It’s never easy figuring out when to leave a relationship. After all, you went in with so many hopes and dreams, you nurtured the bond with all your love, affection, and care. It isn’t easy to just walk away from all of that when problems begin to rear their ugly head. The first few times you get a sense that you’re in an unhappy relationship, you may tell yourself it’s just a rough patch. However, it may soon turn into a pattern.
“I’m sorry, it won’t happen again.” “I never want to hurt you again.” “I’ll change, give me one more chance.” “I promise things will be different now.” These promises and reassurances fill you up with hope for a better tomorrow. You think to yourself, “Fine, one last time. I’m out if things don’t change.” But in reality, nothing does change, and you’re caught in the loop of rough patches and loft promises that never come to pass. All that these assurances do is distract you from seeing the clear signs it’s time to leave a relationship.
Needless to say, the answer to “when is it time to leave a relationship” can be different for different people. But there are certain moments when you have no choice but to let go and walk away. And no, it’s not always on account of physical, emotional, or verbal abuse. There can be myriad other situations or moments that make you question the worth of a relationship. Let’s find out what these are in consultation with clinical psychologist Prachi Vaish (M.Phil. in Clinical Psychology), who is an associate member of the American Psychological Association and a certified clinical trauma professional and therapist who specializes in dealing with issues such as divorce, extramarital affairs, abusive relationships.
What Are The Reasons To Leave A Relationship?
How to know when to leave a relationship? The reason why so many people struggle to find an answer to this question and hesitate to leave a broken relationship is that they’re not sure whether the issues they’re grappling with justify walking away. Then there is the element of hope, the promise of a better tomorrow that makes them delay the inevitable and stay stuck in bad relationships a lot longer than they should have.
“The primary reason is that we keep hoping for change (usually without actually doing anything about it). We keep feeling that with our reasoning, efforts, and entreaties, our partner will change. Accepting the contrary requires accepting that we made a bad decision in choosing this person. And this is the subconscious reason that keeps us hanging on,” says Prachi.
If you find yourself at a similar juncture and are constantly wondering, “Should I stay in this relationship or walk out?’, perhaps, it will help to ask yourself, “What is the point of being in a relationship that brings you no joy and fulfillment?” As long as you can feel it in your bones that this relationship isn’t right for you, your reasons for wanting to leave aren’t unsubstantial or fickle. Just listen to what your instinct is telling you and you’d know when to leave a relationship.
If you need more surety that you’re doing this for the right reasons, here are a few that completely justify walking away:
- No emotional fulfillment: Loving relationships are built on a deep emotional connection between partners. If that is lacking in your relationship and you constantly feel that your emotional needs are not met or worse invalidated, it’s a legitimate reason to walk away
- Complacency in the relationship: Yes, it is only natural for romantic relationships to become somewhat predictable after some time and for the excitement to fade away. However, once complacency in the relationship sets in and you and your partner take each other for granted to an extent that you no longer bother with what the other person is going through, you’re already drifting apart. It’s only a matter of time before you become strangers to one another, why prolong your misery?
- Falling in love with someone else: When is it time to leave a relationship? Well, if you or your partner has fallen in love with or feel attracted to someone else, it’s a pretty clear indicator that your relationship has run its course.
