How to Break Up With Someone You Love

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Music Credits: Harry Nilsson, “Jump Into The Fire”

Splitting Up with Someone You Love

In my role as a therapist, life coach and breakup recovery coach here at Growing Self, I have watched many people work to heal a broken heart. I have had the honor and privilege to walk alongside many people as they make agonizing decisions about whether or not to stay in a relationship. They often have deep ambivalence about the relationship: They love their person and they acknowledge that the relationship has many good aspects, and yet they simply feel in their heart that it is not the right relationship for them.

So they stay. Sometimes, for years.

Can you relate? If so, you know how difficult it is. I bet, if you’re like most people currently in a relationship that you would like to end, you can feel pretty stuck. On the one hand, you care for your partner and don’t want to hurt them. On the other hand, you know that sooner or later, this needs to end.

But how? When? How do you break up with someone you still love, especially if they don’t want the relationship to end?

Can You Break Up with Someone You Still Love?

It’s actually very normal to care about someone, and yet want to end the relationship. In fact, having compassion for your partner as a human being is one of the things that can make a breakup so difficult.

I actually had someone write in with this exact question, asking about how he’s actually tried to break up a number of times, but his partner essentially convinces him that things can get better. He acquiesces, and things do get better for a little while, but then things go back to the way they were. He feels that they are not right for each other, but gets talked back into trying again every time he tries to break up.

This has been going on now for… ready? … Eight years.

He knows it needs to end. They’re actually engaged now. He wants to break off the engagement but doesn’t know how. He doesn’t want to be the “bad guy.” He feels that he’s hurt her enough already, and doesn’t want to cause her more pain. But he also wants to be out of the relationship.

Hear Henry’s whole question, and my response, on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast. I’m addressing:

  • Why people get stuck in unhappy relationship
  • Why (and when) breaking up can be the most compassionate thing for all parties
  • How to break up with someone you care about (especially if they argue with you about it)
  • Underlying factors that can contribute to people having “commitment issues”
  • What relationship patterns need to be addressed, lest they follow you into your next relationship
  • What to discuss in couples counseling if you want to give it one more shot

I hope this perspective helps!

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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How to Break Up With Someone You Love

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Music Credits: Harry Nilsson, “Jump Into The Fire”

Free, Expert Advice — For You.

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby. And you’re listening to The Love, Happiness, and Success podcast. 

Usually, we open up the show with a musical interlude, a song that captures the essence of the discussion, but I just wasn’t feeling that inspired today. I was thinking about songs for our topic and listening to different things and was like, “Nope, nope, nope.” So we’re just winging it today, no music. If you guys listen to this podcast and have any suggestions for what would have been a good song, you tell me in the comment section on We’ll compile a little playlist together for music that accompanies people on this particular journey.

Because it’s a rough journey. Today, we are going to be talking about how to end a relationship with someone that you really love. You care about them. There are a lot of good things in the relationship. You certainly don’t dislike them or wish them harm, but that you know in your heart of hearts that this is not your person. You need to release each other back to the universe so that you can both find the person that you are meant to be with or a better feeling partner. So that’s what we’re talking about today. It certainly deserves a soundtrack and I’ll be very interested to hear what your suggestions are.

But if this is your first time listening to the show, thank you so much for being here. I’m glad that you found me and that you found this. The Love, Happiness, and Success podcast is all about you. Hopefully, helpful advice to help you be a happier, more fulfilled person, have better relationships, and achieve the goals that are most important to you. That’s what we’re all about.

I am your host, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby. My background, I am a licensed psychologist. I’m a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and I’m also a board-certified life coach. Those are the three areas of expertise that I draw upon to try to help you and those are the things that we also specialize in our practice. I’m the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching where we specialize in helping our clients achieve love, happiness, and success. We do therapy, life coaching, a lot of couples therapy, and marriage counseling.

I also have a sub-specialty in breakup recovery, counseling, and coaching. Because like many, many marriage counselors, I worked with couples who waited too long to come in and get help and it turned into a situation where one of them was left sitting on my couch crying after the couples counseling wasn’t as effective as they’d hoped it would be. So that is a subspecialty expertise for me and for our practice. 

Although I would like to add that almost all couples who come in for couples counseling and relationship coaching, if they come in when there’s still hope, meaning that they’re still enough trust and respect and commitment and love and they still like each other enough, there’s enough goodwill to really want to work through things and make changes, we can almost always be successful.

Research shows that people put off getting help for too long and that by the time they do make the appointment and come in, things have changed so much for one or both people that there’s just not the will to make the changes that are necessary to turn things around. I don’t want to scare any of you by saying that I’m a breakup recovery expert.

