15 Signs It’s Probably Time to Break Up With Your Partner

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Not all breakups are created equal. Sometimes you know exactly when it’s time to go, channel your inner Lizzo and walk your fine ass out the door without looking back. And other times (okay, like, most of the time, TBH) deciding when and if you should break up with your partner is a tad more confusing.

When you’re trapped in that dreaded “should I end things?” phase, you’ll probably find yourself consulting just about anyone for advice—i.e. blowing up the group chat, mining WitchTok for wisdom, and, yes, googling stuff like “Should I break up with my boyfriend?” (Which, hi, is probably how you ended up here. Welcome!)

While TikTok may not have the answers to this super nuanced query, we do. And by that, we mean we tapped the experts to put together this user-friendly guide to navigating all the messy feels of the Potential Breakup phase.

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But before we start unpacking, it’s important to understand that no two relationships (and no two breakups) are exactly alike. “So much around the decision of whether to stay together is situational,” says clinical psychologist Lauren Cook, PhD. “What works for one couple might not work for another.”

Ultimately, to break up or not to break up is a question only you can answer. But if you’re in need of some second opinions that aren’t just your friend texting you the Britney “Dump Him” photo (iconic, though), we’ve gotchu. Read on for actually good advice from relationship coaches, therapists, and psychologists on how to know when it’s time to say goodbye. Apply their insight to your own sitch and assess what the best decision for you is from there. Just know, your feelings are completely validated—and if you do decide to break up, we’ll be here to help you through that too, trust.

    1. You don’t feel like a priority.

    Break up if…

    You continuously feel neglected, insignificant, and/or not cared for in the relationship. Look, there’s a maje difference between having a partner who is busy with commitments and a partner who doesn’t make time for you. “If your partner is consistently inattentive and neglectful of your needs and wants, despite your best efforts in communicating your needs to them, then it’s fair to say your partner is not valuing you and the relationship,” confirms registered psychotherapist Parisa Ghanbari. “Partners who are absorbed or lack adequate relationship skills are incapable of ever meeting ur emotional needs.” Time to say buh-bye.

    Stay together if…

    Your partner is making an effort to pay more attention to your needs and wants, says Ghanbari. Some signs to look for: they’re seeking couple’s therapy or therapy themselves, they are reading self-growth books or relationship material to better themselves, and/or actionably fulfilling your needs/wants/desires expressed, suggests Ghanbari.

    2. Thinking about marriage and/or the future freaks you out.

    Break up if…

    You cannot see your partner in your future at all. Look, totally understand if you’re someone who prefers to stay in the moment rather than look ahead into the next few years. But if you can’t picture the person you’re with beside you on your next greatest adventure, that’s not a good sign. “Holding this person without any intent for future plans limits not only them from finding their ‘happily ever after’ but also you,” says licensed psychotherapist Markesha Miller. She recommends you ask yourself, “Where do I see myself in one year?” Did you see your partner with you?

    Stay together if…

    Everything about your future is unclear. You don’t have to have everything figured out, and if you’re someone who has not given a lot of thought into where you see yourself in the next five years, that’s totally okay—it just may be what’s hindering your relationship. “Use this time to gain an understanding of self and direction,” suggests Miller. “After you gain some direction, you may be able to see the path ahead and whether or not you want to be accompanied by your partner.”

    3. You think about having sex with other people.

    Break up if…

    Your sex fantasies don’t end with sex. You can’t train your brain to literally find only your partner attractive, and that’s normal and fine. Having ~thoughts~ about other people, even in the happiest of relationships, is something everyone experiences. But if you catch yourself imagining a happy life with the person whose bones you’re mentally jumping or you feel like you’d rather have sex with anyone but your partner, you may already be halfway out of this relationship.

    Stay together if…

    You’re actually just due for an open convo about your sex life. Sometimes, a (healthy, normal) fantasy about getting it on with someone else is actually just your brain’s way of telling you it’s time to mix it up. Especially in a long-term, super-cozy relationship, falling into a small sex rut can happen without either of you really noticing. Borrow a tip from Babeland’s Lisa Finn and print out (or pull up on your phone) a yes/no/maybe list of sex acts if you need a guide to this slightly-awk-but-very-steamy convo.

