time you respond to hurtful comments with a counter-attack, your relationship will sail into even rougher water.

Instead of a nasty exchange, a person in a healthy relationship will highlight feelings and point out behaviors without jumping into blaming the other person.

3. One or both of you feel superior to the other.

When you feel that you are smarter or more important than your partner, you are more likely to mock them, put them down, and dismiss their complaints and feelings. That’s a recipe for disaster.

For a healthy relationship to thrive, especially over the long haul, partners need to respect one another. They need to feel that they are better together than apart.

It is true that some years are more challenging than others, like when the kids are little or when there is a financial scare, but healthy relationships thrive when you both respect one another as true teammates.

4. One or both of you turn away and shut down.

When you voice a concern and your partner ignores you, walks out of the room or starts checking their cell phone, how does it feel?

This type of behavior is called "stonewalling" and it hurts. Research shows that after one partner stonewalls the other, both of their heart rates climb. People think less clearly when their hearts are racing, so the words that follow this type of interaction are likely to be even less considerate.

There is a lot that couples therapists can do, but they can’t work magic. When respect exits a relationship, there may be no turning back from an imminent breakup.

Not only that, but stonewalling can greatly affect your mental health and is considered a tactic of emotional abuse, which is never okay. 

5. Your partner isn't meeting your needs.

Each person is different and thus has different requirements or needs that have to be met for a relationship to flourish.

These needs or "requirements" can be emotional, like wanting to spend quality time with your partner. They can also be logical or functional, like asking them to be able to manage money efficiently.

When one partner feels that the other isn’t fulfilling their needs, it needs to be communicated as such. Your partner isn't a mind reader.

It becomes a problem when it turns into a pattern, even after the need has been explicitly stated. If one partner isn’t willing to try harder to fulfill that need or paying attention, it's probably time to move on and find someone who will. 

6. You feel obligated to stay in the relationship.

Some people stay in long-term relationships because they don't want to have their time and effort they already invested into the relationship to be wasted. However, staying out of obligation won't help your relationship; it may even start making you resent your partner. 

Simply staying and putting more time in a relationship with someone you love won’t fix the problems.

It will take active work to save one, and if both partners aren’t willing to work to fulfill the other’s needs, the relationship probably isn’t worth more time.

7. It's been over a year and it hasn't gotten better.

When two people are in love and have spent years together, or have or are planning to start a family, there is a stronger incentive to work out the problems.

Seeking professional help to save your relationship can be a good thing, but don't let that take over the rest of your life.

If you've been actively working on the relationship for over a year and things haven't changed, your needs are still not being met, and you are still not happy. The difficult choice to break up is likely the best decision.

8. You compromise your values to make the relationship work.

Your values define who you are as an individual. If you sacrifice those to be in a relationship, the relationship probably isn't worth a cent. 

Neither party in a relationship should lose the essence of who they are as individuals. You are individuals first before you are a couple! If your partner requires you to give a value up because they don't agree with it, or vice versa, that's a big red flag.

It’s important to note that relationships are meant to uplift and evolve us rather than diminish and destroy us. Without our values, who are we?

9. You don't want sex anymore.

While sex isn't everything, it is something important in relationships. Couples in love often want to feel close and intimate with the other.  

But if you no longer have the desire to be physically intimate with your partner, even if it has nothing to do with sex, it may be because you no longer enjoy being with them. In other words, something is wrong — either physically or mentally.

If you haven't had sex or been intimate in a long time, that’s a clear sign that things aren’t going down the right path.

10. Your partner is abusive.

Abuse is not love. An abusive relationship is a clear sign that you need to break up, and to do it safely. Reach out to friends and family to help you in this situation, or seek the help of a professional.  

Letting go of someone you love, no matter how painful, is the best thing for both of you.

RELATED: 15 Signs The Relationship Is Over For Him & He Wants To Break Up

If you want to try and save the relationship, here's what to do if you want to stay together:

1. Stay connected.

Whether you've been together a few months or have been married for 60 years, you always need to stay connected to your other half. The moment you disconnect or check out is the moment your relationship can become wobbly. 

Check in with your partner every day. Ask them how their day was and how they're feeling. This is a simple act that shows your partner you care about them and their needs. 

2. Listen to each other.

Again, another simple act, but one that holds all the cards. If you listen to each other, you are able to understand how the other feels and thinks. You can learn what is needed of you to make them feel better, and you can express your concerns. This way, you don't feel like you are trying to fix things alone.

Schedule time to sit and talk to each other every day where this conversation can be had. 

It shouldn't stop at just listening to each other, but also doing what is asked of you. If your wife needs you to take the trash out every Sunday, do it. If your husband needs alone time to hang out with his friends, allow it. 

Listen to the needs and accommodate them.

3. Keep dating.

You've heard the old adage that "to keep your woman, you need to pretend like you're still trying to woo her." Well, it works the other way, too.

You should celebrate the wonderful person who has agreed to be your partner. Take them on date nights around town, to the movies, or the restaurant where you first fell in love. Give your partner a steamy massage, or try something new and exciting in the bedroom.

Remind each other why you started dating in the first place and put a lot of time into making sure both of you are satisfied.

If there's no hope for a future, here's what to do if you want to break up:

1. Think it over.

Make sure this is what you want to do. Take time to consider your feelings and the reasons for your decision. Remind yourself of all the times your partner has let you down. 

But, most importantly, be true to yourself. Even if the other person might be hurt by your decision, it's okay to do what's right for you. 

2. Be honest, but not brutal.

"Honesty" doesn't mean "harsh." Don't pick apart the other person's qualities as a way to explain what's not working. Think of ways to be kind and gentle while still being honest and direct.

3. Don't avoid it.

It may be difficult to break up with someone, but don't avoid the conversation you need to have. Dragging things out only makes it harder in the long run — for you and your partner.

So, face the issue head-on and break up in person.

RELATED: 20 Crucial Things To Do (And Not Do) After A Breakup

Janis Roszler, LMFT, RD, LD/N, CDE, FAND is a licensed marriage and family therapist, board certified sex therapist, registered/licensed dietitian, master level addiction professional (MCAP), and award-winning medical media producer.