That’s just part of the life path that led me to where I am today. In addition to those things, we also do a lot of career coaching, leadership coaching, but still, I think the focus is always on relationships. “Who are you? And what kind of relationship do you want to have with your career? How do you improve yourself to have better relationships with your team with your colleagues?” We do a lot of emotional intelligence coaching, a lot of leadership coaching around how to inspire and communicate if you’re in a position of authority. That’s a little bit about what we do as a group but what I do here is, pretty much every week, come in to answer your questions and to talk about the things that are most important to you to support you on your path of growth whether or not you are one of our clients. 

Let’s dive right into our topic at hand today. I love hearing from you guys. I get so many questions through the comments section on our blog at Many of you leave follow-up questions to the podcasts that I do. I love those people who also get in touch with us on Facebook. You can find us there at We recently had a question come through and as soon as I read it, I was like, “Oh, this is gonna be a good one.” I moved it to the top of my list of questions because it was very sincere.

This person–I’m going to call him Henry. Hi, Henry–asked a question that I think so many people can relate to and that I have never addressed on the show before. So Henry, thank you so much for getting in touch with me for asking this question. I’m going to read your question and I’ll address different aspects of it to the best of my ability, but also, Henry, and here’s my official disclaimer. We’ll talk more about all this, but there’s a lot here. In this format, I don’t have the benefit of as I would in my role as being your counselor or your coach to ask you questions and find out a little bit more. I’m just going to go with what you told me and please don’t take whatever you hear on this podcast, or any of you for that matter, as something that you should make a major life decision with. I mean, I’d hate for you to take action one way or another based on this.

Really, the best course of action for you would be to go talk to someone so that you can really turn over all the rocks and they can ask you the questions that I can’t so that you can really develop clarity and a path that is the right path for you, okay? But that being said, I’m going to jump into your question and I’m going to share with you what comes up for me; some things to consider that I hope also help you on your way. 

Henry writes… And I think this came through Facebook. Thank you, Henry. He says, “Hi, Lisa. I’ve been listening to your podcasts and found them very helpful. Thank you.” He says other nice things then he says, “I’ve been going through some really difficult relationship things with my significant other, but we’d like to highlight something I don’t think you’ve covered. Then maybe you can help me and others know what to do. The last show I listened to was How To End Toxic Relationships which I recognized a lot of, not as the victim though, but as the guilty party who co-created the dynamic and damaged my significant other and myself irreparably.” 

Side note, Henry, you’re not the only one. I’ve actually gotten a number of follow-up comments and questions from people who are like, “What do I do if I’m the person?” And I have some other shows on those topics that I’m preparing for you. Stay tuned. 

But Henry goes on, “I never meant this to happen, or to hurt her so much. I actually tried to break up with her multiple times over the course of eight years. Whenever we had a big fight about me not caring or not talking enough, I would say that something just didn’t feel right. I didn’t think we were right together but she always convinced me that it was something else. It was where we lived, what we were doing, what we weren’t doing, the fact that we weren’t talking enough, et cetera.

I now think that this was because of the addictive quality you talk about because I certainly wasn’t meeting her needs and she should have left. But her words confused me and every time I’d end up convinced that she was right, that it was me not doing enough, and that we could be better. But right after convincing me, she’d always say, ‘But if you’re feeling like I’ve convinced you, I’m talking you into this or you don’t want to do it, then don’t.’  Then I would feel totally confused and I would just say that I did want to try it again. But I still didn’t change, and the cycle and the fights repeated every six months or so. 

Side note, again, this Henry is exactly why people wind up staying in relationships for too long or not getting actual help. Not getting into couples counseling or coaching because there’s this big come-to-Jesus thing, and everybody makes all kinds of promises, and then it gets a little bit better. But things don’t really change. And there’s a cycle that happens every few months, a couple of times a year. It just goes on and on and on. I just want to honor what you’re saying, that this is also very normal. A lot of people do this. It’s too bad because that’s why things end up dragging on for a lot longer than they should, one way or the other. Okay, back to Henry.

Henry says, “There’s a lot more to the story, including international moves, work issues, and more. What I’ve always struggled with is, is it fair for me to say I don’t feel it? I want out against her fair rebuttal of, ‘But you’ve never really tried. So just try.’” 

He goes on. He says, “I don’t know what to do. We’ve been engaged now for a few months, but I’m going to break it off. It feels like too much has happened and there’s too much resentment and unhappiness has seeped in. It also feels like it wasn’t all my fault. That toxic relationship can be created in both directions. It should be okay to quit even as the bad guy and even if the other party really still thinks it could work. How do you break up with someone who doesn’t feel right yet can always convince you that it could be.”

