The Toxicity Behind Your Partner Threatening To Break Up All The Time (& What You Can Do About It)

Whether it was a little spat over dishes or a huge argument about how one of your family members treats your partner, you will probably always remember a fight where your significant other threatened to break up with you. It was probably shocking and confusing, especially if they tried to act like nothing happened as soon as things cooled down.


There are many reasons why someone might claim they're throwing in the towel. Some of them could be fairly innocent, like having poor impulse control, while others may be more shady, like wanting to gain power and make you feel insecure. No matter why your partner makes this threat, it is ultimately a super toxic behavior that can damage your relationship.

Most relationships experience rocky patches on occasion. Disagreements are a totally normal part of being in a couple, but threatening to break up is not. Breaking down what is so toxic about this behavior can help you understand where your partner might be coming from and what you can do if it's happening in your relationship.

The cost of constant threats

Whether your partner slams doors and screams that they never want to see you again or quietly starts to pack their bags, threats to break up can take a toll on a relationship. That said, it's not unusual for people to think about leaving their partner sometimes. In fact, it's common for married people to consider leaving their partner on occasion.


Even though it's normal to think about breaking up sometimes, saying it out loud, especially as a threat, can bring a whole new level of tension into the relationship. It can create fear and instability, even if the threat-maker has no intentions of leaving. Prolonged periods of conflict may increase thoughts of parting ways, but doing it every time things get rough is not necessarily the best way to voice concerns. The resentment it could create in the partner on the receiving end may not be worth the damage it does.

It could reveal your partner's maturity level

If your partner threatens to break up often, it could be a clue that they aren't all that mature. Emotionally immature people tend to act on impulses rather than thinking things through. Controlling and processing their emotions might prove difficult for them, too. While being immature emotionally doesn't make someone a bad person, the behaviors that come with emotional immaturity can put a strain on your relationship.


Refusing to compromise, making important decisions without you, and getting defensive quickly, can all be signs of emotional immaturity. Common causes include childhood trauma and neglectful parents. It's possible they're handling conflict the best they know how to, even though it is dysfunctional.

If you suspect your partner is emotionally immature, you may need to find a gentle way to bring it up with them. While someone can become more mature, it can be difficult work, so it's important to look after your own emotional health while they work on theirs. 

Doubt might become your new reality

If your SO makes you feel uncertain of your relationship because they won't stop threatening to dump you, it can practically obliterate your trust, which leaves room for serious doubt to enter the relationship. For the partner who makes threats, it may mean nothing, but for the other person, it can be a major blow. A breach of trust on this level could even kick someone's fight-or-flight system into high gear. People are naturally wired for connection, so an act of emotional abandonment (like threatening to break up) can be a traumatic experience, especially for someone who has already dealt with abandonment in other relationships.


What can be even more problematic is that the more threats you are subjected to the more you may begin to doubt yourself in general, which can be detrimental to your self-esteem. Over time, being in a relationship with someone who perpetually has one foot out the door could lead to you questioning your own worth.

Trust is the foundation of a healthy relationship. However, it can be easily damaged and difficult to repair. It takes time to establish, as well as effort. Each partner should feel like they can rely on the other and know they will be there for them, especially through rough patches. Trust weakened through threats could prove to be irreparable, especially if your partner doesn't recognize the impact of what they did or take steps to fix it.


Your fights could get worse

If you want to be able to resolve conflict, you need to communicate well. Poor communication means more frustration because you don't feel understood. When one partner threatens to bolt, it can strike fear into the person who thought they had a stable relationship, and also thwart effective communication. If your partner gets hostile during conflict, makes threats, disregards your opinions, or tries to avoid discussing issues, you may have poor communication patterns. Once the possibility of breaking up is thrown into the mix, important topics may not get the attention they need or might be dropped altogether. If your partner only seems to mention breaking up when discussing certain topics, it could be a sign they are avoiding that conversation and any conflict that comes with it.


