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How to Tell If You Should Break Up With Your Boyfriend

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Em is a millennial writer with a special interest in social sciences, dating, and what makes people click (and tick!).


10 Signs You Need to Break Up

  1. You only see him when he needs a favor.
  2. The only time you see him is to hook up.
  3. He makes you anxious.
  4. Your fights end without a resolution.
  5. He encourages toxic behavior.
  6. Your friends and family don't like him.
  7. He's controlling and doesn't trust you.
  8. You have more fun with other guys.
  9. He's annoyed you're not interested in his hobbies.
  10. You're second-guessing if you should be together at all.

I used to wonder often if it was normal to feel awkward in a relationship all of the time—to be worried it's moving too fast, or worse, that it's totally falling apart at the impulsively sewn seams. Part of this was probably because I dated the same guy all through high school into my early 20s without much experience with other people.

It was like being raised by wolves in the relationship department. Everything I believed to be real and true about romance, dating, and partnering up splintered when we broke up. I had the freedom to date and hang out with other people.

Looking back, we should have probably broken up after our first year of dating, but tumultuous home lives bonded us together when we had nothing else in common, leading to codependency and stunted personal growth for both of us.

Digging up wisdom from my own doomed long-term not-quite-a-romance, here are 10 clues I should have broken up with him—and that you should too.

1. The Only Time You See Each Other is When You're Doing Him a Favor

If the only time you two touch base is when needs a ride to work, $80 for his phone or for you to pick up a gift for his mom's birthday—from him—this is red flag city that he no longer sees you as a partner. Nope, at this point you're a glorified personal assistant and the only reason he's not breaking up with you is that it's really tough to find a great personal assistant. I should know, because after the first few years, the only way I really saw my ex was if I was bringing him dinner at work, right before he got off to hang out with his friends while I sat at home being a stupid idiot with no self-esteem.

You're better off to cut this dude loose and get a paying virtual assistant job with a company like Virtual Gal Friday or Byron.

The Exception

He's been in a horrible accident, rendering his arms, legs and mother completely useless and up until this point he's been engaged and active in the relationship, even bringing you dinner on occasion!

2. The Only Time You See Each Other Is When You're Hooking Up

If your boyfriend only wants to see you like once a week for, let's be real, a quick afternoon delight, you should break up with him. You're way, way too good for that. At this point, you're not his girlfriend or boyfriend anymore, you're just a convenience.

In this article for Psychology Today, Dr. Mark D. White says:

"...In nonideal [sic] relationships, each partner's value in the other's eyes fades, and not necessarily at the same rate. If this happens, eventually one person will value the other more than he or she is valued by the other.

Suffice to say that if the only time spent with your bf is in an unclothed state and not preceded or at least followed by some other quality time together, like an ice cream cone on the beach, bowling with friends, a nice massage (it's gotta last more than 45 seconds) or at least some not-small talk, then the relationship has no foundation outside of sex which isn't really a foundation for a relationship in the first place (though it's an important aspect of most romantic partnerships).

The Exception

You're in a long distance relationship (say, one of you is away at school or jobs keep you apart) where time together is super limited. If this is the case, you might have awesome late-night conversations over the phone but when you get your rare time together you might just have to get down to business. That's just life and logistics and sometimes they're not ideal, but if the relationship is satisfying otherwise than being intimate when you see each other is a solid priority.

3. You're Anxious When You're With Him

Oh lordy. I was so anxious with my ex but that can't all fall on him. I have an anxiety disorder that, when it gets the best of me, tears at my self-esteem and makes me feel anxious in most situations.

Here's where a little blame can fall on him: he was a real jerk about it.

Instead of acknowledging that his girlfriend had anxiety he would usually just end up yelling at me about how weird and embarrassing I was.

Knowing that he thought I was boring and weird just compounded and directly contributed to my anxiety when I was around him. I always breathed a sigh of relief when we parted ways, knowing I could let my hair down and be my beautiful, boring self.

The Exception

He's not the direct cause of your anxiety and he's supportive to the best of his abilities when he notices you're struggling. A partner can't be a therapist and they can't carry you through all of your issues, but they can hold your hand as you make an effort to become a healthier person.

4. Your Fights are Frequent and End Without a Resolution

This one is simple. Whether you're arguing about where to go out for dinner or why his mom hates you so much, being in a relationship with someone you can't get along with is miserable. Before my first boyfriend and I split and I began my foray into dating other people, I didn't realize that there's actually a fair and productive way to fight with someone and I don't think he did either.

It's not something we could teach each other how to do and it took our break up to create space for both of us to learn how to have differences with someone you care about. Do your future a favor and go your separate ways. There'll be people on your path who are much more compatible for you, even during a conflict.

The Exception

I don't think there's an exception to this. Do you really want to continue a relationship with someone you fight constantly with? If you're looking for a sign that your stressful relationship isn't going to get any better well, here it is! Also, side note in my opinion, unless there's a very defined commitment, like a marriage or children in the picture, seeking counseling for an argumentative relationship is a waste of life.

5. He Encourages Toxic Behaviors

Are you on a journey to sobriety and he's out at the bar every other night? Trying to get away from a certain group of people but that's his entire social circle? Losing weight to fend off a family history of type 2 diabetes and he's bringing your Whoppers and milkshakes every night? What may have been sparkly and attractive at the beginning of your relationship could become toxic for you later on.