He says, “We’re both good people and I hate what we’ve done to each other. She is super sensitive and empathetic, which in part, I think pushed me to be even less so than I already was. Clearly, I have some issues to work through myself, but not with her. I’m not sure if this has come across as a confusing self-pity ramble with nothing to really answer. I know and accept that I’ve been to blame for a huge amount of the issues in our relationship, things that I should have been able to fix just by talking more. But I could never do it because my gut instinct always comes up and says, ‘She’s not right.’ Not because it’s hard work, I know relationships are hard work, but because she’s just not right. But yet, she also convinced me to stay and that was the easier choice. Pretty weak, I suppose.” He concludes, “Any thoughts or advice would be very valuable to me and maybe to your listeners, too. Thanks.”

All right. So Henry, first of all, thank you. Thank you for being able to articulate something that I think many people feel and many people struggle with, but that it’s so hard to put into words. You’ve done just such a lovely job of really being able to describe what this experience feels like. A couple of things just right off the bat. I mean, you characterize this as a toxic relationship, but I have to tell you, I’m not hearing toxic. This is not a horrible relationship that screams toxic to me. This sounds like a sad situation. It sounds like a relationship that I totally agree, probably needs to end. But I’m also hearing that regrettable things have happened.

I’m also hearing in here that you really care about your significant other. You don’t hate her. You care about her. There is enough good here that has kept you trying and kind of being like, “Okay, I’ll try again.” There’s a bond because eight years is a long time to be doing this. You wouldn’t have been continuing to try as much as you have if there wasn’t something here and so I think that needs to be acknowledged. Then, I think that’s really probably the crux of this, is that you have gotten involved and pretty deep into the pool–I mean, eight years in–with someone who you care about. You’re doing life together. You refer to her as your significant other. You’re engaged, for the love of God, but in your heart of hearts, you know that this is not the person for you. It sounds like you have quite a bit of clarity around that.

When you try to have the conversation that will set you both free, she kind of fights back. She’s like, “These are the 10 reasons why we shouldn’t break up. This is what we could do differently so that it would change. You should just try it. We can be happy.” When you’re met with that pushback, you’re like, “Okay.”

Because, on the one hand, what she’s saying makes sense intellectually and bumps into the part of you that is like, “Well, it’s not that bad. Maybe she is right.” And yet, it is in conflict with the other part of you that really feels like this isn’t the right situation. I’m also hearing in here that you don’t want to be the bad guy. You don’t want to be the one that ends things. This is the part where, if we were sitting together and I had the opportunity to ask you questions, I would ask you a little bit more about how you envision it would go down if you were to break up with her. I suspect that there’s a part of you that is worried that she would be in a lot of pain. I’ve talked to people before who feel like they would “devastate” their partner. They would break the other person’s heart because they do care about them. That’s hard for them.

Perhaps, there might be also a little bit of guilt in here. You’ve mentioned a few times that you’ve done things in this relationship that you’re really proud of and you feel badly about that anyway. Then go on to devastate her or break her heart or make her sad or unhappy. You probably are a very nice guy and you do care about her and you don’t want to hurt her. 

It feels hard to think about doing that. You also describe positive things about her personality: she’s caring, she’s empathetic, she understands people’s feelings. It probably feels like she’s trying to understand you. It’s very difficult to look in the face of all of that and say, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” Particularly, if it results in her being in a lot of pain.

It could also be true that she’s a fighter and that if you did break things off with her, it wouldn’t just be pushed back. It would be a lot of anger and hostility and blaming you and crying and big freakouts. There could be another part of you that is not looking forward to that experience; trying to protect both of you from that crap show that you envision might happen if you were to officially break things off. I can absolutely understand why you are where you are in the situation. Again, I have talked to many, many people who have been in this place. They have stayed in situations that they don’t really want to be in for months, years.

I have worked with someone who is now on year, probably four, of really, really, really wanting to end a relationship and feeling very stuck. There are other complicating factors there so you are not alone. I don’t think you’re a bad person. You’re right that something needs to change here. I am going to talk through a few of your options and again, won’t tell you what to do. I hope that you take my thoughts as–just put it in the hopper–and that it helps you make the ultimate decision that is right for you.

One of the things that I always think about when I hear stories like these is the idea that the truth will set you free. In this case, the truth will set both of you free. I hear you feeling like it’s been hard for you to be completely truthful with her, like you start to say, “I don’t want to do this.” But then pretty easily shift back into, “Okay, I’ll try again.”

In those moments, I think we can all play games with ourselves. In those moments, there’s a part of you that probably really believes, “Okay, it can change if I try harder.” But time has shown you. This pattern that repeats over and over again has shown you that’s probably not actually true for you, at least, in this incarnation of the self that you currently are. I’m a big believer in personal growth and we’ll talk about that. But as things stand now, you’re right. This isn’t going to work. 

You’re not the only person that’s been doing this. Clearly, she is also playing some emotional psychological jiu-jitsu with herself. She is not listening to you. She is also, I think, probably lying to herself about this relationship, what it is and what it could be, as a way of protecting herself. Just like part of you is probably trying to protect both of you from that truth, she’s doing the same thing. Because I hear you saying that you have been communicating, at least to a degree with your words, but you’re also communicating loud and clear over the years with your behaviors.