    4. You feel like they’re being way too clingy.

    Break up if…

    They’re keeping you from seeing your friends or hanging out without them. It could be love bombing—a manipulative tactic commonly used by narcissists—or just straight-up excessive clinginess, but either way, it’s never cool for a partner to control your schedule, even if they seem to be doing so “out of love.” You should be totally free to live your own life, and anyone who tries to interfere is probably not someone you can safely date.

    Stay together if…

    You’re actually just having a super-stressful week. If every single phone notification—including those from your partner—is sending a tingle of anxiety down your spine, it’s probably not your relationship that needs a break, it’s your schedule. Tell your partner you are having a wild week and need to keep communication on an as-needed basis. They should be understanding and maybe they’ll even offer to take some chores off your hands.

    5. You feel like you’re on totally different pages.

    Break up if…

    One person has consistently felt more “in it” than the other. It’s normal for feelings in a relationship to seesaw a little bit. But if it feels like your partner is super into you and you’re only kinda meh about them or vice versa, then this thing may have been doomed from the start. Unfortunately, you can’t force someone who totally doesn’t want to be in a serious relationship to suddenly want one. It’s not the right person if the timing is off, and that’s one of the hardest relationship lessons anyone has to learn.

    Stay together if…

    You haven’t had a frank conversation about what you’re looking for yet. Feeling like you’re ON BOARD for a serious ’ship and your partner totally isn’t? Tell them that! It’s not fair to project your private expectations onto someone else—they should be just as clued in to what’s going on with your situation as you are. Have that convo, and then see how you feel after.

    6. They’re not posting you on socials.

    Break up if…

    Your person is Chronically Online and shares every last detail of their life, but never anything about you. According to relationship coach Fumi, aka @MahaMaven (who you may have seen doling out viral advice on TikTok), even in the most extenuating of circumstances, it’s probably cause for concern if a person is super willing to share details from their personal life but nothing about your relationship. It’s also worth asking yourself why the lack of you-representation on their socials is bothering you. While it may seem like a trivial thing, Fumi notes that sometimes when we’re hyper-focusing on the surface-level stuff of a relationship, it can actually be reflective of a deeper lack of satisfaction. In other words, you may think you want your partner to tag you in their story, but you’re actually seeking, say, trust and safety in your relationship, or more affection from your partner.

    Stay together if…

    They’re not super active on social media and/or you haven’t discussed your expectations around sharing the deets of your ’ship online. “Not everyone is comfortable sharing their personal lives on social media,” says Fumi. Moreover, someone might be totally fine sharing other aspects of their life, but simply prefer to keep your relationship between the two of you. They might also be trying to respect your privacy by delaying the IG hard launch until you’re ready. Fumi’s advice? Discuss your anxieties about not being posted and decide what you’re both comfortable with regarding social media boundaries. “Listen to their concerns, share your own, and try to find a solution that makes you both comfortable.”

    7. You feel stuck or bored in the relationship.

    Break up if…

    You feel unsatisfied regardless of the cool things you do together. If you and your partner have tried BYOB painting, rock climbing, and weekend trips and you still catch yourself disengaging from him or her when you’re together, it might be a sign to move on—particularly if you imagine how your lifestyle would be different without your partner and the vision is appealing, according to Suzanne Degges-White, PhD, chair and professor of counseling and counselor education at Northern Illinois University.

    Think flying solo would make your social life superior or help you enjoy your day-to-day more? A fresh start with a new partner could help you live the life you want.

    Stay together if…

    You’re just sick of your Netflix routine. When you first started seeing your partner, you may have gone out to dinner more often or on more exciting dates, whereas now, you’re more likely to stay in and watch TV. “There is a difference between feeling bored with your partner and feeling bored of your partner,” says Mariana Bockarova, PhD, who teaches The Psychology of Relationships at the University of Toronto.

