Relationship Advice: What to Do When You Want to Break up But Your Partner Wants to Stay Together

Couple having a serious discussion on the couch

Couple having a discussion | iStock/Getty Images Plus

Being in a relationship with someone you love and trust is a great feeling. He or she becomes your best friend, confidante, and your rock. However, when you decide it’s time to break up and move on, it can be a tricky situation to navigate. Emotions are running high and it’s likely one of you isn’t on board with the new state of the relationship.

What should you do when you want to break up, but your partner doesn’t? This can be a tough situation to be in, so we looked to the experts for some answers. The Cheat Sheet reached out to April Masini, a relationship expert and founder of relationship advice site Ask April, to get her advice on how to handle a partner who has trouble letting go of the relationship. Here are her tips.

The Cheat Sheet: How should you handle things if your partner begs and pleads with you to stay and doesn’t want to end things?

April Masini: If you are unsure, give it another go. But if you know this is what you want, the best gift you can give this partner is a clean break that includes ripping the Band-Aid off. It will be painful, but it will be clear. And clarity is what a bereft partner needs to heal and move on. Any glimpse of hope is going to be like a lifeline for this partner, so as much as it feels cruel, know it’s the best thing to move on.

CS: Is it ever worth it to do a trial separation to see if things can be worked out?

AM: A trial separation is a great idea if there are children involved because there is so much at stake beyond the marriage or the relationship. So, if a trial separation is an option, then give it a go.

CS: What are some potential problems that could arise with a trial separation?

AM: The problem with trial separations or “breaks” in a relationship is when the ground rules aren’t clear. What usually happens is a couple gets back together and then a year later, goes ballistic to find out the partner slept with other people during that break. So, make it clear that a break is going to be a real break where both people date and have sex with other people. Otherwise, it’s not really a break. This is a big deal, and it’s not for everyone, so, think long and hard before considering a trial separation.

CS: What are the benefits?

AM: When these separations do work, it’s because a couple was so embroiled in chaos that they couldn’t see clearly. The break gives them the opportunity to really see what life without this partner is like. Some people just need six months to get this clarity if they’ve got work, family, health, and money issues pressing and muddying their views. A trial separation can lead to a reunion and a long, happy life together—but only when both people are committing to a real break and real clarity.

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