I don’t know exactly what those behaviors are. But I do know that when it comes to relationships, the way people behave is often much more authentic and honest and clear about how they feel and who they are than anything that they say. If you have been “behaving badly” or doing things in this relationship that have been hurtful to her, I wonder if it would be helpful to reframe that as you also attempting to communicate your truth, and her really doing a lot of denial and hiding of that reality because she doesn’t want that to be true and it is. 

Denial really protects us from so much. It’s kind of a closed-door that keeps us away from the pain that would swamp us. If we swept aside denial and said, “You know what, you’re right. This isn’t a good relationship. He really does actually want to break up with me.” What does this mean? Because that’s when the pain comes running in, so denial is a very, very common defense mechanism that a lot of people employ. It sounds like it’s one that that’s working for your girlfriend right now. Also, I’m hearing that there’s another psychological principle that’s very appropriately called the Sunk Cost Fallacy.

This is the principle that says the harder that we work for something, the more blood, sweat, and tears that go into something, the more valuable we feel that it is and the harder it is to let it go. Case in point, I don’t know if you saw the news story a few years back. There was a guy at a County Fair who blew his life savings which was a couple of grand on a giant stuffed banana at a carnival game because he kept losing and it was, “Well, now I’ve already spent 50 bucks. I’m gonna win this damn banana.” And so it kept going and going and going; he could not walk away, bulldog this thing. Happily, he finally won the banana so at least he has that. 

There’s the same thing when it comes to relationships. It sounds like your significant other has probably gone through a lot in this relationship. She’s probably–I mean, if I were to guess here–been very forgiving with you, really tried to empathize with you. She’s been living in a nonideal situation herself and there could be some version of the giant banana with dreadlocks bouncing around in her mind. The future that you could have. The house with a white picket fence, the kids, the life–that’s what perhaps, is hard for her to let go of, particularly if it feels to her like she suffered a lot to get that. Again, I just share those things to help normalize this for both of you. I am also hearing that there are a few different things that you have more control of to really set both of you free.

The first thing, I would like to just suggest, is that you are not actually doing her any favors by protecting her from the weeks or months of pain that she is likely to experience when you end it for real. Many times, I talk with people who get very, very focused on the immediate. “She’s going to be heartbroken. It’s going to be a big conflict. It’s going to be a big dramatic thing. She’s gonna say bad things about me to her family and I don’t know where I’m going to go. Who keeps the dog and this immediate stuff.”

That can shut people down and prevent them from taking action in situations. I’m just gonna say this: I don’t know how old you guys are. You’ve been together for eight years so I’m assuming you’re somewhere in your 20s or 30s, at least probably. While this isn’t obviously the only reason to end it, this needs to be said: the fertility thing is so real for women. I fear, sometimes, that men don’t fully appreciate how real the danger is to women that they’re involved with. If they perpetuate relationships, that in their heart of hearts, they don’t really intend to marry this person or be their partner, and just keep stringing along until something better comes along. 

I say this as someone with a personal connection to this topic; fertility declines, so drastically, so quickly, that it really sneaks up on a lot of people. My husband and I had our first son when I was 34. I got around to keep messing around with school and doing all this stuff and then it was probably four years later before we got serious about trying again. It was pretty much too late for us at that point.

I thought, “I feel young. I’m in great shape. I’m all this,” and I was shocked. Feeling the pain of regret for not having taken that more seriously, and trying a little bit harder when I had the chance before it felt like that door closed was the worst pain I have ever experienced. I’ve talked a lot and written a lot about a traumatic breakup that I’ve lived through. But at the end of the day, not being able to have another child, is a blip compared to that pain. 

Because that feels like there’s no redemption, and thankfully, we were able to turn that around. We got very, very lucky after many years of extensive and horrifically expensive fertility treatments and I won’t bore you with that story. Going back to this situation, I talk with women all the time and they’ll share with me and I’m nodding right along. It’s like, “Okay so if we break up, I’m 32. It’s probably going to be at least a year before I’m emotionally ready to get back out there. It’s probably going to take me at least six months to a year of dating before I find somebody that I connect with. I’m 34 and then if we get married and you don’t want to have a kid right when you get married. So then I’m 35 and I really do want to have more than one child, but can I have that if I don’t have my first kid until I’m 35 or 36? The second one is like 37 or 38.”

I mean, I know that that’s probably weird math to think about in this situation, but the struggle is real. Not that you intend to do this but by kind of being like, “Okay, I’ll give it another chance.” And really knowing that this is gonna work but not wanting to bite the bullet. You are camping out on this lady’s eggs and if you camp out too long, you may deprive her of the opportunity to have the future that she would like to have. It is irreparable after a certain point. Yes, she can adopt. Yes, she can do donor eggs. But to have biological children, there is a shelf life on that. 