    She suggests challenging yourselves to switch up your date nights, pick new hobbies, or expand your friend group—anything to give yourselves a chance to bond over something new together.

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    8. You constantly feel snippy around your partner.

    Break up if…

    Your partner triggers anger. “When you feel like you’re going to scream [every time] your partner starts telling the same dumb joke or boring story, then you probably need to sit down and talk honestly about [the relationship],” Degges-White says. If their mere presence irrationally irritates you even on good days, that’s a much bigger issue.

    Stay together if…

    There’s something deeper and unrelated bothering you. If school is beyond stressful or your new boss has been making you miserable, you could be taking your anger out on your partner. “You might be experiencing a common defense mechanism known as displacement,” Bockarova says. “Because you aren’t, for whatever reason, able to take your frustration out on the situation at hand, you displace it on your partner instead.”

    Keep track of exactly when you lash out—if it’s every time you’re hangry or you get a work email on the weekend, take note. And, you know, be nicer to your partner.

    9. You don’t get along with their friends or family.

    Break up if…

    You feel like the dynamic you have with the friends or fam is genuinely toxic and your partner doesn’t acknowledge their mistreatment or downplays your concerns. “If your partner sees these relationships as the best thing in their life, and you’re not vibing, that’s an indication that this is likely going to be a problem for the foreseeable future,” says clinical psychologist Lauren Cook, PhD. If having a close relationship with your partner’s crew and/or family is important to you, Cook suggests looking elsewhere.

    Stay together if…

    Your partner understands and respects where you’re coming from and sticks up for you when needed. You don’t all have to be BFFs as long as everybody plays nice and you know your partner is in your corner when it counts. It might also help to set boundaries with your partner about spending time with their friends and family. Relationship expert Callisto Adams, PhD, suggests limiting hangouts when possible as a compromise.

    10. You rarely want to have sex.

    Break up if…

    There’s truly never a time you want to bone. Does the very idea of sex with your partner kind of repulse you? That’s a pretty bad sign. “If you can no longer take any pleasure in even a memory of sexual satisfaction with your partner, something is definitely amiss,” Degges-White says.

    Stay together if…

    You still enjoy being physically close to your partner. “Determine whether you still turn to your partner for comfort and care, even when you haven’t been in the mood for sex,” Bockarova says. If you always want to spoon together and generally feel pretty handsy with them, the issue may involve a temporary dip in your sex drive rather than problems with your partner.

    “Pressure, stress, fatigue, external demands—these all take a lot of the emotional and physical energy that you would need for intimacy with your partner,” Degges-White says. Medications like antidepressants might also be affecting your sex drive, she says, so you may want to schedule a doctor appointment before deciding to call it quits on your relationship.

    11. You’d rather hang out with your friends than your partner.

    Break up if…

    You actually dread plans with your partner. “If you are actively avoiding [your relationship] by filling your time with friends, it may be a sign that you don’t want to fix your relationship,” Bockarova says.

    Another thing to look out for, according to Degges-White, is missing every aspect of your old single life. If the time you spend with your friends is leading you to behave like you did before your relationship—like staying out with your squad until 4 a.m. or flirting with strangers—that should be a huge wake-up call that you’re not feeling this situation anymore, she says.

    Stay together if…

    You genuinely just miss your friends. When you first start dating someone, it’s natural to prioritize the relationship above friends for a while, according to Bockarova. As you get more settled, you might start to feel more social again, especially if you feel like you’ve let some friendships fall to the wayside, she says.

    “In this case, spending more of your time with friends doesn’t mean you love your partner any less,” Bockarova says. If anything, it’s unhealthy to expect your partner to also be your entire social life, so having your own sets of friends should only help your relationship.

    12. You feel like you can’t be vulnerable with them.

    Break up if…

    You’ve expressed these concerns and pushed yourself to be vulnerable, and your partner still doesn’t go deeper with you. According to Cook, this is a pretty clear sign that your needs in this department will continue to go unmet. At that point, she suggests cutting your losses and finding someone more emotionally available—someone willing to reveal their weaknesses and understand yours.