The worse your communication is, the more conflicts are likely to fester, especially when one partner is always talking about breaking up. The person who's being threatened might lash out in response to the fear these threats create. Ultimately, it could lead to the threatened partner reverting to negative behaviors like jealousy, cheating, lying, or withholding affection. Some partners could begin to withdraw from the relationship altogether and become physically and emotionally closed off. Increased moodiness, as well as criticism, could also be a result. These behaviors will, in turn, cause more issues, which means worsening conflicts and an increased likelihood of actually breaking up.

Reasons why your partner may be making threats (or giving ultimatums)

There are many reasons why your partner might threaten to break up. While it could be manipulation or abuse, it could also come from a place of deep pain. They might have abandonment issues and fear that you'll leave them first. It could be a bid for attention with the hope that you will beg them to stay. They may also do it as a wake-up call or an opportunity to improve the relationship. While a threat to leave could be due to deep-seated emotional issues, it could also be a sign that they do actually want to leave. Some may throw the idea out there because they are hiding something that they know has the potential to end the relationship.


A partner that threatens to leave might also make ultimatums often. While they can seem similar, a distinction should be made between the two. A threat is a partner saying they're done with the relationship, while an ultimatum is a partner saying they are done with the relationship if there is no change. Even though ultimatums differ from threats in that they involve conditions and often a request for change, they can still be highly damaging. Just like threats, frequent ultimatums can be used to control the other partner's behavior and can cause both partners to feel trapped and isolated.

You could be the victim of abuse

There usually isn't much ambiguity when physical abuse occurs, but emotional abuse can be difficult to pin down (especially if you grew up in an emotionally abusive family). Threat-making can be a sign of abuse and may occur with other forms of emotional abuse. If your partner regularly places blame on you, makes you feel ashamed, accuses you of things you didn't do, or criticizes you, you may be experiencing abuse.


Manipulative behaviors are often present in abusive relationships, too. Common tactics are gaslighting (where your partner dismisses things you say and tries to convince you of things that are not true) and lying. Frequent passive-aggressive behavior and love bombing can indicate manipulation, as can triangulation, which means your partner brings someone else into your arguments to back their opinions or convince you that your stance is wrong.

You may find that when you stick up for yourself, they respond poorly, possibly with more abusive behaviors. Those that struggle with substance abuse or who have a cluster B personality disorder may be more prone to these kinds of behavior. If you sense something is off in your relationship but can't put your finger on it, exploring the possibility that you're experiencing emotional abuse could be helpful.


If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support on their website.

Pause to observe patterns

If your partner is putting you on edge because they won't stop talking about breaking up, it may be helpful for you to start observing some of the things that happen leading up to these threats. Is there a specific topic you fight over that always leads to a threat? Do they do it more if they aren't getting their way? Trying to see if you can find any rhyme or reason to when or why your partner does this could clue you into their motivations and give you some direction about what to do next.


Simply making mental notes can help, but writing down what you notice can be beneficial, too. Keeping a record of arguments that lead to a breakup threat can help you keep better track of how often these threats occur, as well as the specifics of the fights that lead up to them. It can also help ensure that you remember your observations and may come in handy when discussing the issue with your partner.

Start a dialogue about the threats

After you've spent some time observing your partner's behavior, it's time to talk to them about what you've noticed. This might not be easy, especially if you're worried they'll threaten to end things during a difficult conversation, but it can be important for making progress.


When broaching a touchy subject, picking the right time and place is important. If either one of you is stressed or busy, you might have trouble opening up or really tuning into the conversation. Being mindful of their feelings is also necessary, no matter how frustrated you are with their constant threats. Discussing ways to improve can be tough and is likely to stir up some defensiveness in your partner, so being gentle about how you discuss the issue can help.

While it's good to have a goal in mind when you start this conversation, you should approach it with curiosity and openness. There's always a possibility that the talk will take a direction you weren't expecting, so being open-minded can help you be more receptive. Prioritizing listening over speaking can also help ensure that you are soaking in what your partner has to say instead of taking an opportunity to vent your frustrations.


