3 Reasons to Break Up Sooner Than Later

Not far from my house there’s a quaint little creek called Tenmile. Except for the higher flow in spring, only a small stream of cold, clear water glides down the granite rocks, pooling quietly here and there, as it makes its way down the mountainside. The water is calm enough in many places for water striders to skitter along the smooth surface and narrow enough at places to dam up the flow with just a few well-placed boulders. Stopping the water there, along the creek, would be easy.

Downstream, the water empties into Hume Lake, where it collects day after day, month after month, year after year. So to keep the water in the lake from cascading down to lower elevations, engineers had to construct a concrete, reinforced, multiple-arched dam. ‘Cause it takes a substantial amount of concrete to keep eighty-seven acres of lake in check.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the creek and the dam lately, because someone close to me has been in a relationship with someone she knew she should have broken things off with months ago. We had this conversation back then—that it’s always easier to dam up a stream at the narrowest point before a lake of love and shared experiences collect, requiring gobs of cement, fifty times the effort, and exponential pain to do what could have been done more simply upstream.

So why don’t we just do what we know we should do when we first suspect we should do it?

Fear of being alone.
Fear of hurting someone we care deeply for.
Fear of conflict.
Fear of making a mistake.
Fear of regret.

Lots of fears. But not love, I think. I don’t think it’s true love that keeps us in those relationships, because true love puts others first. And perfect love forces out all fear (1 John 4:18). (Obviously, we can’t love perfectly, as God does, but we should be aiming toward perfect love in our relationships.) So if true love thinks of others and doesn’t harbor fear, true love would mean risking hurting yourself and/or your boyfriend to do what is ultimately best. But in case you need more rationale, here are three big reasons to break up sooner than later when you know you’re in the wrong relationship.

Reason #1: Relationship Cement

The truth is, if it seems hard to break up now, it won’t get easier when you have even more time invested in a relationship! The nature of romance is that it deepens if not severed. In other words, if you don’t break things off now, your relationship will only get more intimate—more permanent—not less. Which means you will hurt both of you even more if you wait to break things off.

Reason #2: Convictions Change with Circumstances

Track with me here, because this is sobering stuff. Studies (and common sense) tell us that the longer you spend in a situation you disagree with, the less you will disagree with it. And eventually you will likely change your beliefs to match your circumstances.

That might sound kind of academic, so let’s put some flesh on it. Let’s say you’re a Christ-follower, and you start dating someone who isn’t a disciple of Jesus. At first there’s this nagging feeling that you shouldn’t, but you give it a go anyway because he’s so charming, attentive, kind, or ________. Eventually, given enough time with the guy, you will likely push that nagging feeling out of your heart, and eventually you will probably change your belief about dating unbelievers, and someday you may even find yourself changing your beliefs about how believers should act/live or about God himself. It rarely plays out well.

Reason #3: It’s Respectful

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard (either from girls writing to me, or back in the day from my own mind) that they couldn’t bring themselves to end a relationship because they didn’t want to hurt their boyfriend. Sister, staying silent is honestly the most selfish thing we can do.

I remember one relationship in particular where I knew early on that—even though he was a rare catch of a guy—something was unsettled in my heart. But I let it play out, hoping my feelings would deepen over time and push out my hesitation. Several months later, when I finally broke things off, he was crushed. And here’s the thing: It would have stung for him to be rejected at the very beginning of “us,” but getting dumped after dates and fourteen-page letters, meeting families and budding hopes for the future, he felt like he got sucker-punched in the ribs. If we’re going to love others as ourselves (which is right up there with loving God, according to Jesus), well, it’s kinder, more respectful, and just all-around more decent not to let the “letting go” drag on.

Whether you know your boyfriend isn’t a good influence or he seems perfect but there’s a nagging feeling that something isn’t quite right, you do your boyfriend and yourself a favor by choosing to end the relationship sooner than later. Why? Let’s recap:

  1. Because it gets harder and harder to break up the longer you wait.
  2. Because convictions change with circumstances.
  3. Because it’s ultimately kind, respectful, and honors his dignity.

Okay, But . . . How Do I Do It?

I wish there was an easy button on this, but the truth is that it’s going to be H-A-R-D. There might be tears. There might be anger. There might be misunderstanding or resentment. But because he bears God’s image and is therefore worthy of love and respect, you’re going to face your fear, muster your courage, and tell him the truth—in person, if at all possible. Because that’s respectful. And brave.

And . . . if you’re reading this and you’re not in a relationship, please take all this to heart. Don’t get into a relationship lightly! As so many of us girls have learned (the hard way), relationships are usually much easier to enter than to leave. So enter wisely, with a healthy dose of caution.

Let’s talk about it:

  • Have you ever been in a relationship you knew wasn’t right for you, but weren’t sure how to break it off?
  • If you let it linger, how did that affect you? Him?
  • Any tips for ending things as kindly as possible?

About Author

Jessie Minassian

Jessie Minassian is a speaker, blogger, and the author of ten books and Bible studies, including Crushed, Unashamed, and Backwards Beauty. She is the "resident big sis" at LifeLoveandGod.com, a Q&A website for teen girls. Her work for teens and their parents has been featured internationally through outlets such as Focus on the Family, Parenting Today’s Teens, She Reads Truth, Axis, Revive Our Hearts and YouthWorker Journal. She and her husband live and serve at Hume Lake Christian Camps in California, and have two daughters.

HEY, GIRLS! We love hearing from you, but feel limited in the ways we can help. For one thing, we’re not trained counselors. If you’re seeking counsel, we encourage you to talk to your pastor or a godly woman in your life as they’ll know more details and can provide you with ongoing accountability and help. Also, the following comments do not necessarily reflect the views of Revive Our Hearts. We reserve the right to remove comments which might be unhelpful, unsuitable, or inappropriate. We may edit or remove your comment if it:

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  • Alana

    I knew i was in a wrong relationship from the start. Its been a year with him and i didnt want to end it because i didnt want to hurt him. I realized it was not true love. However, he proposed to me and the wedding is in one week. I wish that i ended it earlier.. Because soon i will marry someone who i realized was wrong to be with from the beginning!! (Religious differences) im a christian and hes a muslim ..i wish this post was written so much sooner!

    • Rohiatou

      It’s never too late, you’re not married, yet. My dad is Muslim and my mom is Christian. They are no longer married. Spiritual differences are a major issue. It will hurt to break it off at this point, but it will hurt you more to stay. Be brave, sister!

    • Macayla Bycroft

      Girl if you don’t want to marry him, then why go thru with it? This will only cause more heartache and marriage issues in the future. If you know you shouldn’t be with him, then break it off. Yes, it will hurt, but you can’t pretend. Bc that will hurt more in the long run…

    • Whitney Martin

      Alana,
      I believe that God is sovereign and it is no coincidence that you read this article 1 week before your wedding and not a week after your wedding. If the Lord is leading you to end the relationship you should do it as soon as possible. The Bible tells us to not be unequally yoked, so obviously God does not want you to marry this person. He has used this article to speak to you and has given you time to end the relationship. Lean on him, do what he is calling you to do (end your engagement), and trust Him to take care of the rest. He will bring you strength, hope, and peace.
      Blessings!
      Whitney

    • Tiana

      Alana,
      I know it will be very hard to end the relationship, but if you don’t if will cause so many problems in the future, and maybe even divorce. The best thing you can do in this situation is to pray for courage, then go talk to your fiancé and explain to him why you can’t go through with the wedding. I’ll be praying for you. God Bless, Tiana

    • Alana,
      I’m so proud of you for voicing your doubt here in this community of sisters who care. You could have just shoved down your fear and doubt after reading this post and gone ahead with your marriage as if you had never seen yet another red flag… But the fact that you commented here hints at the possibility that you know exactly what you need to do. I’m guessing you just need the courage to do it—the assurance that if you break things off now, it would hurt you and others like crazy, but it would be the right thing to do (for you and for others). So take courage from the many of us here who are assuring you of that very thing—that delayed obedience to the Holy Spirit’s nudging is better than no obedience, and that you’ll thank yourself someday for choosing Jesus over a marriage you sort of “fell into.” Praying for courage today, sister. xo!

