This 30-Second Test Will Tell You If It's Time To Break Up

Use this 'break up formula' to help you decide if you should stay or end the relationship.

boyfriend and girlfriend in front of turquoise background wondering if they should break up Roman Samborskyi / Shutterstock

Some relationships are obvious clunkers: the one with a drug addict, the physically violent or psychologically abusive type, the one with a partner who sneaks out of your birthday dinner a million times to text their "platonic" friend.

These are the kind of relationships your friends beg you to leave.

You may stay anyway because you're caught up in recreating or rectifying some unhealthy family dynamic you haven't yet grown beyond.


If that's the case, a self-help article is unlikely to help you know when it's time to break up. Yours is in the realm in need of a qualified therapist.

Should I break up with my boyfriend (or girlfriend)?

More often, however, that difficult question doesn't come with such a simple answer.

"Good" people can still have bad relationships with each other, and it can be hard to recognize the signs you should break up with someone when your partner isn't an obvious loser.

RELATED: 25 Signs He Wants To Break Up & The Relationship Is Over

Several years ago, I became involved with a man who, on the surface, seemed almost perfect. I'll call him James.


He was sweet, easy-going, and a devoted father of two well-mannered children sharing custody with his ex-wife, with whom he appeared to have a cordial relationship.

My only concern at the outset was that James hadn't been in a relationship since his divorce five years earlier, although he assured me that his marriage was truly over. Everything else about him was wonderful, so I decided not to let this warning sign deter me.

From the beginning, our relationship was a bit like a local bus ride: lots of stops and starts.

James was sweet, supportive and appropriately cautious about introducing me to his children, which he finally did after two months.


He was also flaky, often changing or canceling plans at the last minute. I never knew if he'd follow through or abruptly break off without explanation.

I didn't know what to make of things, and I regularly asked myself if it was time to get out. But there were never any big problems, just little ones that were easily explained away every time.

RELATED: How To Break Up With Someone Respectfully


The turning point came six months into our relationship.

I'd asked him to take Valentine's Day evening off from work, and he "forgot."

At dinner the following night, he gave me a stuffed animal. It was Hallmark special that year: a bear with a hollowed out stomach that could conceal a jewelry box or other surprise.

But there was nothing inside. He hadn't even removed the paper wadding.

It's the thought that counts with any gift, and the thought attached to this one said, "I didn't even bother to open the obvious zipper or wonder why it was there."

I'm not one for angry outbursts, so I waited a few days before sitting James down for a talk. When I did, I told him that it had been six months, and I needed to know where our relationship was going.


He admitted that I deserved clarity, strongly hinted that he wanted to stay together, and promised to call me in a couple of days.

I never heard from him again.

RELATED: 14 Signs You're Dying To Break Up With Him (But Are Too Afraid)

After about a week, I left a message on his answering machine officially ending whatever it was we had.

Hindsight is 20/20, and looking back I can see where I went wrong.

All my previous relationships had ended in clean, obvious ways: a fight, a long-distance move, another woman. There were no such end points with James, just a lot of chronic frustration and ambiguity.

I failed to recognize that never being totally happy was reason enough to leave — and that is, I believe, the key to knowing whether you should stay with someone or break up with them.


I'd been sticking around for the potential of what James and I could be ... if he kept our dates, if we worked through our issues in the bedroom, if I could adjust to having two small children in the relationship mix.

The fact that I occasionally got brief glimpses of that potential only made it harder to see that, in reality, we were going nowhere.

I'm friends with a married couple who talk to each other almost exclusively in "Dr. Phil" lingo, continually acknowledging each other's feelings and voicing all frustrations in careful "I" messages devoid of anger or blame.

Going out to dinner with them exhausts me, and I see in them what long-term involvement with James might have been an eternity of never quite getting what I want.


How to know if you should break up or stay together

In the wake of my six-month non-relationship, I've adopted this 100-50 test.

If I'm not 100% content in a relationship 50% of the time, it's probably time to get out.

If that's not simple enough, check it out on this handy flowchart:

should I break up with my boyfriend flowchart

Every relationship takes work, but that work shouldn't be unrelenting.


It's as simple as that.

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

Jayden Harlow has been writing since she could hold a pencil and she has had work published on such varied topics as wedding planning, career development and celebrity homes.