How Do I Know When It’s Time to Go?

couple sitting on steps togetherWhen you start dating or first get involved with someone, everything can seem pretty exciting. You might feel nervous, happy, or even like you’re walking on air. You’re probably checking your phone a lot and wondering when you’ll get a chance to see that person next.

Sometimes, this feeling lasts for a long time, or changes into something that’s a little more settled, but still great. More often, though, a relationship eventually runs into some problems, and we start to wonder if we should continue it.

When Things Get Rocky

It’s important to know that this happens to everyone, no matter how old or young they are, or how great the romance might look from the outside. It’s just part of life. The issue could be something as minor as not really liking the same books, movies, and music, something as serious as abuse, or a lot of other things that fall in between.

Of course, no relationship is perfect. It’s normal to have to disagree, to have conflict, and to have to work on things. But there should still be a lot of good times and happiness in every dating relationship, or it really isn’t worth it.

So, how do you know when it’s time to end a relationship and move on? This question can be really hard to answer, especially when you feel love or at least strong affection for the other person. Often, we’ve built up a lot of special memories and feel emotionally close to him or her. We might feel like “We can fix this, if we just….” , or wonder if we just haven’t “worked hard enough.”

On the other hand, maybe friends are telling you to break up, or your family doesn’t like the relationship. Or another part of you may be telling you that it’s just not right. At the same time, the idea of breaking up might feel pretty unpleasant. All these feelings can be confusing--especially if the relationship has gotten physically intimate, or if your partner is really clear about wanting to stay together.

In the end, it’s up to you. However, if you’re feeling uncertain, there are some questions you can ask yourself that might help you make that decision.

Questions To Ask Yourself: Is it Time to Break Up?

  • Are the two of us feeling pretty happy a lot of the time, or is it mostly drama, disagreement, and fighting?
  • Are we usually able to productively work things out when there’s a problem?
  • Do we have most or at least some of the signs of a healthy relationship…or not?
  • Do I still look forward to seeing and being with my partner?
  • Does being with this person make me feel good or bad about myself?
  • Am I focusing on the past and the memories and “the ways things used to be” to convince myself to stay?
  • Are there are any signs of abuse? Do I feel safe with this person?
  • Am I staying with this person because I’m afraid of what will happen if I break up with him or her?
  • Am I staying with this person because I don’t want to be single?

How to Break Up

If you’ve decided to break up, be respectful of your partner when you do so. If nothing else, think about how you would want somebody to break up with you.

  • Be honest, but not unkind
  • Try to avoid holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, or other “big dates”
  • Break up in person-- not by text, social media, on the phone, or through another person
  • Don’t create drama in your social circle
  • Make sure your partner “gets the picture”
  • If there is abuse and you’re concerned about your safety, follow these guidelines

After the Break-Up

Even when you know it was the right decision, moving on after a break-up can be hard. It’s normal to be sad and feel nostalgic. Allow yourself time to grieve, but after a while, make an effort to get out and socialize, hang out with friends, and do new things. Don’t spend time trying to find out what your ex is up to or trying to get him or her to talk—give each other some space. After a while, it’s possible that you’ll be able to be friends again, if that’s something that seems right. Time really does heal all wounds.

Also remember that no matter how the relationship went, you probably learned something from it. Most likely, you’ll remember this relationship for a long time—both the good and the not so good. It’s part of your unique life experience: your life story.

By Carol Church, lead writer, SMART Couples, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, University of Florida


Love is Respect. (2015). Make it work…or let it go? Retrieved from this page
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 Breaking up. Retrieved from this page
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 Should I stay or should I go? Retrieved from this page

Courtesy of University of Florida UF/IFAS Extension.  For more relationship articles, visit