When it is time to break up?

Dear Edahn,
When is it time to break up with your boyfriend or girlfriend?
IF YOU KNOW WHAT type of relationship will really fulfill you and your current relationship isn't cutting it, then it's time to ask two questions: 1) Can it be improved or is the problem permanent (e.g., due to a difference in personalities, compatibility, needs)? 2) Do I have the motivation, energy, and skill to improve it, or is it smarter to just move on and try again elsewhere? It takes honesty and some wisdom to answer those questions. Talking, reading, and soliciting advice from friends can facilitate that process. Don't get suckered in by your emotions or your fear of hurting the other person; if you decide it's not a good match, it's better to break it off than drag things out and make each other suffer.

Lots of people don't know what kind of relationship will fulfill them because they haven't been exposed to what a healthy relationship looks like. Their parents might have a fucked up, resentment-filled relationship, or they've watched too many sappy romantic dramas, or they just haven't really reflected on who they are and what their needs are. And, when they do reflect on their needs, they do it from a position of insecurity and neediness, rather than maturity and self-sufficiency. They're looking to hold onto someone that keeps them stimulated and distracted (like an addiction), rather than enjoy life with them.

One of the nice things about being in a bad relationship is that you get to learn about yourself and your needs (and your issues). But I don't think you need to suffer to gain that insight into yourself. A while ago, I developed this little exercise that helps me hone my search. What you do is take a deep breath and imagine yourself happy and calm. You're collected. At rest. Your life is running nicely. You are thoughtful, creative, and reflective. You appreciate things and have a gentle disposition, but you're not a pussy. Picture what your face looks like. Picture yourself sitting at a restaurant or cafe, looking out at the crowds. Now picture your significant other across from you. What is he or she like? What do they feel like to you? How do they talk? How do they move? How do you connect with them? What's it like driving with them in the car? What's it like when you're not talking? That, right there, is your true love.