Imagine if we knew the precise number of men and women who were considering a breakup at this very moment. It would be astronomical, right? Every day, millions of men and women take inventory of their relationships and ask themselves whether it makes sense to end it or keep it going. If you are in this situation yourself, you only have to ask a few basic questions to uncover the answer.
1. Has the person you’re dating cheated on you? More than once?
The vast majority of men and women looking for a relationship want one hundred percent monogamy, but the high divorce and breakup rates are proof that cheating happens every day. If it happens to you, you need to ask yourself if you can move past it (because not everyone can) and then you need to give your partner the chance to prove his or her faithfulness over time. If you’ve been cheated on once, tread carefully because the odds are good that it will happen again. If you have been cheated on more than once, you need to accept that you are co-signing an open relationship if you stay in it.
2. Does the person you’re dating ever put you down or make you feel bad about yourself?
There are few nastier behaviors than putting down your boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife. It’s perfectly natural to get angry or to have issues with your partner, but stooping to the level of making someone feel inferior or defective – through name-calling or other manipulations – is below-the-belt, nasty behavior. I don’t care how angry someone is or for what reason they’re angry. You should never label or put down someone you love. If you do, understand that the trust will deteriorate and that neither of you will feel safe in the relationship going forward.
3. Have you been unhappy or stressed in your relationship for a while?
If you’ve been in a relationship a short time – say, less than a year – it’s time to consider a breakup if you’ve been unhappy for at least a month. If you’ve been in a relationship for two to three years or longer, you should consider a breakup if you’ve been unhappy for six months or longer. So many men and women stay in unhappy relationships that will never get any better because they don’t want to have to go back into the single dating pool. Please remember that relationships are supposed to add comfort and security to your life above all else. If your relationship has not been meeting that criterion, you have to ask yourself this: Why am I still staying?
4. Do I still fantasize about meeting someone better?
Sadly, some men and women are in relationships today but they are secretly waiting for someone better to come along. Imagine the guy who goes to a party with his girlfriend but is constantly looking over her shoulder to see who else is there, or imagine the woman who sits with her boyfriend at dinner but daydreams about another guy coming along who talks about things that are more interesting to her. When you find a good and lasting relationship, you shouldn’t be waiting for anyone else to show up on your doorstep. If you do still hold onto the hope that, like winning the lottery, you strike gold and someone “better” magically appears in your life, the relationship you’re in now either isn’t going to last or is never going to be truly fulfilling for you. You need to ask yourself the following two questions: Is this a pattern I have in believing the grass is always greener? Is the one I’m dating someone I would be happy sitting across from at dinner ten years from now? If you ask yourself these questions honestly, you will figure out quickly whether it’s time for a breakup or not.
5. Does the person you’re dating mix well with some of your friends and family members?
Let’s be real for a moment, shall we? The goal isn’t to find a partner whom everyone in your life likes as much as you; the goal is to find someone who makes an overall good fit into the fabric of your social life. To make a relationship work, it’s helpful to have at least a few friends and family members who get along well with the person you’re dating. If you’re dating someone whom others consistently make negative comments about or whom others simply don’t like or connect with, you need to seriously ask yourself if you want social situations to be awkward for many years into the future.
The takeaway: It’s hard to follow fixed rules when it comes to relationships, but asking yourself these five questions will provide a good start in figuring out if it’s time for a breakup or if it’s worth keeping it going. Above all, ladies and gentlemen, be honest with yourself.
Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve