Not to start on a downer, but when you are dying, you will not remember the hours at the office or the many shoes you bought. You will remember the relationships — good, bad, and ugly — that sparked through your life. They are the most frustrating part of living, and they are absolutely what we live for.
I’m going to describe these 16 “time to break up” signs in reference to my own relationships, so in all the following scenarios the person with whom my imaginary relationship is ending will be “him” — that is, a gay man. “Him” represents all the guys, most of them good and loyal, who I hurt and let down, or who simply drifted away from me the way we invariably do from each other. But I want to stress that “him” can and should be interchanged with “her,” “them,” “ze,” “xe,” or any nonbinary pronoun you or your partner(s) identify by.
Gay relationships are a different ballgame than straight ones. We live in an oversexed culture. We play by different rules. You will see that cheating is not on this list — I do not see it as a terminal sign. If my guy gets drunk and bangs someone in the back of a club, I see that not as a lapse in judgment as much as a natural result of his physiology. Cheating can be talked through and forgiven. Romantic infidelity is a different story — more on that later.
Browse these 16 signs that your gay relationship is almost certainly at an end, and if something feels uncomfortably familiar, it’s time to have a talk.
- When you stop being happy.
This seems basic, because it is. Do you see any mention of “him” here? No. Some people might disagree with me on this, but when you stop being happy, you are in a completely valid place to end things. Relationships — like life itself — are meant to be enjoyed, not suffered through. Even if he’s the perfect guy, sometimes you’re simply not happy, and you are doing him a disservice by continuing the relationship. No one wants to date someone who isn’t happy dating them.
- When he stops being happy.
My last relationship ended this way. He was unhappy.
He had been happy once. I don’t want to think about the moment when he realized he wasn’t, but I have a pretty good idea when it happened. I know that I was partly, if not entirely, responsible for that moment. I can go back over in my head all the things I should have done differently or all the mean things I shouldn’t have said (I have), but they don’t change anything: He woke up one morning and felt a raw, painful feeling in his gut that told him he needed to end things with the guy he loved.
That was hard for me to accept. I won’t mince words: It’s still hard for me to accept.
I was happy, and I thought everything was fine. When he told me he wasn’t happy, I immediately wanted the chance to make him happy again.
I never got that chance. While the months following that breakup were incredibly hard, I do not fault him for not giving me that chance. He didn’t want to be unhappy anymore, and more importantly, he didn’t think it was fair for me to date someone who was unhappy with me. In many ways, he made the right choice for both of us.
This, friends, is hard. This is painful stuff. It is incredibly painful to let someone go, someone you love and want to stay with. But if you really love him, you want him to be the happiest person he can be — even if that means letting him be single or be with someone else.
You will beat yourself up and have some rough months following the breakup, but as the cliché goes, loving does sometimes means releasing. I think that’s an important truth for everyone to learn. We cannot help who we love, but we do not have to be with them.
Love isn’t about possession or ownership. You cannot ever really belong to someone, just as someone cannot every really belong to you. Love at its simplest and purest is about wanting someone to be their best, and hoping their day is going better than yours. I don’t talk to my ex very much these days, but I hope he’s having the best day ever.
- When you stop communicating.
Another basic one, but it’s true. A relationship will not last without communication. It might be able to drag on for a bit, but eventually it will fail. Communication is the lifeblood of a relationship, and when you stop talking, you starve it.
This doesn’t mean that you need to have a serious, “let’s sit down over a glass of wine” talk every day. But it does mean that if you have a feeling, good or bad, that needs to be expressed, you express it, and you are receptive when your guy has feelings he needs to voice to you. When you start keeping these things to yourself — for fear that it will start another fight or simply because you don’t care enough about the situation to voice them — then your relationship is done.
- When you start unconsciously making plans that don’t include him.
This is one of my personal telltale signs that it’s time to break up, and oddly enough it always happens in the shower.
I’ll be standing there in the water thinking about something I want to do or some hot experience I want to have. Say, for instance, I’m thinking about New York City Pride. I toy with the idea while I’m soaping up. Then I start wondering how much it would cost. Then I think about the nightlife I’ll get into, then about whether I should update or change my Scruff profile to make myself more attractive to New York guys, and then maybe I should contact one of my fuck buddies there and see if I can crash at his place rather than pay for a hotel — and then I realize I’m making plans that do not include my boyfriend. This might seem like a small thing, but it’s the moment I realize I am subconsciously planning for my relationship’s end.
- When you discover that you have opposing views on sex.
Only a few things are deal-breakers. Some people say that religious differences are a deal-breaker, and I do not think this is true. Others say that different political leanings are a deal-breaker, which I do think is true — more on that later. But the one difference that I think will absolutely wreck a relationship is different views of sex.