Again, I can’t ask you these questions. I’m not sitting with you. I don’t know if she even wants kids, she might not, but just think about that. The pain of losing you is not close to the potential pain of not being able to get that all that time back and not being able to have biological children. The right thing to do, from a moral perspective, in the sense, is to let her go.

It’s the right thing to do for her future fertility. It is also the right thing to do because she deserves better. She deserves to have somebody who is crazy about her and is so excited to be with her and who thinks she is the best person ever. You are not that person, although there is no fault of your own there. I don’t blame you for that. Again, to be occupying the spot in this person’s life, where she could have a loving, devoted partner who was everything she ever wanted; she deserves that. That’s another reason why I believe there is a moral imperative for you to be done with this as soon as you can. The pain and fury that she might experience in the short term, pale in comparison to the big picture losses that she might experience. Yeah, I’ll leave it there. I’ll leave it there. 

With that in mind, I will share some tips for how to help you accomplish this goal. First, I often advise people who really want to end a relationship and who have had these experiences, that it would be much better and more effective if you were to write her a letter. A letter that says everything that you want to say. That you care for her, that you feel bad about the things that have happened, that you know in your heart of hearts that this needs to end, that you have tried many times, and it feels like she’s talked you out of it, and that you’ve been very confused. Write all of that down. Because in the present moment, what you’re telling me. is that it’s very hard for you to stay solid when she starts pushing back and arguing with you about breaking up. 

I do this. too. I am a people pleaser. I don’t like people to be upset. In the moment, I too, tend to bend and accommodate in order to smooth things out. That is actually a real strength. I think it says a lot about you and wanting to work with people and your ability to be flexible. Except when you/we do it to the point where it carries you too far away from your core values. When you start saying things or doing things that aren’t really your truth because of wanting to not rock the boat, that’s when it becomes problematic. It takes an enormous amount of strength to be congruent and to do the right thing and to be living from your values, even when it causes pain and disruption, and upset in the present moment. It doesn’t mean it’s still not the right thing to do, though. 

Your being able to write a letter will protect you. You can give it to her and run away. You can ask her to read it while you’re sitting together. Even if she does her usual thing, having the letter there will help you say, “This is what I was trying to communicate in the letter. This is what happens and I can’t let it happen again.” Also, what I know from working with so many people around, how to recover from breakups, is that all people, on the other side of this, who are the ones getting broken up with; they need to figure out what happened.

Believe it or not, Henry, even though you have been very clear and you feel like you’ve been trying to communicate this through your words and your behaviors for a long time, she might still feel blindsided by this depending on how strong her denial and her refusal to hear this has been. She may have twisted things around in her mind to believe something that is completely different from your truth. She might be shocked, as hard as that is to believe.

So, after the breakup, she’s going to be like, “What happened?” and talking to somebody like me or her other breakup counselors or coaches here at Growing Self to get to put the pieces together and be like, “How did I get here? What happened?” to try to find that emotional and psychological closure in her own mind. To have a letter from you, in your words, around this is what happened, from your perspective, “This is why I had to break up. This is my path. This is how it happened over time. These are the times that I did try to break up. These are the barriers.” So that she can, over time, use that information to craft a narrative that will help her heal.

It will help her make sense of her experience. It’s really a gift to her because the other thing is that, in the moment, oftentimes when we’re trying to have conversations and they are very emotional conversations–this one almost certainly will be–people’s brain functioning literally changes. They go into this super elevated fight or flight trauma response in these moments when their language centers in their brain actually stopped working as well. She might not remember things from this conversation. She might not be able to attach a narrative to the memory if the emotions are super high. Again, having a letter from you will help her make sense of this experience so that she can construct a narrative.

I would also encourage you to add in there if you do decide to take this suggestion, talk about the things that you really appreciated about her and about the relationship. How you were maybe really torn and that’s why it did take as long as it did for you to end things is because you did care about her. That you also knew that you’re really not right for each other because that’s the truth. It is possible to have a fairly good enough relationship with someone that you like and that you love and that you care for and that it’s still a relationship that should end. It’s not the relationship for the rest of your life and that is such a confusing place to be in. You can put that in the letter, too, so that she knows that it’s not some terrible statement about her worth as a person or anything like this; that just, sometimes, it’s not a match. 

You could also consider adding the idea that you tried for a long time, but that ultimately, you couldn’t really be the person that she wanted you to be either. I’m hearing that from your story, that was a fair amount of it, too. She was asking for changes. You were trying to make the changes. Ultimately, when people aren’t able to make changes, it is often because they’re being asked to make changes that are a conflict with who they really are or how they operate as people on a very fundamental level. Again, I believe that all people can grow and develop and evolve. 

