It’s hard to tell when to break up even during the best of times, and your feelings about that big step may be especially confusing in this period of uncertainty. Everything in life seems to be in flux. Is your partner just a lifeline to stability? Are stress and exhaustion making minor irritations into life-changing crises? Relationship experts say making the big decision is toughest when times are really bad and when times are really good. These questions can reveal if your heart and head are working together and help you decide if it’s time to go.
Is the fear of loss holding you back?
There’s no question that breaking up with a partner will leave a hole in your life. If you can see your life past the pain of that loss, would you be ready to move on? Is the fear of a messy breakup delaying your decision? On the day you know you are done with the relationship, don’t let the fear of pain hold you back.
Are your fights doing any good?
Do disagreements end only when you both are sick of arguing, or do you feel as though your arguments can be productive? Do you keep having the same old argument over and over? If your fights move on to new topics, you may be done settling the old issues. If not, do you want to keep on endlessly hitting the same brick wall?
Is the fight messing with your head so that you don’t recognize yourself during arguments? Do you turn into a jealous, angry parody of yourself? Take that as a red flag.
Do you end up feeling diminished?
Negotiation and compromise are part of any relationship, but it’s another red flag if you feel as though your needs and wants always come last. This is especially true if you don’t feel your perspective is taken seriously. Start paying attention to how you feel around your partner. If you somehow come out of disagreements feeling small, that’s a fair gauge of the relationship’s effect on you.
How do your friends view this relationship?
Seeing ourselves through the eyes of our friends can be revealing. Ask a close friend to describe your relationship as if it were their own. Do they see a partnership that’s supportive and healthy? If the tables were turned, would you want your friend to keep dating the person they describe? Or would you urge them to break it off now? Friends want what is best for us. If your friends honestly don’t think your partner is good for you, they are probably right.
Are you looking for an exit date?
If you’ve got an expiration date in mind—after a holiday, before an anniversary—you’re already on the way out the door. If you both recognize the end is coming, and you’re having open conversations about it, it’s okay to continue the relationship as a matter of convenience during these tough times. Breaking up and finding someone new is tough in the middle of a pandemic. But if your partner doesn’t have a clue, you are doing them no favors by hanging out until it’s easier to leave. Come clean about your exit plans, and things may actually be easier in the long run.