You Need Help: My Partner Keeps Saying We’re Going to Break Up!


I love my partner very much, and things are good a lot of the time, but they have a bunch of Stuff (trauma etc) that means when they identify something they perceive as a relationship problem (sometimes it’s just been a miscommunication!), they escalate immediately to talking about breaking up. It’s something they’re working on, though they’re unable to access therapy right now, but it makes me feel really insecure — like the other shoe is always about to drop. Is there anything I can do to help mitigate some of my anxiety about this? I’m worried about my anxiety making me act in unhelpful ways, or ending up resenting my partner for something that isn’t their fault.


Hi, friend! I’ve got some tough news for you right off the bat, and that news is: Feeling insecure and anxious is a normal and reasonable response to the situation that you’re in. I don’t think I can talk you out of feeling anxious with strategies, but I do have some thoughts for you to mull.

I wish that your letter had been a little bit longer, because I have so many unanswered questions! I’m curious how long you’ve been dating, and how the communication is between you when there isn’t any conflict in the room. I’d like to know the specific ways that your partner talks about splitting up — “it feels like a break-up is inevitable (since love always ends)” for instance, is very different from “it feels like you’re going to dump me,” which also differs hugely from “I think we should break up.”

Even without knowing the answer to what things sound like during a conflict, an important factor here is how you and your partner communicate after the escalation is over. Are you able to get to a point where you’re each able to express what feels true about the state of your relationship? You note that your partner is “working on” this tendency, and I wonder what that looks like — do they apologize for saying something that hurt you without speaking further about their state of mind, or are you able to have real conversations about how you each feel and what you want: out of your relationship, through inevitable conflicts, and in your broader lives?

Trauma responses to conflict are very real, and something I personally deal with (although, like fingerprints, I’m sure that no one is just like any other). That said, I want to note that just because something isn’t someone’s “fault,” or isn’t something they do intentionally to hurt you, that behavior (as you’re seeing) will still affect you. The fact that you feel affected by what your partner tells you, even when they are not their best self, is not inappropriate or bad. It’s human.

I can’t mitigate your anxiety about a potential future break-up between you and your partner. What I can suggest is that you turn your mind to what you can control: your communication, your boundaries, and your behavior.

During times of conflict, your partner is moving directly to talk about breaking up. That escalation may be influenced by a trauma response, but you still have the right to set boundaries. You still get to decide whether this situation is one that you can live comfortably within, and if not, to clearly communicate what would need to change for things to work for you.

I hope you’re able to have some honest, open, and conflict-free conversations with your partner about ways that you each would like to move forward. What are ways your partner wishes they were able to respond to conflict? What are the things they truly want you to know? What are their boundaries? And on your side, if you were to stop playing defense for a moment, stop being the person in the relationship who is reacting, and try to put your own needs, desires, and boundaries on the table where they belong, equally important next to your partner’s: what would that look like? What would you say to them? What would you want?

If you can have these real conversations, if you can work together to build something that’s more balanced, I think that some of your anxiety will start to fall away. But if that’s work that you’re not able to do together, it may be time to start reevaluating whether a break-up just might be the right choice after all.

I wish you all the best! 💙

You can chime in with your advice in the comments and submit your own questions any time.

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Darcy, a.k.a. Queer Girl, is your number one fan. They're a fat feminist from California who doodles hearts in the corners of their Gay Agenda. They're living through a pandemic, they're on Twitter, and they think you should drink more water! They also wanna make you laugh.

Darcy has written 376 articles for us.


  1. this is a great response. it’s one thing when recurring, intractable problems and/or deep unhappiness keep pointing back to a breakup being in order, but “i think we should break up” as a response to minor conflict is a massively destabilizing move- where are you supposed to find security in a relationship that’s constantly being framed as likely to disappear at any time?

    i want to cosign, underscore, highlight, skywrite, put it on the jumbotron that something being a result of trauma or mental illness *does not excuse it* *does not constitute a hall pass* *does not mean it’s okay*. this is a trap into which many a sensitive and empathetic partner has fallen (raises hand). you have to know your experience matters just as much, and that you are not any less loving for not being okay with certain behaviors even as you feel hurt/anger/sadness over the things you know are driving them. you can work with someone and work on something- and still, yes to boundaries, yes to limits, yes to, heartbreakingly, things that are dealbreakers even if they’re seemingly or factually beyond someone’s control. good luck.

  2. I also want to point out that, even if it’s not intentional, this could create some negative patterns for YOU for current or future relationships, much like the pattern your partner is living in now. It’s important that you protect your heart and your boundaries, because it can affect you long-term to live in this destabilized place.

  3. I had a very similar experience with my first serious partner. Everything Darcy said is spot-on and a lot is similar to things I worked on with my therapist – who I started seeing because I was so anxious because my partner kept talking about breaking up with me! It’s super stressful and I’m really sorry you’re going through this.

    Please do take some time to consider what your own needs are in this relationship and how to hold them as equally important alongside your partner’s needs. If you communicate to your partner, as I eventually did, “I need you to only talk about breaking up with me if you are actually intending to break up with me,” and they respond defensively without acknowledging it as a legitimate need, that’s important information for you: your partner, for whatever reason, is not able or willing to meet a need that you have.