Excuse me, I didn’t turn my phone off. But we’re keeping it real. I’m authentic. It’s an authentic podcast so you’re gonna hear beeps.

Going back to what I was saying, she may have wanted you to change in ways that were really not possible in light of who you are and your character, and who you will always be. I think also to be framing the ending of the relationship in those terms, that you could not ever really be who she wants you to be either might also help her shift from the loss of the relationship. The loss of that dream back, too. That maybe she was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole in order to have you meet her needs. That wasn’t a realistic expectation of you which, I think, can be a liberating idea for some people, too. Not that you’re a bad person either. It just wasn’t right. 

Now, I’m going back to another thought that I have. We’ve talked about how it really is imperative if you don’t want to do this to stop. A technique can be letter writing and using that as a support tool to help you communicate. I will also just add, and again, this is where I don’t have the benefit of being in the room with you to ask you questions about how you feel and your life experiences, your history, and relationships, your family experiences growing up–these are all the things that you could do if you got involved in good counseling or growth-oriented coaching.

There is also a chance that there could be something going on with you that is making this relationship feel hard or feel like something that you need to leave. Either way, my opinion is that you should still end things with her for her sake because eight years is enough. She needs to be released into the wild to go live her life and find her own path towards happiness. She has lots of people that she can have a fantastic relationship with. Let’s just rip off that band-aid and let her go do that.

When it comes to you though, it may be the case that there are, after this relationship ends, some things that are worth exploring on your side. I will just share with you some of the things that people often come to us for help with and patterns that I’ve seen be true for other people’s lives. One of them is that some people, and I’ve seen this with both men and women, have expectations for relationships that are not in line with the reality of a long-term relationship. Specifically, they believe that they should feel more chemistry or more romance or higher level of excitement day-to-day than they do. When that doesn’t exist or doesn’t feel the way that they think it should feel, they think that something is wrong in the relationship. 

It could be worth exploring what some of those expectations are for you. Doing some work around the difference between early-stage romantic love, which is that exciting nervous heart-pounding feeling, and how it always evolves in a long-term relationship, which is into something that’s really more of just warm fondness, most of the time. Whoever you date… This relationship or when this relationship ends and you get back out there, if that is an expectation that you have for relationships, every relationship you experience, at some point, will naturally evolve into a warm fondness that is really around sharing day-to-day life, like being a best friend feeling that best friends that have sex sometimes, as opposed to a romantic chemistry feeling. I’m just gonna put that out there.

Other things to consider that were possible areas of growth opportunities for you is that it is not uncommon for people to look to their circumstances and to their relationship and the dynamics of a relationship and point to those as the explanation for why they’re doing the things that they’re doing, why they’re feeling the way that they feel. They come to find that after those relationships end, and they’re either on their own or moving into new relationships, that they are still actually engaging in the same types of patterns. They’re still showing up in relationships similarly because it was never actually about the relationship. We carry ourselves into every situation. It could be worth, again, getting involved in some good personal growth work to talk about your patterns and relationships. Particularly, you cited a few times here, that talking is something that wasn’t happening enough in the relationship. That is something that she was asking for. 

Being able to communicate, being able to bond around emotional intimacy requires not just conversation but meaningful conversation. Being able to stay in the ring with someone when they’re talking about hard things and having empathy for them and being supportive, in a way that they can feel. Henry, that is a life skill. I don’t know what things were like in your family growing up or how much experience or opportunity you’ve had in your life to cultivate that ability. But no matter if this relationship or another, sooner or later, you will actually have to figure out how to do that if you want to have a high-quality relationship with anyone. We’re not going to continue trying to do that with her. She needs to be set free. You had your chance to do that with her.

Get involved in therapy and see if you can make some progress there because when you put yourself back out on the market, you will be in a place where you can have the kind of relationship that you’re looking for. You will also avoid a potential situation with, I’ve also seen happen, Henry, where you end this relationship, you start dating, you find someone that you’re crazy about. You think she’s the one and this is it. If you haven’t done this inner growth work to improve the way that you do relationships. She may, this new person, may find the relationship with you unsatisfying and will decline to move forward with you. That would be really sad, wouldn’t it?

There may be a core belief that if you’re with the right person, these things will just happen effortlessly. That isn’t the case. In every relationship, you’re going to have to be able to connect with emotional intimacy and there will be problems to solve. There will be things that you’ll need to iron out. Without the relationship skills and ability to have those kinds of conversations, I would so hate for you to meet someone you’re crazy about and have them be disappointed in the Henry experience and not want to pursue it. So reason number 87, to do some personal growth work, Henry. 

Now, another thing that I would also just like to say, and again, I don’t think you should continue testing it out on this particular person because it’s not fair to her. You may find that when you get involved in good personal growth work, that you might start talking about commitment and takeaways from this relationship and why it wasn’t right. It’s also a thing that I’ve encountered with many people along the years that I’ve been doing this.

