Wanting Different Things: Accepting When It’s Time To Move On

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated February 22, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Moving on can be challenging in romantic or intimate relationships, as they're often built on closeness and shared feelings over long periods. However, if you and your partner want different things that conflict with staying together, it might be time to acknowledge that moving on is the wisest course of action. Before moving on, it may help to consider what you want, how you'd like to approach things, and how to make any necessary changes. This guide explores the topic of moving on and touches on resources like online therapy that might help you cope with and eventually accept the situation you’re facing. 

Moving on isn't always easy

Is it time to move on?

"I want to break up with my partner, but I'm scared of moving on." Moving on from a relationship doesn't always go smoothly, and there's a possibility that you or the other person may get hurt. However, not moving on from an incompatible relationship may be more painful for everyone in the long run. Before moving on, it might help to consider what you want and whether this could include ending the relationship. Thinking everything through thoroughly may make the process easier as you change and improve your life. 

How to decide what you want

Many people generally believe they know what they want, but this belief might not be so straightforward. In relationships, it can sometimes be easier to see what you don't want than to recognize what you do want. You may need to learn, grow, explore, and make mistakes at times before you know what you want. There's nothing wrong with this; it's a natural part of being human. 

It's okay to not be 100% sure about what you want. That certainty often takes time and life experience – you can get there, and you deserve enough time to figure it out.

Considering what you want can help you identify if it's time to move on from your relationship or if you should try sticking it out. Knowing if you both want different things may make this transition easier. If this process is challenging, speaking with a therapist might help. 

Thinking things through

Deciding if it's time to move on might be easier if you imagine what your life might look like without this relationship. Would you be happier? Freer? Healthier? More balanced? Less stressed? If any of these apply, consider why – what about your current relationship prevents you from having those feelings?

Remember, human relationships are complex and varied, but many cultural norms present for romantic relationships are monogamous, heterosexual, and often between partners of nearly the same age. It's okay if those norms aren't what you want or need to be happy – you don't have to do what's considered average or typical.

If you developed a clear picture of your non-negotiables in a relationship before you started dating your partner, you might also want to consider these. For example, did you begin your relationship with strong feelings about faith, traditions, pet ownership, health, wellness, travel, pastimes, finances, personality traits, kids, marriage, or overall priorities? You may benefit from reevaluating that list or making one if you haven't already.

This process might help you decide if your non-negotiables fall by the wayside in this current relationship. If so, this might give you direction as you consider what needs to change for you to feel happier and more fulfilled.

If your non-negotiables are different from your partner’s needs in a way you cannot reconcile, perhaps it's time to say goodbye. This doesn't mean either of you is "wrong," simply that you want different things. Everyone's non-negotiables list is personal and revisiting yours might leave you more prepared for a future relationship that's a healthier match.

Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel

No matter who you are or what you may be going through, understand that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. If you need to move on from a relationship because you want different things or are unhappy, it doesn't mean there won't be other relationships down the road. 

You may feel sad or discouraged if it's time to move on but focusing on what you want can allow you to experience healthier, more fulfilling relationships that are conducive to your growth. Plus, your partner will have the potential for this as well. 

Communicate with the other person

When you know in your heart that it's time to move on, it's likely time to convey that to the other person in the relationship. This can be a challenging and painful experience. If your partner has also concluded that the relationship has run its course, the decision to part ways may be mutual. However, whether the decision is mutual or not, you may still experience some sadness or somberness. This is normal.

Often, when a person is told a relationship has run its course, they can begin to move on, especially if the parties want different things out of life. However, there are some instances where people do not take these conversations as well. They may become angry or extremely emotional. 

If you have concerns about how the other person might react when you tell them it's time for you to move on, consider communicating with them from a distance. This might mean talking on the phone, via email, or texting. 

What to do post-breakup


After a breakup, you might want to occupy your time as you adjust to not being with your former partner. These steps may make this time in your life easier: 

  • Find a new hobby: Investing time into a hobby can help pass the time while you wait to heal and feel more peace about the situation.
  • Lean on your loved ones: A solid support system might help you navigate post-breakup emotions. Don't be afraid to reach out to a loved one when you need extra support.
  • Write it down: Having an outlet to explore your emotions may help you decompress and heal. Try writing your feelings in a journal. 
  • Talk to a therapist: Therapy provides an unbiased, helpful party you can talk to and turn to for support. Your therapist can help you process your emotions and heal from a breakup. With online therapy, it's often easier to find time for your sessions without interrupting your schedule.  

Online therapy with BetterHelp

Knowing when it’s time to move on can be difficult to determine, particularly when your emotions are involved. Talking with a mental health professional through an online service like BetterHelp may give you more clarity. You can process your situation objectively, without judgment. At BetterHelp, you’ll be matched with a licensed therapist based on your needs and preferences. You can schedule appointments via in-app messaging, video calls, or phone calls on your time from the comfort of your home.

Online therapy can be a viable tool for managing different kinds of mental health concerns and disorders. One study found that an online-based therapeutic intervention successfully reduced participants’ symptoms of anxiety and depression. Further, researchers concluded that the online intervention was just as effective as traditional, face-to-face sessions.

Moving on isn't always easy

Counselor reviews

Below, you'll find reviews of BetterHelp counselors from people experiencing similar situations. 

"I really enjoyed my sessions with Dr. Anstadt. He helped me see how one issue was affecting multiple aspects of my life. He has greatly improve[d] my relationships with the people I'm closest to and even the way I approach work. I have seen a huge difference in my relationships already, and I have several tools to help me manage the issues I started seeking therapy for. I cannot express how thankful I am to Dr. I Anstadt!"

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"Pamela has helped me become the person who I wanted to be after my breakup. She helped me see the light in the dark, and showed me that who I am is enough."


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Regardless of where your current relationship is, you deserve a healthy relationship that brings mutual satisfaction. If you're struggling with the decision to end a relationship or the fallout of your partner's decision to end things, you're not alone. One study found that 36.5% experienced a breakup of respondents had experienced a breakup in the last 20 months and that 43% of separations resulted in moderate distress or a decline in life satisfaction. You can cope with the distress you’re experiencing in online therapy, which can be a beneficial tool as you try to move forward in life and your romantic relationships.

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