    Stay together if…

    You haven’t had an honest conversation with them about your feelings.“Be honest with the person and let them know you’re struggling to be vulnerable with them,” says Cook. “See where it takes you and if they’re willing to go deeper with you.” If they never know how you feel, they’ll never know how to adjust their behavior to meet your needs. There’s always room to improve in a relationship, and honest communication is the first step—on both sides.

    13. You’ve been fighting more than usual lately.

    Break up if…

    Your fights are straight-up toxic and hurtful. “If you find you are walking on eggshells just to avoid a fight, you feel isolated and alone after an argument, or if you criticize each other harshly, show contempt for one another, become defensive, or shut down, I would reassess whether this relationship is right for you,” Bockarova says. “When we feel our basic sense of respect as a human being is being eroded, fully recovering and restoring a healthy loving relationship can be nearly impossible to do.”

    Stay together if…

    You both feel respected even when you disagree. Bockarova suggests paying close attention to how you fight. Do you talk calmly? Are you able to be affectionate after an argument is over? Do you feel like you’re growing from the fights you’re having?“You might just be having some trouble communicating your wants and needs but still love, respect, and care for one another,” Bockarova says.

    Another big thing: Assess whether an external or personal stressor is weighing down the relationship and causing the problems (see: work stress, mental health, etc.) “If you can identify external stressors that are only temporarily affecting your relationship, and both of you as partners are willing to do the work needed to address unhealthy communication patterns, the relationship can be salvageable,” says Ghanbari. “Possible solutions may be attending personal and relationship counseling or improving your relationship functioning using evidence and researched-based relationship books/courses.”

    14. You feel like you can do better.

    Break up if…

    You feel like you’re constantly unsatisfied in the relationship. Cook suggests taking stock of your expectations and figuring out where your needs are going unmet. In case you missed it, it’s completely valid (and even necessary) to have standards in a relationship—hi, we all do. If your partner is no longer meeting those standards, then you should respect your own boundaries and free yourself up to find someone who will.

    Stay together if…

    You’re a maximizer—aka you’re used to swiping on Tinder for The Next Best Thing. (Been there, no judgment!) If you find yourself setting, shall we say, unrealistic expectations or are looking for someone to check your every box, understand that no partner will be *absolutely* perfect. “This isn’t very romantic advice, but every relationship will have challenges,” says Cook. “If you’re waiting for a fairytale relationship without any issues, you will be looking for a long, long time—maybe forever.”

    15. You keep hoping your partner will change.

    Break up if…

    You want your partner to drastically change as a person. “Waiting for someone to change his or her internal qualities, like his or her values or personality, takes a tremendous amount of effort, willpower, growth, and hard work,” Bockarova says. You have to ask yourself if you’d be willing to stay with them if they didn’t change this aspect of themselves. If not, it’s time to move on.

    Stay together if…

    The change you’re seeking is situational. Bockarova believes it’s reasonable to wait for external changes, like a partner getting a job in the same city as you, only if you have reason to believe they are realistically capable of making that change.

    “If [they] value ambition and hard work, then waiting for [them] to meet future goals—like having income to travel, buy a house, or start a family—is well worth waiting for,” Bockarova says. Just remember: Even if your partner is determined and reliable, you still have a right to be frustrated or want a bigger change in your life. So if you feel like you’ve been waiting five years for your boyfriend’s comedy career to take off, you should never feel guilty for wanting something more.

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    Headshot of Hannah Smothers

    Hannah Smothers

    Hannah writes about health, sex, and relationships for Cosmopolitan, and you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram. Her work can also be found in the Cut, Jezebel, and Texas Monthly.

    Headshot of Taylor Andrews

    Headshot of Morgan Sullivan

    Morgan is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer, covering everything from health and sex to fashion and beauty. Her work can also be seen in Bustle, Refinery29, Well+Good, and more. She’s a big fan of these things, in order: silk slip dresses, giving unsolicited life advice, working out, and Taylor Swift’s entire discography. 

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