What to Do if You're Thinking About Breaking Up With Your Partner

Relationships are never easy, especially in college. You’re juggling a lot – classes, work, friends, quarantine – and adding a significant other into the mix can sometimes make things feel hectic. It can be even more difficult if you feel like your partner is unsupportive, isn’t committed to the relationship, or isn’t treating you with respect all the time.

Even if they’re the perfect SO on paper, you may still find the relationship to be unfulfilling. If this happens, take the following steps to determine if you truly want out before ending your relationship.

Ask yourself *why* you want to break up.

Is there something your SO did that has made you feel unhappy? Have you experienced a major life change, and are now struggling to juggle the transition and your relationship?

Locking down the reason you want to break up will help inform what you’re going to do next. If you’re stressed out and don’t feel like you can handle the responsibility of a relationship right now, consider asking your partner about taking a break instead of ending things completely. But if the issue is something serious, like your partner treating you poorly, you should definitely break up for good.

Write out what you’re feeling.

When considering whether to end a relationship, you’ll probably experience a broad range of confusing, conflicting emotions. Writing a list of all the feelings you’ve experienced and the reasoning behind them will help you better understand exactly what’s bothering you.

“Are you more in love with the memories or the person?” asks Melanie Van Schaick, a junior at Western University. If you find yourself clinging to the memories, it may mean that you’re holding onto a relationship that doesn’t exist anymore. If you are just grasping at straws, it’s time to let go.

Consider keeping track of how often you experience these emotions and the situation in which they occurred. If you think that some thoughts and feelings are more persistent than others, take note of it. If you can pinpoint the exact cause of these emotions, it will be easier for you to find a way to resolve these feelings – either on your own or with your partner.

Consider outside influences that may be affecting the situation.

Stress from unrelated situations, like school, fights with friends, or family drama, can wear you out and cause you to withdraw from other parts in your life, including your relationship. Take some time to analyze everything going on in your life and determine if your frustrations in your relationship are actually stemming from the relationship itself, or if they could be a result of other stressors.

 “Picture your life in the next five, ten years. Is your SO still in the picture?” asks Reagan Harvill, a senior at Washington College. If your answer isn’t an absolute “yes”, consider taking a step back from the relationship to focus on yourself.

If you don’t think that breaking up with your SO will actually resolve these issues, then hold off on making this decision until things in your life are feeling more settled.

Talk to a trusted confidant.

It can be hard to make serious decisions about the future of your relationship when overwhelming emotions are clouding your judgment. Talking to someone you trust, like a friend, a counselor, or your RA, can give you a fresh perspective on the situation and the potential choices you can make. 

If possible, talk to someone who knows your SO and would be able to offer an objective viewpoint of the relationship’s problems. Giving a voice to your frustrations and talking them out with an unbiased third party can help clear your mind so you can make a clear, rational decision about whether or not you want to end your relationship.

Think about what your partner wants.

Take a moment to reflect on your relationship, and ask yourself if your partner is truly committed to it.

When you’re with them, are they focused on being in the moment with you, or do they allow themselves to become easily distracted by unimportant things? Do they commit to plans for the future, or are they constantly coming up with excuses as to why they can’t make or deliver on any serious promises? If they’re choosing not to make you a priority, your partner is telling you that they aren’t interested in having a serious relationship.

Alexis Bogen, a grad student at the University of Central Florida, asks, “Are they helping accomplish your goals and dreams?” You can’t expect your partner to focus on you 24/7, but they should be supportive and attentive when with you. If they aren’t focused on your dreams in addition to theirs, maybe it’s time to pursue those dreams on your own.

Talk to your partner.

If you are truly unhappy in the relationship, one of the best things you can do to resolve an issue is just talk directly with your partner. This type of conversation can be difficult, but if your partner cares about you, they will appreciate you opening up to them and work with you to try and find a solution that is best for both of you.

This may mean staying together and working through your problems as a team, or taking a break from the relationship so you can focus on yourself. Openly acknowledging your unhappiness in your relationship and taking steps to address your concerns will help you decide whether or not you should end your relationship. It’s possible they may be going through something they haven’t spoken to you about, and it’s having a negative impact on the relationship.

When considering a breakup, there’s a lot to think about. It can be confusing and overwhelming, and you may find yourself going back and forth on your decision several times. Take the time you need to fully process your feelings before choosing to end your relationship.