- Lack of sex: A long-term relationship goes through different phases and stages, which may include a decline in sexual intimacy. That alone isn’t an indicator that it’s time to leave. However, if you have a strong sexual desire, just not for your partner, it’s a clear sign that the love you felt for each other has run its course
- Abuse in any form: Emotional or physical abuse is another clear indicator that you need to end a relationship to protect yourself. Don’t drag your feet, wondering how to leave a bad relationship when you still love the person. Leave now and then do the work you need to to heal from the emotional wounds of an abusive relationship and get over whatever feelings you have for your partner
- Money issues: If your views on money don’t align or there is financial stress in the relationship, it can be hard to look past it. Fighting over money is a strong indicator that walking away is the right decision for you
- Toxic relationship: Figuring out when to leave a toxic relationship can be twice as hard because often both partners tend to feed off this toxicity. However, if a relationship is taking a toll on your mental health and making you feel anxious, scared, worried rather than happy, content, secure, taking action to protect yourself is the right thing to do – irrespective of how much your partner claims to love you or you think you love your partner
Related Reading: 11 Warning Signs Of A Toxic Relationship
When To Leave A Relationship – 13 Signs That Indicate It’s Time To Move On
Now that we’ve looked at the broad scenarios that tell you when to leave a relationship, let’s get into the specifics. So, there is a voice inside you telling you that your relationship doesn’t quite feel right. When it’s time to leave a relationship, a sense of disconnect begins to seep in. You may no longer feel as attached to your partner or as concerned about them as you used to.
Yet, here you are, grappling with a difficult decision, unable to act on what your instincts are telling you. Why? “People tend to repeat the same patterns of efforts to bring about change, expecting a different outcome. That obviously cannot happen. And until then, even the painful situation becomes too familiar to leave and explore the unknown,” says Prachi explaining why it is sometimes so difficult to leave someone you live with and share a life with.
But habit is not a good enough reason to stay in bad relationships. Sometimes, you may not even realize it but there are enough signs, if you pay close attention, that should prompt you to consider leaving a relationship. Read on to find out if they apply to you:
Related Reading: Relationship Advice – Top 3 Dos and Don’ts For Couples
1. The relationship is abusive
“Abuse can be verbal, emotional, or physical. It’s a HUGE red flag and there is no excuse for it,” says Prachi. If your life with your partner is one never-ending slanging match, if you are subject to taunts and demeaning comments, if your partner manipulates you emotionally to get their way, or if you have been a victim of domestic violence, it’s time to put a full stop to it.
No one should ever stay in an abusive relationship. There can be no clearer indicator than abuse if you’re wondering how to know when to leave a relationship. Even if you can early warning signs that your partner has abusive tendencies, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to consider leaving the relationship based on just your intuition. In fact, we’d encourage it. Sticking around to find out if your partner is abusive or not isn’t worth it. If you suspect it, leave.
2. Mutual respect is missing
A healthy relationship is always based on the foundation of respect. “Respect in a relationship means trusting that our partner is an adult with a mind of their own and that they know what they are doing. If there is no respect for each other as human beings, there can’t be love,” says Prachi.
Signs of lack of respect in a relationship aren’t just limited to abusive behavior or one partner humiliating the other. There can also be subtle signs you might be able to see in everyday conversations with your partner. If they disregard your opinion, are never interested in what you have to say, and keep cutting you off, it means that they don’t value who you’re as a person. Is a relationship where your identity isn’t celebrated worth staying in?
3. You have been cheated upon more than once
When is it time to leave a relationship, you ask? Well, if infidelity has been a common feature in your relationship, it doesn’t make much sense to stay on, now does it? If your partner has betrayed your trust, not just once but over and over again, it’s a clear sign that they don’t value you too much. Sure, when their transgressions come to light, they may beg for forgiveness, promise to mend their way, and offer hope for a better future.
Then, they fall back into their old patterns. Being cheated on changes you, and if these wounds are inflicted over and over again, they can cause lasting and severe emotional damage. Don’t hold yourself back because you can’t figure out how to leave a bad relationship when you still love the person. Make the difficult decision of walking away and focus on healing from the emotional trauma your partner has caused you so that you can open up your heart and mind to healthy, loving relationships in the future.
4. You can’t get past arguments
While it is true that fights and arguments happen in all relationships, if these turn chronic, the relationship can become extremely unpleasant. You may dread having difficult conversations with each other out of fear of triggering another fight, and as a result, your issues may begin to pile up. Bottled-up issues result in resentment in the relationship, which contributes to unhappiness and a sense of unfulfillment. You see where we’re going with this?
