Knowing When to Break Up: The Red Flags to Consider

Ending a relationship is never an easy decision to make. Whether you've been together for a short time or have built a life together, it can be hard to determine when it's time to walk away. In this blog, we will explore when breaking up might be the right choice, as well as when it might be worth giving the relationship another chance.

 When to Consider Breaking Up

1. Abuse of Any Kind

This may seem obvious, but it isn’t always a deal breaker for people… and it should be. Absolutely no form of abuse, whether it be emotional, physical, or verbal, is acceptable in a relationship. If your partner consistently belittles you, physically harms you, or uses manipulative tactics to control you, it’s time to leave. The mental and physical well-being of you and your loved ones should be a top priority, always. Abuse can be obvious– outward acts of aggression – and it can be more subtle with stonewalling, ghosting, devaluation and/or chronically dismissive behavior. None of this sets the foundation for a relationship that is healthy or that can be successful.

2. Insurmountable Cultural or Socioeconomic Differences

While differences can enrich a relationship, they can also create tension and conflict if they are not reconciled. This is particularly true when there is a significant clash in values, lifestyle expectations, or socioeconomic backgrounds that neither partner is willing nor able to compromise on. Sometimes political or ideological differences can make for fruitful conversations and lively debate. But other times, those differences can cause arguments that fester into resentment. Be discerning to know the difference and be honest about whether respect is maintained despite opposing viewpoints or cultural perspectives.

3. Divergent Future Goals

If you and your partner have different visions for the future that cannot be reconciled, it may be time to part ways. This could include differing views on marriage, children, location of residence, or career aspirations. Sometimes in our excitement to find a relationship or in falling in love, we minimize our long-term goals for the future to be more in sync with the other person. However, too often, I see one or both parties eventually come back to their original plans and desires only to realize that they established relationship with someone who has very different wants. This can be so heartbreaking for the couple. You’re in love, but you just can’t see eye-to-eye on where to live, or whether to have children, or how much time you want to spend doing particular things etc. Have these conversations early on in getting to know someone and be honest!  

4. Unwillingness to Own Responsibility

This might be the most important, yet subtle, cue that a relationship won’t last! Here’s the deal: a healthy relationship requires both partners to own their actions and behaviors, particularly when they’ve made a mistake—because EVERYONE makes mistakes. If your partner is consistently unwilling to admit their errors, refuses to apologize, or is always blaming you or others, it may be a sign that your relationship lacks the foundation of mutual respect and responsibility needed for long-term success. Sometimes, in my work, I hear stories from clients who discuss how they can’t even begin to share a concern or complaint or need with their partner before that partner shuts down, gets defensive or attacks back. When I hear that, I know there is not much my client can do to turn the tide of the relationship. Relationships take both partners owning their parts and working together to move forward. That simply can’t happen when one side of the partnership is intolerant to actual or perceived criticism. Without real self-reflection by both partners, and a willingness to own behavior and make changes or compromise, the relationship will be incredibly difficult to navigate.

 When NOT to Break Up

1. Problems Can Be Worked Through

No relationship is without its conflicts, but what distinguishes a lasting partnership from a fleeting one is the ability to resolve these issues constructively. If you and your partner can talk openly and respectfully about problems and are both committed to working through them, there is a solid basis for moving forward together. (As stated earlier, owning behavior and mistakes, and willingness to make changes or compromises bode VERY well for a relationship).

2. Substantial Commonality Between Partners

Sharing common values, interests, and life goals can be the glue that holds a relationship together. If you and your partner share a deep connection and vision for your lives, it's worth considering how you might work through the current issues to preserve the relationship. When you have this foundation to lean on, it’s easy to come back to the shared vision after conflict resolves. Ask the hard questions early on to see if what you envision for yourself is aligned with the other’s vision.  

3. Respectful Communication

If your arguments are generally civil and respectful, even when you disagree strongly, this is a sign of a healthy dynamic. It means that both of you still value each other’s feelings and perspectives, which is essential for the growth and longevity of the relationship. How you argue, how you disagree and how you repair the relationship are all paramount to a relationship’s health and potential for longevity.

 Navigating the Decision to Break Up

Self-Assessment: Before making the decision, take a step back and assess your own feelings and needs. Are you generally happy? Do you feel respected and valued? Is this relationship serving your well-being?

Professional Guidance: Consider seeking a therapist or counselor, either individually or as a couple. They can provide a neutral perspective and guide you towards a decision that is healthiest for both of you. (If you would like someone to process your ambivalence and confusion with, reach out to us here )

Time and Space: This is my most important piece of advice: Don’t make any decisions in the heat of the moment (an argument or disagreement) and take time and space to settle down and find clarity. Time and space allow emotions to settle, brings you out of fight-or-flight mode, and provides the opportunity to reflect on the relationship with a clearer mind. This is absolutely necessary in assessing the situation.

Open Dialogue: Before making a final decision, have an open and honest conversation with your partner. They deserve to know how you are feeling, and you deserve to know if the door is open for significant change. You have to be able to have “hard” conversations.


Breaking up is a significant and often painful decision. However, staying in a relationship that is harmful, stifling, or fundamentally incompatible can lead to prolonged unhappiness. Trust yourself and prioritize your well-being. Whether you decide to work through your issues or part ways, remember that both are valid options and can lead to a happier, healthier future.

The decision to end a relationship, especially a significant one, can feel monumental. But, sometimes, breaking up is the most loving action you can take for yourself and for your partner. It creates the space for both individuals to grow separately, to learn more about what they need in a relationship, and to move forward in their lives.

Ultimately, it's essential to prioritize your happiness and well-being. If you are continuously unhappy and have tried to resolve your issues to no avail, it may be time to move on. Your health and wellness depend on the quality of your life and relationships. On the other hand, if the foundation of love, respect, and common goals remains strong, working through your issues might lead to a stronger, more resilient relationship in the long run.

Remember: Your happiness matters.