7 Questions You Have to Ask Yourself Before You Break Up

6. “Does my partner add to me or subtract from me?”

Posted Jul 26, 2016

Fabiana Ponzi/Shutterstock
Source: Fabiana Ponzi/Shutterstock

At some point in your relationship, you will be faced with this frightening question: Should we break up? I've asked myself (and the guy I’m dating, my friends, my mom, and my cats) this question many times in the past, but rarely came to an unequivocally clear answer.

During the last few months, my current relationship has been tested by this question, too. When my boyfriend and I argue, it feels like we have nothing in common and that we may even hate each other. But when we’re not fighting, I couldn’t be happier. The problem is how frequently we fluctuate between these two extremes. I’ve spent many sleepless nights analyzing the health of our partnership, and finally decided to ask several relationship experts whether there's one question that can help me decide if it’s time to call it quits. Here’s how they answered:

“Am I looking at the entire relationship from an objective perspective, or am I reacting emotionally to an event that has left me hurt?”

Lesli Doares, a couples coach and author of Blueprint for a Lasting Marriage: How to Create Your Happily Ever After With More Intention, Less Work, says “life-altering decisions should be made in a “place of a calmness and clarity, not in the heat of the moment.” She suggests you take time to step back and fairly “assess how your relationship meets your overall needs and expectations.”

“Are you expecting your partner to fill a void only you can?”

According to psychotherapist Rhonda Richards-Smith, there is an unfair and unhealthy tendency to expect your partner to supply you with all of your emotional needs. “If there is any chance your partner is being wrongly accused for your unhappiness, examine the state of your own personal satisfaction before pulling the plug,” she says. She also points to a recent study which found a positive correlation between individual self-esteem and achieving relationship satisfaction. 

“What do you need to be happy and what can you do to bring that into your relationship?”

There’s a belief in our society that “if something doesn’t make you feel good, then you ‘should’ move on to something else,” says Rabbi Shlomo Slatkins, a relationship therapist and founder of The Marriage Restoration Project. The truth is “your happiness is not dependent on others [and if it is] then it’s not real happiness.”

“Am I truly happy in my partnership and would I be happier out of it?”

To answer this question, Michele Kerulis, a clinical lecturer at Northwestern University, recommends imagining what life might look like if you were single. “What would be better? What would be challenging?” She also advises that you acknowledge “what you would miss about being with your partner. If you are daydreaming about being single and doing things on your own, it might be time to end the relationship.”

“Are we still growing?”

This is one of the most difficult and painful questions to ask in a relationship, says educator Darren Pierre, author of The Invitation to Love: Recognizing the Gift Despite Pain, Fear and Resistance. But if the answer is no, then it could mean the “relationship has run its course.”

“Does my partner add to me or subtract from me?”

For lifestyle coach Patricia Shaw, honestly answering this question has helped her leave toxic relationships. On one side of a piece of paper, she's listed “what being with him added to me” and on the other, “what being with him subtracted from me.” This exercise helped her see that the subtractions far outweighed the additions.

“If you had a son or daughter you deeply loved, would you want them to be in a relationship with someone like the person you are with right now?”

This is a powerful reality check, says therapist Gary Brown, who has worked with couples for more than 25 years. “If you wouldn’t want your child to be with someone like this, why would you be with someone like this?”

What’s the last question you ask before you end a relationship?