When to break up? When is it the right time to do it? Do I break up or do I stay?

There are romantic relationships that haven’t worked from the beginning.

Others where there have been significant disappointments that are very hard to move past.

And also those in which each person has evolved to different places.

If you find yourself in any of these situations and are contemplating the future of your relationship, in this article, I will provide you with some guidance.

When to break up? Do I end it or not?


How to decide whether to break up or not?

  • There are romantic relationships that never quite managed to work entirely.
  • Others, after a golden period of growth and mutual commitment, have faced such significant disappointments that forgiveness and moving forward seem impossible.
  • There are also couples who have always understood each other perfectly but, over the years, realize that their essential future plans don’t align.

Most likely, many of us have been through a similar situation at some point, and despite being aware of the limited future of the relationship, we’ve stayed anchored much longer than desired in that drifting ship.

But why prolong the decision when we can potentially save ourselves significant doses of suffering?

Fortunately, nowadays, we have the option to separate in a normalized and liberated manner, as expressed in the quotes below. Not only will you avoid an extended period of mourning, but you’ll also leave fewer secondary victims in your wake (such as children). We can assist you with this.

Separating is not a failure

Campo & Linares

A timely divorce is better than an artificially sustained marriage

Campo & Linares

How to know when it’s time to separate?

Throughout this article, I do provide some insights from couples therapy experts to answer the question of whether to break up or not.

To determine whether it’s healthiest to move forward or if it’s time to separate, consider the following:

1. “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”

John Gottman, a renowned expert in couples therapy, and his team have identified four predictors of divorce, or as he named them, “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling/avoidance.

x Criticism x Contempt x Defensive attitude x Stonewalling or avoidance

Four communication styles

These are four communication styles that, although they may be occasionally found in happy couples, can end up poisoning the relationship when they appear repetitively and habitually.

If you’ve been trapped in contempt, indifference, in a continuous dance of attack and defense for a long time, it’s reasonable to think that the relationship could be heading towards its end.

So, should I break up or not? If you still have reserves of energy, as an expert in couples therapy in Barcelona, I tell you that you can overcome these destructive dynamics with therapeutic help. But if the battle has depleted all your strength, perhaps it’s time to break free from the spiral and usher in a new stage.


2. The story of “us”

cogidos de la mano

The narrative and memories surrounding the love story (the beginnings, the pre-romance, love declarations, “how we met,” the wedding, children…) are particularly negative in couples headed for a breakup. In these cases, memories are either filled with negativity or, even worse, absent.

Obviously, during crises, we walk amidst storm clouds, and our vision may be affected. But if we’re unable to rescue even a glimmer of light in our history, the marriage is likely in serious jeopardy.

3. Lack of Sexual Desire

In our therapeutic practice, we observe couples who rarely argue but are engulfed in immense sexual appetite loss. They may see each other as great friends, understand each other perfectly, or share ideas and thoughts about the world around them. However, they have lost all sexual interest in each other. As they themselves say, “we are roommates.” So again the question when to break up? might come to your mind.

30-day challenge to improve your sexual lifeSometimes, this lack of desire can be a symptom of other unmet needs in the relationship, such as feeling disrespected, undervalued, or not taken into account. Not expressing these needs has created an insurmountable wall of emotional distance between the two. It can also happen that certain life events have transformed the reality of the couple, and now, its members are not walking in the same direction.

In any case, sex and attraction are essential elements of marital love, and when they fail in the long run, they alert us to the presence of a crisis.

4. The Love Triangle

when to break up

Sternberg warned us years ago in his Triangular Theory of Love. According to him, for complete love to take place, a balanced combination of three elements is essential: intimacy, commitment, and passion.

Intimacy provides us with the warmth of connection and closeness in a relationship. Passion refers to physical attraction, the spark, and the desire for sexual relations. And commitment involves loyalty to the partner, the decision to love them, and keeping that promise over time, despite the ups and downs that may shake it.