If you're changing (and by change I mean growing into the person you're proud of) and he's still dragging behind trying to get you to look back instead of hopping on board with you, the relationship can no longer work. That ex I've been writing about—we've both flourished in the years since we parted ways. We were two pretty amazing people unable to grow in the shade of one another.

The Exception

There isn't one. You're better than that and if you don't know it maybe it's because you're still allowing toxic behaviors and thought patterns, including believing that you're not good enough to be a better version of you to seep into your life. I keep this copy of Jen Sicero's book in my bag and whenever I'm doubting that I deserve a life I'm proud of I whip it out to remind myself what I'm made of.

6. Your Friends and Family Hate Him (or His Hate You)

It was no secret that my ex's mom really kinda hated me and after a few years of our relationship getting more serious, my friends and family took the stance that they liked him on his own but thought I could do better.

This might all just seem like cute Romeo and Juliet drama but it's important to consider when your friends and family don't like him or when his friends and family don't like you because the reasons are quite telling.

For example, my friends and family were open with me about their opinion that I could find a boyfriend who treated me with more respect instead of calling "Hey woman, refill this drink for me" across the room at Thanksgiving. They weren't just being picky about my boyfriend, there was a real issue there that they could clearly see.

Likewise, my ex's mom hated me because I was "a little chunky and pretty boring." While I brushed these comments off for years I should've taken them more seriously in the beginning. It showed me that my ex had been raised by a shallow and self-righteous woman and at least some of that attitude had rubbed off on him. Such is life.

If your family doesn't like him or his doesn't like you, it's hard to ignore after a while and a good sign that long-term, those people will cause issues in your relationship.

The Exception

I think the only exception here is if you're both older, have been in previous relationships and know that you're with each other because you love and trust each other, you share the same values and you have a mutual respect for one another. If that's the case, then your family's grievances are likely unfounded and can be ignored.

7. He's Controlling and Untrusting

Towards the end of my relationship with my ex he became convinced I was cheating on him with my neighbor. Fair enough, my neighbor was an old friend and we did hang out sometimes, often when my ex was there but sometimes when he wasn't. I was and early 20-something and nobody puts baby in a corner, if I wanted to spend time with another single friend I was going to do that since I wasn't a doll on a shelf waiting to be taken down to be played with. But to my ex, this translated as me exhibiting untrustworthy behavior.

I'm not going to lie, while he'd once been apathetic to where I was, going days at a time without calling or texting me, he was suddenly deeply concerned about what I was up to and I relished the attention even as I was walking on eggshells.

Toxic, I know.

But, surprise, surprise it turns out he was actually cheating on me ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ And when I found out he blamed it on my platonic friendship with said neighbor. Turns out, this entire little anecdote is full of signs my boyfriend was super controlling and another reason I should have broken up with him sooner.

The Exception

No exception here! If your boyfriend is controlling and untrusting, there's no amount of convincing you can do to turn things around. On top of that, controlling partners are also often emotionally abusive.

If he needs the Who/What/Where every hour, there's a huge control problem.

If he needs the Who/What/Where every hour, there's a huge control problem.

8. You Have More Fun With Other Guys

My neighbor/old buddy wasn't my only male friend.

In fact, most of my friends are male, a natural side effect of having a brother close in age, and the truth is that my boyfriend was often the one I had the least amount of fun with. Maybe it was because we argued often or because we had almost no common interests. What we had in chemistry, we lacked in compatibility which is essential for a healthy relationship.

Because of this, I started to find myself having a lot more fun with my guy friends (and I'm sure he found himself having more friend with girl friends he had more in common with) and even if it seemed like we didn't have chemistry, the chemistry between us would build as compatibility with certain friends became more apparent.

The Exception

Again, if you're only dating and not sharing some kind of commitment with this person (a child or a marriage) then why waste your time with someone who you're not having very much fun with? No exception here.

9. He's Annoyed You're Not Into His Hobbies

My ex was extremely sporty.

I wore horn rimmed glasses and carried at least two library books with me at all times. At first, our differences felt cute and intriguing. After a while, they were annoying. While he begged me to go snowboarding I chided him for not sitting down with a damn book once in a while.

Our lack of shared interests where another sign we just weren't compatible. If you and your guy can't find one single thing to do together, save for binge Netflix and eat junk food then maybe you should go separate ways.

The Exception

You have common life goals and lifestyles. Maybe you're into rock climbing and he's famous for his ability to check-mate after only three turns but you both have a dream of moving to the west coast and starting a charter fishing boat business. You don't have to share hobbies to share dreams together.

If you have zero interest in each other's hobbies you better be compatible in other areas.

If you have zero interest in each other's hobbies you better be compatible in other areas.

10. You're Reading This Article

This should be your biggest, most raging clue right here. It's alright to be introspective about a relationship, especially before you make a big commitment, like getting married, buying a home or having a child together.

But if you're spending more time worrying about your relationship and whether or not you should even be together than you are spending time with your boyfriend and enjoying his company, that's your instinct nagging at you that it's time to move on. Breaking up is painful, it's scary and weird separating yourself from another person and wondering if you'll ever find another person.

You will. But until then you have you and you're pretty amazing.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Em Clark