  • Lynn

    Alana, I so feel for what you are going through. I’ve had a friend for yrs who I dated off and on. I know its hard when you feel you are already in too deep and have ignored dealing with the nagging feelings for so long. I’ll be very transparent and say he i’d avoided doing anything about it despite many nudges and confirmations from God to end things, because of fear. Although he professed Christianity (one excuse I used to rationalize away the gut feeling that something wasn’t right), I still knew in my heart that he was not who God had for me, nor did we share the same level of commitment and passion regarding our respective walks with Christ. Many years of friendship, mutual friends, heart to hearts with each others parents, many family events and friends weddings attended together, several funerals, much prayer, and major life events later and I can say my desire to deepen my walk with God increased. I am sad to say I have not seen that in my good friend despite my best efforts and prayer. In fact, a tug of war came into play that was totally heart wrenching, for both of us I’m sure. Our differences when it came to Christ first began to pull at the relationship with things like church attendance, Bible reading, and Christian fellowship. I was so blessed by each of these while my boyfriend at the time felt he didn’t need church, Bible reading, or to fellowship with other Christians and still considered himself what he expressed as “spiritual”. Next came disagreements on the importance of sexual purity that led to pressures to compromise my desire to wait until marriage, disagreements on fundamental Biblical issues like premarital intimacy, divorce, political issues, and even what our future children would be raised to believe. All of these became hot points of disagreement. It eventually turned into him changing subjects when I brought up God at all, which years in, ultimately led to him asking that we not talk about faith at all. This is not an attack on my dear friend, I just want to share with you that as much love as I have for my friend, so often in the relationship I felt heartbroken that I could not share the love of my life Jesus Christ with him, and even sensed at times what felt like jealousy towards my relationship with Christ. This is not to say that he cannot change because God can touch anyone’s heart, I am simply stating what I know God spoke to my heart on my situation about ending it. I have been praying for him for many years hoping things will change, that the nagging feelings will dissipate, that I will have peace in staying in the wrong relationship for all the “right” reasons (time invested, avoiding hurt feelings, avoiding disappointing friends and family, etc), but I still felt God leading me to do what ive dreaded for a long time now, to end it. I want to lovingly express to you that this decision for me is as fresh as last week. I was on my way driving to hang out with my friend when I felt the leading of the Lord so strongly that i knew it was a major point of decision whether to obey or not to. I strongly believe that the Lord wanted me to tell my friend that we would not get back into a relationship and get married as he’d been hoping for and had been hinting at more frequently for months now. I pleaded with God the whole 40min drive to not have me do this, that i wasnt ready, I told Him I was not strong enough, couldnt bring it up, didnt know how or what to say, and couldn’t bear to break my friends heart. God helped me through it, and honestly there were tears on both sides, disappointment, and pain. I believe strongly it was because of how long it took me to obey that it was as difficult as it was, and for that I’m truly sorry and repented to God and apologized to my friend. But I learned more about God from this in that obedience to Him is for our own good because He loves us. I believe He instructs us not to be unequally yolked to save us and others the heartache of the tug of war differences in faith or even level of commitment to growth in the Christian faith while dating may present. As the article states its also selfish to lead someone on thinking I was sparing his feelings and all that we had both invested into the relationship. I encourage you if you are afraid of breaking his heart, what others will think, or even how to go about ending things,cry out to God for help. Even with how and when to do it. He cares about every detail of what you are wrestling with in your heart. I believe the most caring thing you can do for your fiancee right now is to be honest, obey what you believe God is leading you to do, and entrust both his heart and the aftermath of the situation to almighty God. Here is a scripture from the NET Bible that spoke to my heart when it came to my situation: Proverbs 3:5-6 (NET Bible):
    5Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not rely on your own understanding.
    6Acknowledge him in all your ways,
    and he will make your paths straight.

    • Lynn, thank you for sharing your story. I’m relieved for you; I know the weight that is lifted when you finally obey! And I’m praying that God will draw near to you through the mourning process and the rebuilding of your heart. Hugs!

