These 3 Questions Will Instantly Reveal Whether Or Not You Should Break Up

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man and woman looking tense together

By Samantha Burns

Your worst battle is between what you know and what you feel, especially when the question you're asking is: 

Should we break up?

When your heart and head are at odds, what do you do? How do you know when it's time to break up?

One of the hardest choices is deciding to end a relationship, especially when you truly love the other person. The thing is, you can genuinely love someone, but that does not mean that he or she is your best match, or that you should spend your life together.

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I know it's unromantic, but love does not conquer all. Having love is just one of many factors that creates a happy and successful relationship.

Remaining in a relationship is a daily unconscious choice — or sometimes a very conscious choice when things are rocky! In each relationship, you must eventually decide whether to continue investing in it or to call it quits.

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Here are three questions to help you figure out whether it's time to break up:

1. What does your gut say?

Oftentimes, deep down you know what's best for you, but it just may not be the easy decision. What is that little voice inside of you saying?  

The voice represents anxiety, angst, and intuition on a gut level — it's your self-protection. That voice is why at times it feels like you have to convince yourself or rationalize remaining in the relationship.

Maybe you tell yourself that things will get better, or that you've already invested so much into the partnership that it's easier to keep going than walk away.

Sound familiar? It takes an incredible amount of courage to listen to the voice and then act on it.

Sometimes that inner voice takes the form of not liking yourself in the relationship. Ask yourself, "Am I a better person when I am with my partner?" or "Does my partner bring out the best in me?" If you often feel needy, insecure, crazy, jealous, miserable, angry or you spend a lot of time crying, then these are red flags that this is not the relationship for you.

If you've stuffed down your inner voice due to emotional or physical abuse, it's definitely time to break up. Other warning signs to get out are if your partner has anger that is disproportionate to the issues that are frustrating him or her (explosive anger) and if your partner lacks control over substances such as alcohol and is unwilling to get help.

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2. Do you argue more frequently than you get along?

In every relationship, there are disagreements over things like unwashed dishes, but are you having major blowouts over the big things in life? These types of arguments leave you drained and questioning your feelings or the relationship as a whole.

How frequently are they occurring in your partnership? If you notice that you bicker, argue, and disagree more often than you have fun, show affection, and express love, it may be time to call it quits.

You've probably heard that relationships are about compromise. Compromising is an important skill, but when you do it all the time, it's exhausting and you feel like you never get your way.

There may be future partners out there for you where you don't have to compromise as much because you naturally want the same things. Relationships require work, but it should just feel easy for the most part.

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3. Do your core values align?

Is what you value in life also your partner's priorities? Core values are topics that do not always come up organically in conversation, especially early on when dating someone new. Some common core values to question are:

  • What are your career goals and how do you feel about a work-life balance?
  • How do you spend and save money? Are you OK being with an impulsive shopper or someone with a lot of debt?
  • Where does religion and spirituality fit into your life?
  • Do you want kids? What are your beliefs about parenting?
  • Is family important to you? How much time do you like to spend with them?
  • In what type of environment do you want to live? Are you a country bumpkin or a city dweller?
  • Where do you stand politically?
  • What socioeconomic status do you need in order to live the lifestyle you want?

Next, ask yourself what your partner prioritizes, and whether these line up with your values. You may already be aware that your values don't align because you have likely fought about these topics over and over again, or caught yourself thinking, "Can I really live with that?" 

Many times, your core values are ultimately deal breakers, so compromising on them will leave you resentful. Stop keeping someone around if you don't agree on these big-picture issues. Aligning core values ultimately creates the foundation for a successful relationship.

Breaking up and ending a relationship can be extremely overwhelming — change is hard. Your excitement or optimism of a better future apart may be conflicted with feelings of shame, guilt, or abandonment. Don't let the love, commitment, time, and finances invested over the past months or years hold you hostage in a relationship.

You need to acknowledge that you stayed in a relationship that was not ideal or completely healthy, or that you settled for comfort and compromise instead of seeking out what you really wanted. This is not a failure; don't be too harsh on your judgment.

Instead, reframe this view and tell yourself that there are no failures in relationships — only experiences from which to learn and grow.

If you're leaning towards breaking up, ask yourself what love lessons you will be taking away from your relationship. Looking forward, how can you make better choices in your love life?

If you're still torn, I believe that when you're with the right person, your heart and head will agree — you won't have to choose between them.

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Samantha Burns, M.A., LMHC is a relationship counselor and dating coach at Love Successfully. She is an author and contributing expert to multiple national websites, where she tackles all things love: breaking up, dating, increasing relationship satisfaction, and infidelity.