Sex is an important part of a relationship, and if you and your guy see sex differently, how can you enjoy this most base-level intimacy? A free-love, sex-positive, sexually comfortable person will simply not be able to date someone who is sexually conservative or restrained, or who views sex through a conservative lens.
There are many guys out there who think that the men who have lots of anonymous or casual sex are slutty and untrustworthy. Those guys are never going to be my boyfriends. Even if we could successfully do monogamy for a period, our basic views are different, and that’s the important part: I do not hold a view of sex that paints it as something only for intimate, romantic partners, and I cannot imagine dating someone who does.
- When your politics are different.
I will fuck a Republican guy on an anonymous hookup — at his place. I’ll even have regular playtime with Republican guys — at their places. But I will not date them, because when LGBT rights are on the line and my basic dignity as a citizen and as a person are brought into question in the form of antigay laws and so-called “religious freedom” legislation, I will pledge my heart only to someone who opposes the party that consistently opposes me.
Political differences are a deal-breaker. I always ask which way you vote on the first date, because I’ve started relationships with guys I clicked with only to find out two weeks later over cocktails that they’re Tea Partiers — and returned home alone.
- When he hits you.
I have a life policy: The minute a guy lays a hand on me, the relationship IS done, and he better get out of my sight.
I have had too many friends who stay with abusers long after the first hit, and then that first hit becomes a kick, then a pair of hands around their neck. I cannot imagine how devastating it must feel to have someone you trust suddenly hit you, but I must urge you to leave their vicinity and never speak to them again as soon as it happens, because despite their charms, that’s not the kind of person you want in your life.
Being hit by the someone you thought you could trust is extremely traumatic, and there are community support groups that you should look into if this happens to you. I strongly encourage joining one, even if it’s only happened once, because talking to others and finding strength in community is how humans deal with painful situations. It’s how I survived my first few months with HIV. People need each other, especially when they’re hurt.
Do not make apologies for him or blame yourself. You are not at fault. He is. Delete him on Facebook. Block his number. Delete all his pictures. Never speak to him again and spend as much time with friends as you can in the coming months. Plan a weekly friend movie date. Have some buddies you can go out with to new restaurants. Do not isolate yourself.
Have people in your life who know the situation and who can check in on you and ask how you’re doing. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call a random buddy you haven’t seen in months. Even if it’s awkward, human contact is worth more than sitting alone with all your bad thoughts.
- When the sex stops.
Sex is a vital part of a relationship. When it stops, it’s time to move on.
Every couple goes through phases. The honeymoon phase is passionate and intense in the beginning and may last for six months to two years, and once it passes you have to re-fall in love with your partner in a different way. This is the part where you get in sync with the routine of them and explore the intimacies and regularities of your life together. The sex can long past this point. So just to be clear: The end of the honeymoon phase does not automatically a mean a halt in sex. Sometimes it can even spell an amp up, change, or rediscovery in your intimacy.
But sometimes, months or even years later, the sex peters out. We all grow and evolve sexually, and sometimes we evolve past the interests of our partners. You may start to go kinky and your partner is totally vanilla. You may have been a bottom and are leaning more to topping lately and your guy is unwilling to take it. Maybe you’re simply wanting to explore sex with different people. When this happens, an honest conversation with your partner is necessary. Either you will choose to open things up and explore sex with other people, or you will decide to do what I recommend, which is break up. Life is too brief and our time here too rich to be stuck in sexless and sexually unfulfilling relationships, even if the people we share them with are good and kind.
- When he stops being happy.
- When your relationship goals are not shared.
What’s your end goal? What’s his? This is a heavy question to ask on the first date — so don’t. I think the best relationships happen organically, with few expectations and no pressure, but everyone has goals they want to eventually work to. If you want to someday be in a committed, nonmonogamous relationship and have a house with a garden and a dog, you want to know if your partner is just looking for “IDK man, something casual.” If you ask this heavy question months in and realize he does not share the relationship goals you have, you might need to consider breaking up and finding someone who does.
- When you’re bored.
Humans are not meant to stay together forever. It’s not in our genetic makeup. You may retort, “My parents were together for 65 years!” That’s wonderful, and they might have loved each other till the very end, but the stigma attached to divorce has been somewhat heavy until the last couple generations — staying together might have been considered their only option. And if boredom crept in, tough luck.
You don’t have to stay with anyone forever. That is a wonderful feature of our modern world with its hookup apps and high divorce rate and luxury airplanes. You can always leave. And if your partner is simply not giving you the thrill in your life that you’re looking for, or if you are considering spending a year or two single, leave them. You’re doing the kinder thing by letting them go than continuing a relationship when you’re dissatisfied.