  • Natalie

    Until I turned 20, I was a staunch believer in the idea that Christians should exclusively date other Christians. Perhaps it was my terrible pickiness or lack of effort, but I hadn’t found a christian man who seemed right for me. But something broke inside of me and I became fed up with never having had a boyfriend. The first man I romantically dated was a cultural christian at best. His adoration, sweetness, and caring gifts slowly blinded me to his dispassionate regard for Jesus. He was the smartest, most handsome, most athletic man who had ever expressed interest in me. His good family, doctorate studies, age (he’s 9 years older than I), and love for the arts seemed to soften the blow of him not loving Jesus. I felt safe in his arms and told myself that it was ok to enjoy this relationship for as long as it lasted, confident that someone this wonderful would tire of me quickly. I started to rationalize that if the relationship were to remain devoid of sex and not lead to marriage, that it would be perfectly ok. I know better now. I underestimated the power of romantic, rooftop kisses under the stars, of nights spent in each others arms, of cooking and working out together. Technically, we were never sexually intimate. We neither french kissed nor touched each other’s genitals, but we were intimate in the way only married couples aught to be. I fell in love with him and started to rethink my lifelong desire to remain pure. What a joke. I wasn’t pure. I had caressed his soul as he did mine. No, we never had sex, but I gave him a part of me only intended for my husband. And it hurts. I never should have dated him. As I mentioned, I fell in love. I actually envisioned marrying him. A year ago, it’d have been unthinkable to marry a man who wasn’t a follower of Christ. But, like you said, relationships alter perspectives and weaken convictions. I wanted him to love me forever and started to drift away from God. Despite being aware of my shifting loyalties, I didn’t want to change my course. Graciously, my boyfriend acted as expected. After 7 months, he grew bored of me and moved on… leaving a trembling mess of a girl. Strangely though, the intensity of bliss that I felt with him almost makes the pain seem worth it. This scares me because those feelings should only be felt with one’s spouse. I hope that I’ll feel that again with my future husband someday, but I’m not sure that I will. I hate that a man could make me momentarilly forget about God. It’s soo scary and not something to play around with!

    • Yep—we girls can be pretty pathetic, the way we “momentarily forget about God” so easily when that Mr. Charming comes around. 😉 Thank you for sharing your story, Natalie (and telling it so beautifully—you have a gift with words!). A divine mercy that he broke things off when you didn’t find the strength to do it. And now I am praying for your heart as you regather its pieces, lay them at the Cross, and begin the slow and painful process of rebuilding a life with Christ at the center. May you be stronger for the mending, and more determined than ever to wait for the right man at the right time. xo!

    • Proverbs 31 girl in Training

      I just had the same thing happen to me. The guy and I never even “dated”. I somehow convinced myself that we would just remain friends even after I told him EVERYTHING about me and my life. We shared pretty intimate stories and secrets, but we were “just friends”. He has a great, selfless personality, but he is not a firm believer. I ignored the Holy Spirit telling me I was giving myself away emotionally and rationalized, like you, that it would never go anywhere and as long as we were not physical it would be okay. I shared things that I only wanted to share with my husband. It hurts! I am so glad God came through and got him out of my life for now. So, thank you for sharing!! I can relate so much. All this happened to me last week. It is such a relief to know that others had almost the exact same struggle. Praying for you sister!

  • Proverbs 31 girl in Training

    This post could not be more relevant to my life!!! I have been talking with this guy at my school. He just came and talked to me at lunch. No big deal. I have been going through A LOT! I am in the middle of a big, ugly custody battle. This guy listened and understood. He was the only person who seemed to understand without pressuring me to act or feel differently. I shared EVERYTHING with him. I knew that was one of the ways I let my guard down. I didn’t find him super attractive, so I didn’t think to worry about falling for him. He also had kidney failure. We were both there for each other. I indirectly pressured him to tell me his feeling which he wrote in a sweet letter. I told him we could not be because my family didn’t approve, but in reality it was my conviction and promise to God to let Him choose my spouse (which I knew this was not God’s will; he was not a strong Christian if one at all). I still liked him though and made that apparent. The next day he “randomly” got a call for his kidney transplant. I had his number and contacted him still. I finally mustered up the courage to tell him the real reason I couldn’t develop a relationship with him. He took it well, but came back and told me he could change. I let my mom take over. She text him and very graciously told him how I felt without a whole lot of emotion. God put him in my life because both of us needed a friends and as a lesson for how easy it is to give pieces of yourself away. Thankfully nothig physical happened. I still have that saved for marriage, but I did give a lot of myself away emotionally. God made it very clear what I should do, but I rebelled a lot the first few months of it. I am glad God aloud me a way out by having him away for a little bit. I feel free in the sense that I am not going against God in that way of being unequally yoked. This post was God’s way of showing me that I did the right thing. I feel He showed me this post as a way of saying well done daughter. Thank you for obeying my command. I want to tear up knowing how rebellious I was toward God in this part of my life and that He continues to show me love and bless me in all my mess that I am dealing with. He is so good to me!!!