People who have commitment issues, one, sometimes they have “commitment issues” because they’re really not with the right person. They know that in their heart of hearts and they’re having exactly this experience where they want to end it but they’re not quite sure how and it’s not that bad. So they keep rolling on to the great frustration of whoever they are seeing, who’s really like, “No. Let’s get married. Let’s move in. Let’s have kids.” Trying to kick this can down the road but they’re not feeling it and so they get labeled as having commitment issues. When in reality, the relationship needs to end. Henry, that may be exactly what is happening here with you. 

There is another situation that can lead to “commitment issues” where there can be a ton of anxiety about making a choice that feels like a forever choice. That anxiety is so much that it makes people balk at making a decision, one way or the other. They hem and they haw, and they try to protect themselves from that anxiety. It creates these situations where if they did move past the anxiety, or address this anxiety really directly, like, “What exactly am I afraid of?” Going into questions like, “What is making me think that this isn’t the right situation for me?” They may discover that when they’ve worked through the anxiety or if there were actually solvable problems in the relationship that they didn’t know were solvable problems, it could have actually been an awesome relationship. 

This is just a thought and 90% of me is like, “No, just end it. You’ve let it go, stop.” Because I would hate for you to, again, just camp out on this woman’s time, and you’re longer than you already have. There’s that but there is also another part you… You didn’t say, in your question, whether or not you guys had gone into any kind of couples counseling before or maybe if you… And I said this so many times on the show, there’s such a wide, wide, wide variability in the quality of couples counseling depending on who you see.

There are a lot of people doing it that don’t really have the specialized training and experience to know how to help you. Getting involved in evidence-based couples counseling with someone who can look at both of you and understand what the problem actually is, what is making this feel not fulfilling to you, it could be that there are patterns on your side where, in addition to having trouble saying what you really feel and what you really mean, and push back when it comes to I want to end the relationship; it could also be that it’s been hard for you over the years to be able to articulate the things that are happening in this relationship that feel hard for you, that makes the relationship feel unsatisfying to you. 

Perhaps, when you’ve brought up your challenges or concerns, you are met with defensiveness and arguments that shut you back down. You’ve been living with things that haven’t been feeling that good for you because you feel like you just get steamrolled by your partner. If you were with a marriage counselor who could help you say what you’re feeling out loud and also block her from jumping all over that and instead, help her actually listen to what you’re saying and acknowledge your feelings and attempt to work with you to meet your needs; the relationship could feel different for you.

Sometimes, people seeing that they are actually able to affect change in their relationships can reduce that anxiety that they may have had about commitment so that they can move forward more peacefully. There is always that but in this place, any kind of couples counseling, any kind of personal growth work for that matter, it’s not an event. It’s a process that occurs over time. Even with really excellent evidence-based couples counseling, progress is still typically measured in, at least, months. There’s a part of me that I think is feeling protective about your girlfriend, that she’s probably put enough of her time and energy into doing this with you.

While it certainly could be successful, and you would be the judge of that, I mean, is there any part of you that wishes to see if this relationship could really be improved to the point where you would like to stay? But to invest the time and energy finding out at the end of that no, you still really feel the same way. There’s a part of me that just doesn’t want to put her through any more of that and then it would really be better for her to just have it be done so that she can get on with her life. I just wanted to mention that. 

Lastly, it may also be helpful for you to get some support, an individual counseling or coaching, if it is difficult for you to muster up the courage to have the conversation. I’ve, again, worked with a number of people who really needed to talk through things and use counseling and coaching to get very clear on how they feel, what they wanted, and also to get some coaching around exactly how to do it, how to manage the days and weeks in the aftermath of the breakup. There might be practical situations around where you’re going to live, financial considerations that, sometimes, people need to just work through and talk through and make a plan. Once that plan is in place, then they can pull the trigger and end the relationship.

Just know that there could be more work to do to help you prepare for the ultimate ending. Also talking through like, if she said this, how would you handle it? If she said that, how would you handle it? How would you handle it if she screamed and cried and begged or whatever? What are your biggest fears about the breakup? And then how can you work to anticipate those so that you can walk into it confidently? Those are a lot of suggestions for you, Henry.

I’d also just like to add, if I have any other listeners eavesdropping on this conversation between Henry and I, thinking about their relationship, perhaps even being on the other side of this equation. If you have been dating or living with or even engaged to somebody who is telling you that they’re not really feeling it. They are not wanting to move forward with you. You feel like you’re having to badger them into committing to you or taking the next steps.

They are communicating to you verbally, I’m not sure this is the right fit, or if they’re doing things in the relationship that suggest they’re not that committed to you, or they’re not prioritizing your feelings in the way that they should be; please listen to that. You don’t want to marry someone who’s not sure about you. You don’t want to have kids with someone who is feeling ambivalent about you. You deserve to be treated with love and respect. You deserve to be with somebody who is crazy about you. 