That’s why one of the indicators of when to leave a relationship is that arguments and bickering have become a central theme in your connection with your significant other. Prachi says, “An inability to resolve conflict in the relationship often points to other underlying issues such as poor communication, toxicity, and unhealthy attachment patterns. It can help to dig deep and get to the root of these issues. Even if you can no longer salvage this relationship, at least you will have the self-awareness to not repeat these patterns with future partners.”
5. The power struggle is too intense
Perhaps total equality in relationships might be a utopian idea but when there is an effort to control each other, the result is stress. “When equilibrium is replaced by a power struggle in a relationship, it inevitably leads to a battle of one-upmanship and not a real, mutual partnership,” says Prachi. The ‘weaker’ person feels suffocated and shortchanged.
A loving relationship is about mutual respect, trust, and care. Who has the upper hand should never matter. Your relationship shouldn’t feel like a constant battle to establish dominance. And if it is, that’s when it’s time to leave a relationship.
Related Reading: Why Is It So Hard To Let Go, Even If The Person Doesn’t Love You?
6. Making derogatory remarks about your partner
Lack of respect is often reflected in the snarky remarks and insults that partners trade at each other. “Body shaming the partner, saying things like, “I’d find you more attractive if you lose weight”, criticizing and mocking their choices, their profession, ridiculing how they look or what their friends are, and so on, are signs that it’s time to leave a relationship,” says Prachi.
When your self-respect is being annihilated in the name of love, how to get the strength to leave someone you love shouldn’t even be a question worth considering. If it were a friend telling you about the derogatory remarks their partner makes about them, you’d tell them to end the relationship as soon as possible! Show yourself the same kindness and focus on moving forward, toward a better future.
7. You are subjected to gaslighting
Gaslighting is a subtle form of abuse when one person denies the reality of the partner by calling them crazy or by implying that the latter always makes a big deal out of nothing. “Gaslighting can take many forms. Making a person question their decisions or attacking their self-worth are also examples of gaslighting. And it can be extremely damaging to the emotional well-being of the person at the receiving end. It should be one of the non-negotiable deal-breakers in a relationship as soon as the victim realizes what they’re being put through,” says Prachi.
Gaslighting can end up making you doubt your own decisions/doubt your recollection of events. No one should have the power to make you question your own thoughts and ability to make decisions for yourself. Psychological manipulation of this kind should have no place in relationships. If you have been a victim of gaslighting, recognizing it is the first step you can take toward liberating yourself from a relationship where your agency has been constantly denied. Once you do, the way to moving forward will become clearer.
8. When your partner tries to change you
Consciously or subconsciously, we try to influence our partners. Change is good, especially if it is making you a better person or helping you inculcate better habits or lifestyle. However, when your partner tries to change who you’re at your core or has a negative influence on you, it can have devastating effects in the long-term.
If your partner wishes to change you, it simply means they’re looking for something they can’t find in you. That indicates that you may not be compatible with each other. This, in itself, should be enough for you to know when to leave a relationship. Besides, if you try to change yourself at your partner’s behest, you will be ill at ease with yourself. How can you be happy when you aren’t at peace with who you are? And what’s the point of being in a relationship where you can neither be your authentic self nor find happiness?
Related Reading: When Acceptance, Love And Respect Is Lost In A Relationship
9. Your partner doesn’t accept your children or pets
Successful romantic partnerships are built on total and complete acceptance of every aspect of each other’s lives – the good, bad, and ugly. If your partner fails to do that, can they really be right for you? A selfish partner may tell you a couple of months into the relationship that they’re not okay with a few aspects of your life you can’t change.
To leave someone you love but is not good for you is never easy, but if your partner does not support aspects of your life that are important to you, say, your loved ones – children, parents, or pets – or your responsibilities toward then, then the choice becomes rather simple.