    • I’m so glad God used it to speak to you. Thanks for sharing the ways God has been teaching you obedience. It’s a never-ending process of relinquishing more and more control to Him! 🙂

  • KayLee Kruger

    I had a boyfriend in highschool. I distinctly remember getting in my bed one night and feeling something like a punch to my stomach and a very clear “no, this is wrong.” But I ignored it. I spent years holding hands and talking about being married when inside, I felt empty. I liked him as a friend and as a brother, but that was all. I wouldn’t even say that I was actually in love. I was in love with the idea of being in love and terrified of being alone, so I went along with it. When I told him my post-graduation plans, it became undeniably clear that I was not the one for him. We broke up, and I felt relieved while he felt like his soul was ripped out of him. Thinking back now, I should have broken up with him the day after that epiphany; it would have saved us both. I could have used those years in ministry or focusing on school and he could have been spared the immense heartbreak that is entirely my fault. He is married now, but I’m afraid of entering another relationship knowing he might get hurt.
    ~This post is entirely true: the longer you wait, the more damage is done.~

    • I’m sorry that you, like me, learned this lesson the hard way, KayLee. Thank you for your honesty and sharing your story in the hopes that others will be braver after the “realization” than we were.

  • Manderz

    So funny, because I just ended a budding relationship. Last time I waited too long even when I doubted. It was hard to hurt him, but I know I’m actually saving him future pain. I’m open to God showing me I was wrong , but for now I feel this is the best decision for both of us. It’s hard to end things, esp if you hate hurting the other person, but what really got me was it’s easier now!
    Thanks for this perfectly timed post!

    • You’re welcome, Manderz. 🙂 I’m proud of you for learning from the past and doing the right thing sooner this time. Thanks for joining the conversation!

  • Anonymous

    I just ended a 5 years online relationship with my best friend (guy)
    we didn’t meet regularly but whenever we did we would hug each other and talk about how much we miss each other.
    we spent hours talking online. It could be for a whole week, non-stop, or go silent for a month or 2.
    It was always an off and on thing, but deep down we knew we both loved each other. no matter the temporary “silence”, we would get back together somehow.
    i always thought i was a christian my whole life, praying, fasting. giving, sharing, forgiving..etc until recently (this year) i started reading my bible more than i ever had and started to see how i’ve been a hypocrite with this relationship in the dark.
    Over the past 5 months ive been struggling to know whether i should continue talking to him , we are both Christians, or “so called” Christians. and that was the hard part, i thought because he was a christian it was okay to continue it, inspite getting advice from a godly woman. I had my whole future sought out with him. would pray for him everyday once i realised the importance of praying for your “future husband”. But this month everything changed. i knew without a doubt this needed to end, i already felt impure from all the ill things we , at times, talked about. ontop of that, i felt he didnt fully “appreciate” me and made me feel worthless. Last week, i prayed to God for forgiveness, bitterly crying for how ungodly my relationship was with him even though we didnt have sex. I asked for help to end this, and serve him (God) better. With all the problems going on between us, i remained silent and didnt talk/reply to his messages because i didnt know what to do. I said i would wait for “Gods intervention”
    Yesterday, he blocked me everywhere, and eventhough it hurts, i knew God had something to do with it. I wouldnt have the courage to delete without fearing being alone forever.
    I just feel terrible of how things ended. I was unable to explain to him my actions ( ignoring because i was hurt and because i didnt know what to do and was waiting for God)
    I have decided to give it all to God and save kissing from this point to the very moment i say “I Do”on the altar
    I feel unclean and God will punish me severely for this.
    I’m afraid to open up about this to my mum. I havent been honoring my parents. She would kill me!
    What should I do?
    Thank you