- When you’re fighting constantly.
When people talk about breakups, toxic relationships always come up. They’re an uncomfortable topic because many of us have been in one. A toxic relationship causes more stress than pleasure for one or both (or all) people involved. The most common feature of toxic relationships: constant fighting.
If you’ve reached the point where you can predict the next fight and watch it brew without any surprise, ask yourself if this is really the kind of setup you wan to be in. Constant arguing is unhealthy on a physical and mental level — it will make you sick.
The frustrating truth about toxic relationships — and one of the things that make them so toxic — is that despite their stress, people generally have a hard time ending them. Some people get accustomed to the fighting, others are scared of being single, others feel they are obligated to stay.
None of these are true. If you find yourself in a relationship like this, there is no salvaging it. Break up as soon as possible.
- When your primary source of stress is your partner.
Even if you’re not fighting constantly, your partner can still be your main source of stress. Stress is one of the hardest things on the body and will literally weaken your immune system. If your relationship is making you unhealthy, you owe it to yourself to end it.
Say you’re in an open relationship with your boyfriend and he has a tendency to have wild nights and hit the town on substances and have a blast — and you’re worried about him. Communicating these concerns can be hard, since he might misinterpret it as you judging his activities or trying to shame him. But you’re honestly, sincerely worried about some of the choices he’s been making and you want him to make sure he’s never in a car with a drunk driver.
You can handle this kind of worry up to a point — and then you need to get out. My last relationship reached a point like this. I was the party boy and he was the one at home worrying, and he made the right decision for himself to end it. During the breakup, his literal words were “I just can’t worry about you any more.”
This also applies to long distance relationships. Say your boyfriend is suddenly sent to another location for work and you decide to continue dating over Skype, with phone calls and texts. Long-distance relationships are one of the hardest things in the world to endure, and will fail if you don’t have definite, scheduled meet-ups planned or a clear, unchanging end date. But if the stress becomes too much, it’s OK to throw in the towel. Some people simply can’t do long distance — I can’t.
- When he tries to corral you away from your family and friends.
Now we’re dipping out of toxic relationships and into abusive ones. Your partner doesn’t have to hit you in order to be abusive, although that absolutely and unquestionably qualifies him as such. Keeping you away from your family and friends is just as wrong.
He may believe your family and friends will talk bad about him and encourage you to leave him. Hint: If your family and friends have bad things to say, listen.
- When one of you is repeatedly threatening to end it.
It doesn’t matter if you’re doing this or he is. Once the “threatening game” starts — “If you say that one more time, then it’s over” — it’s over. It’s cruel to hold your relationship as leverage over someone, and this is characteristic of nearly every unhealthy relationship.
- When your partner is more in control of how you live your life than you are.
When you reach a point that the clothes you wear, the people you spend time with, and the things you do for fun are all chosen by your partner and not you, leave.
The biggest mistake so many guys make in relationships is spending too much time with their boyfriends and not remembering that they have lives and friend circles outside of their relationships that require maintenance. If your boyfriend is domineering to the point that your power and control over your time shifts to him, you’ve reached an unhealthy place and need to get out.
Partners take our spare time and energy — they make us happy on afternoons after work and when we have nothing else to do. If things are serious and you live together, they are given the energy you reserve for them after yourself. If anyone is taking up all your time and energy, they’re a bad partner, and you should look elsewhere.
- When they have fallen for someone else.
Most readers can surmise that I’m a massive fan of nonmonogamy and polyamory, but I will be the first one to admit that these relationship setups are hard and require strong, consistent communication, a lot of trial and error, and a hefty capacity for forgiveness. Many nonmonogamous setups allow for sexual freedoms not found in monogamy, but few, in my experience, make allowances for emotional affairs outside the relationship.
Sexual infidelity and romantic infidelity are two different things. The first one is less fearful, at least to me. The second one is. If your agreement is to be open or semi-open sexually, he’s cheating if he falls for someone else and doesn’t tell you.
If he tells you honestly about his feelings, be understanding and decide what to do. Be grateful for his honesty. Chances are you’re going to break up, but many couples I know have managed to make allowances for these things: The third guy becomes part of their polyamorous setup, or partners simply let their boyfriends do what they need to do, understanding that different people satisfy you in different ways. But no one will fault you for feeling that things need to end.
As you can see, communication is the key to handling clean, easy breakups. Put the plates down and lower your voice. Do not go into a breakup situation with the intent of hurting someone. Although there are often endless reasons to leave someone, there is no need to hurt them.
Good luck with the breakup. Take a few months to yourself. The next person is just around the corner, waiting for you to run into him when you least expect it.
SOURCE: THE ADVOCATE