Even under the most ideal conditions (as in, it's mutual), breaking up with someone is never a pleasant experience. Whether you've been dating for a few weeks or a few years, going through a breakup sucks — even for the person who's calling things off. Deciding whether or not to end a relationship is never an easy task: all your happy memories and emotions become tangled up with the bad ones, creating a whirlwind of confusion and doubt. "When thinking about a relationship — whether starting one or ending one — it's helpful to think about how you want to feel," Stella Harris, sex educator and coach, tells Bustle. "We tend to get in our heads when making these decisions, especially when it comes to breakups, but you can't substitute intellectualizing for feeling."
If making a breakup a pro/con list helps you organize your thoughts and feel more in control, then more power to you. But the only way to really make the best decision for *you* is to self-reflect, and ask yourself some serious questions about your relationship — and about yourself, too. Really focus on your feelings: think about how you feel with your partner versus apart from your partner, and most importantly, how you want to feel in a relationship compared to how you feel now.
For anyone who's been thinking about ending their current relationship, here are eight questions to ask yourself before you break up to figure out if it's really the right move for you. (And if you do decide to end things, try to break up with your partner compassionately — because intentionally hurting someone's feelings should *never* be the goal.)
1What Initially Attracted Me To My Partner?
As Hilary Duff advises in her iconic hit "Come Clean": let's go back, back to the beginning. Think back to when you first met your partner, and reflect on why you were first drawn to them. What qualities attracted you? Were there any red flags you ignored? Naturally, everyone grows as an individual while in a relationship, and sometimes we're so focused on how our partner "used to be" that we don't give enough thought to how they are now. It's possible that you and your partner simply grew into two people who are less compatible than they once were — and that's OK.
2What Are My Priorities?
And, more importantly: do they align with my partner's priorities? Although you don't have to share *exactly* the same goals as your partner, it's important to have at least similar visions for the future you want to share together. For example, if one of you desperately wants kids and one is staunchly child-free, that's not really an issue you can compromise on. Being in touch with what you want for your future can help you figure out whether your current partner is the right person to accompany you on your life journey.
3What Are My Deal-Breakers?
There are things you can compromise on in a relationship, and things that are absolute deal-breakers. Before ending a relationship, ask yourself if you've been tolerating any deal-breaking behavior just for the sake of saving the relationship — and don't be afraid to finally follow through and put your foot down.
"Know your deal-breakers," Harris says. "You may be able to compromise for a while, but ultimately you won't be happy if you compromise on something that is essential to your happiness."
4Do I Feel Loved?
It might sound obvious, but if you don't feel loved by your partner, that can take a serious toll on the relationship. You don't have to have the same love language as your partner (aka what you need to feel loved in a relationship: Words of Affirmation, Gifts, Quality Time, Physical Touch, or Acts of Service) to have a successful relationship, but you both do need to be willing to talk about your love languages and figure out how the other person prefers to express and receive love.
"[Think about] what makes you feel loved, desired, [and] respected... are you getting those things?" Harris asks. If your current partner isn't capable of making you feel loved and respected (or at least willing to work on it), it's time to move on and find a partner who can fulfill your emotional needs.
5Do I Have "Grass Is Greener" Syndrome?
When you're in a long-term relationship, it's easy to get super comfortable with your partner and mistake that for having a "boring" relationship. If you find yourself dwelling on your work crush more than usual or even thinking about cheating, you might have "grass is greener" syndrome — aka you'd rather see what else is out there instead of working on your current relationship. Before you make a rash decision to end things and pursue someone new, it might be worth reflecting to figure out if you're *really* unhappy, or if you and your partner are just stuck in a rut and need to rekindle the romance.
6Do We Have Communication Problems?
If you find yourself contemplating a breakup, those negative thoughts can be exacerbated if you and your partner don't have good communication habits and problem-solving skills. When you argue, do you feel listened to and respected, or degraded and beaten down? If it's the latter, it's understandable if you're leaning towards breaking up — how can you salvage things if you can't have a mature, productive, honest discussion with your partner about your relationship?
No matter how much you love your partner, if you have very conflicting views on how best to communicate your problems, it might spell doom for your relationship. Again, it's all about how willing you and your partner are to work through the issue. But if you and your partner can't (or won't) get on the same page about something as important as communicating your problems, it might be best to part ways.
7Do I Need To Work On Myself?
Even if your partner has done nothing wrong, sometimes you can start to feel the breakup itch because you just know you need to spend some time solo. There's absolutely nothing wrong with taking time to be single and work on other aspects of your life — in fact, it's healthy to embrace your independence and recognize when you aren't in the right place for a relationship. Taking a break from relationships to get your own sh*t together is a sign of serious maturity, and when you are ready for a relationship again, you'll be more confident and more aware of what to look for in your next partner.
8Am I Happy?
Most importantly, before breaking up with someone, ask yourself if you're truly happy, or if you're yearning for more from a relationship than you're currently getting. Even if you can't quite put your finger on why you want to break up, that's OK — all that matters is that you feel like you're making the decision that's best for you.
"There are no mistakes — only learning opportunities," Lynn Zakeri, LCSW, tells Bustle. "And every relationship is practice for the next one. Getting to know yourself and what you need from a relationship was worth it."
When it comes to breaking up, no one except you can decide what the right move is. Even if you're sad about ending your relationship, it's imperative to put yourself and your own needs first, and learn not to settle for a partner who doesn't fulfill your needs. Breakups suck, but just remember — being single again is just another chance to fall in love all over again.