    • Dear Anonymous, I’m sorry it hurts so much right now. I’m confident that as you run hard after God in this season of healing (through prayer, Bible reading and reflection), He will impress on your heart what you need to do next… how to make things “right” with anyone you mislead or hurt. You can’t control how they respond, but you can know how GOD responds to a repentant heart: He forgives! He doesn’t have to “punish [you] severely,” because Jesus took that punishment for you. There may be natural consequences (like a broken heart, or damaged trust with you mom), but you don’t need to live in fear that God will be hunting you down to make you “pay.” Take comfort in that. Instead of giving into despair or fear over the bad choices, let your sorrow over them lead you away from sin in the future (2 Corinthians 7:10). I hope that helps bring a little hope to your day, sister! xo

  • Mirian

    This article hit home. I ended a relationship recently that I knew I should never have even started. The fear of being alone and making a mistake dominated my thoughts and actions. I’m a 41 year old divorced woman and it’s embarrassing to even admit how badly I was deceived by another Christian. Point #2 was especially my problem.

    • Thanks for your vulnerability, Mirian. These are deep heart issues that can span our lifetimes if we’re not intentional about change. In other words, as you’ve found, we don’t just “grow out of them” by the passing of time, only by “growing up” in our relationship with God. The beautiful thing, though, is that we CAN grow, also as you have found. 🙂 Lean into God, sister. Prayers for you today as you mourn and hope, believe and grow. xo

  • Christian Girl

    I’m not in a relationship right now (and a good thing too, a lot of school things to focus on right now) but I am really good friends with this guy at school. He’s a Christian (not very strong) but we talk. Am I giving myself away emotionally by telling him struggles? I don’t even think about what I’m doing since our friendship grew naturally.

    • I think a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if you’re treating him (or sharing things with him, in this case 🙂 ) the way you would interact with a brother. I’m pretty close with my brothers, so confiding in them, or laughing with them, or encouraging them comes naturally. Ultimately, though, whether your motives are in the right place is between you and God. So listen to the Spirit’s nudging as you pray and read the Bible—God will give you wisdom as you ask for it!

      • ChristianGirl

        Thanks so much!

    • Proverbs 31 girl in Training

      I did the same thing. I share things easily with everyone! I fell for a guy who was just gonna be a friend. For me, it was not what I told him, but how he responded. He cared so much about me and my feelings. I just couldn’t help it. He gave me the attention that I wasn’t getting from my father. It is completely possible to be just friends, but I know how easy it is to give your heart away without even knowing it until you are too far in. Dear sister, diligently guard your heart!

  • Holinessisstillright Whitfield

    Trust me, the longer you wait the harder it will be. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ and you know the word and have a relationship with the Lord then you know the Holy spirit will never let up from whispering that voice in your heart telling you that it’s not right and it’s not aligned with the word of God. The guy I was with was amazing though, and I didn’t want to give him up but I knew I loved the Lord more than anything and I knew that forcing it would mean that I didn’t trust God to send me a man who was sold out on Christ. I knew it would be selfish to remain in a relationship just for the sake of being with a great guy. But for me, it takes more than being a great guy. I didn’t care about being alone. All I want is for my life to be aligned in the will of the Lord. Oh and don’t be deceived either, some people will pretend just to keep you from breaking up with them. You have to try the spirit by the spirit. Test their fruits to make sure they align with the walk.

    • A good word, sister! Thanks for joining the conversation. xo!

  • Emma!

    Ugh…. this is so needed. I have this guy, and we aren’t technically dating, but he likes me much more than I like him. And I thought maybe I’d like him more the deeper we got to know each other… but I was wrong. If anything it’s less. And I feel bad about this discovery and I partly feel it my fault because I can’t seem to settle for him. I just can’t seem to be content with him, and he is a good guy! Strong Christian, he wants to be a youth pastor! So that isn’t the problem. I’ve asked God to guard my heart and to give he and I clarity. I’ve also prayed for an obvious closed or open door. There is just so much, and I don’t want to make the wrong choice…..

    • Be honest with this guy, Emma! Guys need to know the bottom line. If you don’t see this going any deeper, let him know. He can handle it. You guys can talk through it and it can be a very growing time for both of you. Pray and then follow the Lord’s guidance as you speak with him. I know this is hard but God will guide you and give you the strength you need and the words to say. I’m praying for you!