We may know we need to do it, but why is breaking up so hard to do?

- It's not unusual for two people to have very different views on the state of their relationship. They may not be in the same place emotionally or simply refuse to accept that it's over. Indeed one person may feel everything's fine and not even notice the cues that their partner's restless and wanting to move on. Breaking up can be tough when we know the other person cares so much and is hanging on. Few of us want to be responsible for someone else's pain, especially when they were once such an important part of our lives.

- Investment, both emotionally and financially can influence the decision to break up. Children are often a serious consideration - how disruptive will a breakup be, how much will it impact on their stability and wellbeing? Bigger family implications can also factor; disappointing others, damaging the status quo. Equally, finances can be the reason couples stay together. Splitting the household, sorting out a settlement, agreeing custody as well as facing a large legal bill can be enough to deter some couples from breaking up.

- Secrets can be a huge part of our relationship. Letting someone know our innermost thoughts, fears and concerns, maybe disclosing past mistakes and indiscretions can make us vulnerable. There may be unease as to the aftermath of breaking up; how safe will those secrets be? Taking that risk as well as the prospect of starting the whole process again with someone new can prompt serious consideration.

- 'Perhaps I won't find someone else/better/who'll put up with me.' We can sometimes put off ending our relationship out of concern that the grass isn't always greener elsewhere. 'Better the devil I know' can keep us in a relationship which is increasingly more and more of a compromise.

- Might it be recoverable if we both try again? Relationship counselling can play a valuable role in helping improve communications and become better able to see each other's point of view. Trying again can include becoming calmer, taking things less personally and avoiding saying and doing hurtful things. It encompasses learning to stop reacting because you're feeling upset or wounded. But relationship counselling can also help facilitate the process of breaking up, especially when children are involved. Remember, you loved each other once.

Susan Leigh