Check in with your own negative behaviors

Relationship issues don't usually exist in a vacuum. Even though it may not be fun, it could be helpful to take some time to observe any negative behaviors of your own that could be impacting the relationship. After some reflection, you may realize that your partner is not the only one who makes threats within the relationship, or whose behavior has a detrimental impact on how you relate to each other.


If you are regularly dismissive, quick to anger, or frequently critical of your partner, it could influence negative behavior on their part. While you are not responsible for another person's behaviors or choices, ignoring your own role in your relationship's issues may cause them to get worse. If you notice that some of your behaviors keep causing problems between you and your partner, going on your own healing journey and addressing them might play a key role in resolving your issues. 

Think about what you truly want

When you have a partner who's perpetually threatening to end things, you may feel off balance. Having the constant worry of a breakup hanging over your head can cause a lot of stress and throw your inner world into chaos, which can cause you to lose sight of yourself and what you want out of a relationship. To take steps in the right direction, you may need to spend some time re-centering yourself.


If your relationship is toxic, then your judgment may be clouded in more ways than you realize. If you can, spend some time alone, away from your partner, and consider your core values and whether or not they are being respected in your relationship. Think about couples you know that you look up to and what they are doing right. Visualizing what a perfect partnership looks like may be a good way to get in touch with your values and clarify what you truly desire from a partner. After some serious consideration, you should have a better idea of what you and your relationship need to be healthy and functional.

Set firm boundaries

When you talk to your partner about why the threats to break up bother you, you should also set firm boundaries. It is essential that you communicate how much it bothers you and why it is problematic for your relationship in simple, frank terms. You also need to be clear about what the consequences might be should they make this threat again. If they violate your boundaries, then bringing it up right away is important. Letting things go won't make you easygoing, it will likely only show them that they don't have to take your feelings seriously.


Setting boundaries can be hard, especially if it is new for you and you're afraid the other person will continue to overstep them. While it can take some courage to lay down boundaries in a relationship that previously hasn't had them, it can help strengthen your relationship and your self-esteem. Also, a person who has no respect for your boundaries may not be good for you in other ways, and if you are with someone who regularly rejects or disrespects your boundaries, it may be in your best interest to cut them loose.

Seek outside help

If you're struggling to deal with conflicts on your own, getting outside help might be the best next step. When you're so stuck in your own thought patterns, you might struggle to get perspective or recognize them for what they are. A therapist can more easily see these patterns and provide you with the know-how you need to communicate with each other effectively. The more heard you both feel and the more you can stay calm during conflict, the easier it may be to get your concerns addressed without anyone resorting to threats to leave or other problematic tactics.


Having a partner that threatens to break up with you can be stressful, but it doesn't necessarily mean your relationship is doomed. As long as both of you are open to trying new things and changing how you communicate, there can be potential to improve your relationship in a meaningful way.

Know when it's actually time to break up

Even though it's hard to face, there's always the possibility that you really should part ways. Your partner may be making the threat because breaking up is on their mind for real. Even if that's not the case, constantly making threats can be a highly toxic behavior that wreaks havoc not just on the relationship but also on your mental health. Partners that make threats often display other problematic behaviors, so they could be a symptom of deeper issues that warrant breaking up. 


Besides threats, there are other signs you need to throw in the towel. If you constantly have to change the way you act around them, or if you continue to have the same fights over and over, it could mean your conflicts are not resolvable or that you are fundamentally incompatible. You also need to check in and ask yourself if you are only staying because you have already invested so much time or out of fear of being alone. If you spend more time fighting than you do enjoying each other's company, it might be time to let the relationship go for good.

Breakups can be hard, but if your partner continually makes threats, you may find staying together hard, too. Ultimately, if things have become complicated and toxic, making the choice to move on could be freeing for both of you and could create space for you to find the healthy and fulfilling relationship you deserve.