People can always change. If you’re serious about seeing whether or not this can be the relationship that you want it to be, get into couples counseling with somebody who is experienced and skilled and who practices evidence-based forms of counseling and coaching and see what can be done. If change can happen, it should be at least starting to happen within the first couple of months. Then you can tell if this relationship can ever be what you want it to be. If who you’re with is saying, “No, I won’t go to counseling with you. I won’t work on this with you” or falls into these repetitive patterns like the one that Henry is describing; it’s really to your own best interests to end this sooner rather than later.

Particularly before getting married, before buying real estate, before having children; it’s very important for you to have clarity that the person that you’re with is committed to you and is willing to work with you to have a good relationship and that you’re both in this. If that’s in question, it’s really unlikely that it’s ever going to get a lot better. If there’s not that primary commitment there, it’s probably going to get worse and you can waste a long time, years, messing around in a relationship that is never going to be the relationship that you want it to be. 

Words of wisdom and I know that’s probably not what people want to hear all the time. But I tell you what, to end these things sooner rather than later. While it can hurt in the short term, and certainly be disruptive and painful longer term. I hear this from people all the time. They say, “Ending that relationship was the best thing I ever did.

Looking back, I wasn’t getting what I needed in that relationship. I wasn’t the person that I wanted to be when I was in that relationship. I lost myself. After it ended, I went through a period where I felt terrible, but I worked through it. I learned. I grew. I did so much productive personal slow growth work coming out of that breakup. Ultimately, I was able to be a different person in my next relationship and was able to connect with someone who it was just like, night and day in terms of the experience, and that never would have happened if we had stayed together for another 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 years because that can happen.”

Long-term gain, short-term pain. That’s the takeaway. Henry, thank you again, so much for sending in your question. I hope that this discussion has been helpful to you. Any of you out there listening if you have questions that you’d like to hear discussed on the podcast, you can get in touch with us through our website, While you’re there, you can also check out all the other articles and advice we have for you on our blog. You can also leave a message for us through Facebook, So, no music. Now, I’m kind of missing the music, but I’ll say goodbye and I will be in touch next time with more love, happiness, and success advice for you.

Episode Highlights

  • Henry’s Dilemma
    • He is in an 8-year relationship with his partner but he cannot stay longer because of communication issues.
    • They constantly fall into the cycle of having fights and trying to recover. It came to this point where he no longer thinks that his partner is the right person for him.
    • He believes that their relationship is destroying the good qualities they have individually.
    • Henry tries to end things with his partner but he always fails to do so because his girlfriend rejects the idea and still tries to fight for the relationship.
  • The Sunk Cost Fallacy
    • There is regret that comes with throwing away an 8-year relationship.
    • The sunk cost fallacy is the tendency for someone to give-it-all because they already did a great deal of investment on it.
    • Yet, there can still be uncertainties in the future that leads to making a rushed and careless decision.
  • Allowing Your Partner To Be Hurt
    • The best decision to do is to rip the band-aid off and accept the fact that you can no longer protect your partner from the pain of separation.
    • You must allow your partner to heal every bit of the pain.
  • Writing a Letter to Ground Your Decision
    • Giving your partner a written letter will serve as your guide in communicating your decisions and feelings.
    • It will also serve as a reminder to not get swayed by temporary emotions and feelings.
  • Helping Your Partner Have a Peace of Mind
    • By writing the things you love about your partner and the relationship, healing will come properly.
    • It will ease the pain and create an environment that is nurturing and healing for your partner.
  • Fondness As a Result of a Long-Term Relationship
    • The excitement, chemistry, and thrill will wash off over time in any relationship.
    • Meanwhile, a warm fondness will remain over time. This is where a lifetime companion can be found.
    • Similarly, you can’t expect the relationship to be constant all the time.
  • Benefits of Therapy
    • It can help you resolve your own issues and become a better person for yourself and for your next partner.
    • It can help you pinpoint the problems and solve them from their roots
  • “Commitment Issues”
    • The so-called “commitment issues” are often the result of being anxious about making permanent decisions that can change one’s life forever.
    • It also comes from the unresolved issues that are probably rooted in upbringing.
  • The Importance of Having Support System
    • A support system can help you prepare in every scenario that might occur from the separation.
    • Having people to talk to will guide you in making important decisions.
  • Long-term Gain and Short-term Pain
    • The pain of today is nothing compared to the joy you will receive in the future if decisions are carefully made.

Divorce and Breakup Recovery Resources


  1. Dr. Bobby, thank you so much for this episode. It was exactly the advice and information I was looking for and needed. Such a difficult situation to be in but your input has made it seem more clear what I need to do. Thanks again!

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