    You deserve relationships that feel stable and secure. It doesn’t make you a bad person to recognize that this relationship might not be that.

  4. as a person w anxious attachment and a lot of anxious thoughts, the words ‘if we can’t figure this out i don’t know if we can be together’ went thru my head OFTEN early in my current relationship but I DID NOT SAAAAAY those words out loudddddddddd exactly because it seemed unfair & harmful to my partner, and a self-fulfilling prophecy. i’m SOOOO very glad i didn’t. now when things are hard I’m like “i will calm myself down. we will figure it out, i’m so glad we’re together for figuring it out.” its ok to have the thoughts – no one has a crystal ball and we don’t know – BUT being in a relationship means caring for oneselves and one another, and regularly bringing up breaking up unless you are pretty darn sure it’s time to break up is caring for no one in the relationship.

  5. I would like to add to this that, again as the answer to the letter said, we don’t know what exactly is going on in the relationship.

    It could be that the letter-writer and their partner are dealing with some speed-bumps that they are trying to work out due to past hang-ups, that maybe they just need some couples’ counseling or something. It could be that the letter-writer’s partner is being kind of manipulative, whether intentionally or not, and is *trying* to make the letter-writer on edge. This would make the relationship an unequal partnership by design, and that may be why the letter-writer is upset. Or, it could be like a situation I was in before, where the letter-writer is intentionally ignoring signals from the partner that they are unhappy and uncomfortable in the relationship and that the partner wishes to break up with them. I was the partner in that scenario once, and trying to break up with the girl did not work because she was so willfully obtuse that she ignored *that* very clear break too and I ended up having to block her on all social media and messaging services, and even then she tried to find a way to contact me ahaha.

    Basically, I’m not going to assume. It could be any of these scenarios or maybe even some other scenario I didn’t think of.

  6. I’m wondering what proceeds her missives about breaking up? Is this every single time a conflict comes up? Is this how conflict is managed each time or is conflict navigated dispassionately or more smoothly/skillfully the rest of the time? Rather than falling back on the sexist trope of the crazy traumatized woman, what actually proceeded her wondering if breakup was the proper resolution? Context would be helpful. Did the crazy traumatized woman have reason to suggest breaking up, or was she just crazy and traumatized? I’ve been the woman who had to broach the subject of breaking up twice. Both times, my trauma certainly had an impact on the intensity of my response. For sure. 💯 my issue to take on with regard to accountability there. However, in each instance, I was dating someone who had newly opened their marriage. The first instance, I found out that he had either not been truthful or had neglected to tell me that he only wanted a casual arrangement with me when I had explicitly asked three times prior to having sex. I found out months into sleeping with him, and felt so very violated. I did break up with him then but I ultimately knew he was not being malicious, but was inexperienced and it had been an omission. We reconciled because I was able to slow down and see that he truly meant no harm. Neither of us had been communicating well. And then I had to ask if we should break up about six months later when he negotiated sex with a new partner in a permanently higher risk category and indelicately delivered the news via text with a take-it-or-leave it diktat. Again–I chalk this up to his inexperience, not malice, but in the moment, being *told* that the nature of my preexisting relationship could bow to his unilateral decisions about *sexual health* was a bridge too far for me after accepting an already downgraded position in his life by virtue of not being a primary partner. What I cannot accept is a downgraded position in my own life and relationships, wherein matters of my sexual health or safety with a partner are negotiated without *me*. We both failed here due to inexperienced– we should’ve had the conversation about sleeping with people with STDs *before* it happened, but we were inexperienced. The fact that the conversation happened *after the fact* without discourse and without a plan was very damaging to the relationship, but he then also scapegoated my mental health which was sexist and innapropriate. We were able to at least momentarily move past it, and I definitely could put myself in his shoes and imagine someone not knowing where the fault lines were would cause someone to feel insecure in the relationship. On the back end, it concerned me that he attributed our issues to my trauma and not his having made decisions about me and our relationship *without me*–even if it was due to inexperience, was he not still responsible for the impact of his decisions? It had me feeling like a crash test dummy, and like I had just been shoved role so casual that I couldn’t justify incorporating regular risk of permanent STD exposure if it was not going to be treated with delicaxy. A lot of these comments immediately jump to armchair Instagram meme psychological advice–would it have been manipulative for me to suggest breaking up as an appropriate resolution in either of those cases? Was he going to catch “the breakups” pattern from me by osmosis and bring it into other relationships? Was I not owed a modicum of agency, dignity, and transparency in *ETHICAL* nonmonogamy? Was the poly/ENM lifestyle not created as a response to patriarchal sexual predation of women, and in response to heteronormativity? Are well-meaning people not responsible for the way their inexperience harms their romantic partners? Was poly/ENM not, in part, created for women to also claim their sexual and relational agency? If people with marital privilege cannot offer a form to relationship that would be satisfactory or healthy to anyone with self-esteem, and can then deal away their missteps by attributing it to “woman trauma” why even call it poly/ENM? If a partner is put at a severe power disadvantage in relation to their counterpart at jump, let’s not be hasty to fall into the cliché of blaming the woman. My and my counterparts’ situation and his response thereto definitely smacked of “the one causing harm has an issue with being held accountable for it.”

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