10. Your goals don’t align
Figuring out when to end a relationship can become that much harder and heartbreaking when none of the above-mentioned red flags apply to your situation. It’s entirely possible that there may not be anything wrong with you or your partner and yet you may not be right for each other because your goals don’t align. You might just be two very different people who despite all their love for each other cannot find common ground to build a life on.
Maybe you want different things in life and there is no way you can find a middle ground. It is futile to sacrifice your ambitions or goals for the sake of the relationship because it will only make you resent each other further down the line. Or it may be a right person at the wrong time situation, which can be a lot more hurtful than falling in love with someone you’re not compatible with. In such cases, leaving someone you love for their own good might be the right, albeit painful, thing to do!
11. Your core values and outlook toward life are different
Opposites don’t always attract. More often than not, shared values and attitudes are the basis of a solid relationship. When two people do not see eye to eye on important matters and life choices – religion, money, and children, to name a few – it becomes difficult to take on the journey of life as partners. Such relationships often come with an expiration date.
It’s extremely vital to know when to leave a relationship that has no future. It’s best to do it before either partner becomes too emotionally invested. Breaking up with someone you love without hurting them is difficult, but if you two have extremely different outlooks, you will eventually end up hurting each other drastically. It’s best to rip the band-aid off and not delay the inevitable.
Related Reading: How To Get Out Of A Controlling Relationship – 8 Ways To Break Free
12. Your memories and experiences are bad
How do you feel when you think about your partner? Does the thought of them bring feelings of joy, satisfaction, and contentment? Or do you feel scared, anxious, or worried? A relationship should make you feel secure, loved, and content. You should be able to look back fondly on the times you’ve had together and the “remember when” conversations should flow naturally.
If that’s not the case with you, chances are it’s because the bad experiences and memories far outweigh the good ones. Perhaps, you’re hanging on the hope that things will get better. But if they haven’t so far, what gives you a reason to believe that it’ll be any different in the future? An unhappy past and an uncertain future are very clear indicators of when to end a relationship.
13. Your reason for staying is that being single scares you
Many people are scared of leaving a relationship, however bad or unhealthy it might be because they can’t bear the thought of being alone. Staying in an unhappy relationship because you don’t know how to be on your own is a terrible reason to put up with misery. Have the courage to walk out.
- Knowing when to leave a relationship can be hard, especially when you have been together a long time and are too emotionally invested in your partner
- Abuse, manipulation, lack of respect, infidelity, complacency are some of the clear indicators that you need to walk away
- However, the indicators that it’s time to end a relationship aren’t always so strong and on the nose; sometimes factors like different life choices and goals can also get in the way of your future as a couple
- More often than not, you know when it’s time to leave a relationship. Don’t ignore that tiny voice in your head and you’ll know just what you need to do
While it must be said that a person should make all efforts to make a relationship work, if a part of you is constantly wondering how to know when to leave a relationship, then writing is pretty much on the wall. You’d be better off walking away from your partner than staying trapped in the loop of giving each other “one last chance”.
It is hard to leave a relationship because of the emotions and efforts invested in it. At times, you may also feel scared and vulnerable to be alone and might feel it is better to stay in a relationship than be single. To accept that you need to leave a relationship is a hard pill to swallow since it also means you have to accept you made a mistake by getting into the relationship.
When there is no love left in the relationship, when there is serial betrayal, when your core values are different, when you drift apart and when you feel your relationship is giving you more pain than joy, it is time to break up.
Ending a relationship with someone you love is never easy but if you’re not happy in it and constantly feel undermined, you must make up your mind and leave your partner.
Yes. Sometimes, you do not leave someone because you stop loving them, you need to leave them because you may have outgrown each other or may want different things from life. Breaking up with someone you love and live with won’t be easy but if your mental health is being negatively affected, you should leave the relationship despite how much you think you love this person.
It would be difficult to leave someone you share a life with. You may need to approach it delicately. Also, you need to have made your exit plan well with regards to how you are going to move out, the modalities of such a move, and how it’s going to impact your life.