The presence of at least one of them is necessary to speak of love. Depending on the combination of the three elements, the established type of love (and the type of love triangle or pyramid) will be different and unique for each couple. The risk of a breakup can occur when each one’s ideal of love clashes head-on, and what you expect from each other has nothing in common.

Our ideal of love is related to our early experiences and affective models that have been internalized, as well as socially constructed messages around love. It’s possible that what we seek in the other person (tenderness, communication, closeness, open expressions of affection, future commitment) may be impossible to obtain at a certain level.

In conclusion, your answer to the question “when to break up?” should also take into account each person’s ideal of love.


5. Incompatibility of Essential Future Projects

Campo y Linares (2002) alert us to the importance of building a shared future for the relationship to endure over time and for the initial commitment to solidify.

The problem arises when one person ends up giving up to avoid breaking up. Some may give up on the desire to have children, or someone may set aside essential professional projects because it would mean breaking the bond. These sacrifices, if they affect a part of our essence or identity, if they are part of our most cherished dreams, can eventually turn into reproaches and resentment.

If your deepest desires (your life project, your personal dream) are entirely incompatible with maintaining the bond, perhaps the fairest thing for both is to say goodbye.


6. Existence of Violence

Sometimes, there are couples who consult us to eliminate violent relationship patterns. In these cases, we are talking about bidirectional and reciprocal violence, where both parties play an active role in the problem and are co-responsible for the change to be made. In these cases, couples therapy can be a viable alternative to work on the relationship.


Now, if what you are experiencing is a situation of abuse, gender violence, where the power imbalance and the submission and control exerted by your partner have only stripped you of your freedom to be, feel, act… YOUR PRIORITY SHOULD BE TO PROTECT YOURSELF. It’s time to seek help to put an end to the relationship.

In this case, in addition to seeking legal and professional help, separation is probably the healthiest way out for you. Both for you and for your children if you have them.

¿What do I gain and what do I lose if I separate?

To answer your dilemma of whether to separate or not, you can consider what you gain and what you lose if you separate. If, when asking yourself this question, you feel particularly liberated, your internal thermometer is giving you a powerful signal about what you need. Beyond focusing on the negative aspects of your partner, pay attention to your inner world.

  • What do I really need?
  • Can I satisfy my deepest desires if I continue in this relationship?
  • Do I want to give us another chance and transform my marriage?
  • Does our problem have a solution?
  • Do I really want to invest in him/her, or is fear holding me back from making a decision?

Questions like these can help you reflect and make a thoughtful decision, especially when there are children involved. In any case, only you know the depth of your marital history, and only you hold the answer in your hands.

In conclusion, WHEN TO BREAK UP?

In conclusion, in this post, I’ve discussed 6 key topics to consider if you have doubts about your relationship. Clarifying can be very difficult. In these cases, temporary separation is also a formula to consider.

Despite the pain that comes with a breakup, no one can deny its potential benefits today, especially when love has turned into torment; into a tide of agony. Fear is one of the factors that most blocks us from making this decision, and mourning is one of the most paralyzing consequences. Therefore, the decision to break up requires a lot of courage.

Nevertheless, if this process is carried out mutually and with some harmony (Campo and Linares, 2002), not only will you emerge more successfully from the mourning process, but you will also leave behind fewer secondary victims (such as children). We can help you with this.


Do you need help deciding whether to continue with your relationship or not?

Click the button and you can schedule your appointment.

We can assist you either individually to clarify your doubts. Or we can propose joint sessions for you to assess your relationship and make the best decision for your family.

¿Te has cansado de las discusiones constantes con tu pareja?

¿De esas discusiones por tonterías que salen de la nada?

¿Quién querría vivir en un campo de minas si pudiera evitarlo?

Y es que por mucho que digan que los conflictos son normales, hay formas y formas.

Y una cosa es discutir de vez en cuando y otra cada dos por tres.

Pero no te preocupes, es algo mucho más frecuente de lo que te imaginas y tiene solución


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