When You Need To Walk Away From A Relationship? 11 Signs That Indicate It’s Time

Love and Romance | | , Researcher & Content Writer
Updated On: August 3, 2023
when to walk away from a relationship

A lot has been said and written about falling in love but seldom do we know how to unlove someone. It can get very confusing to understand when to walk away from a relationship. All couples have their conflicts but how does one know if those problems warrant giving up on your partner?

It is not easy to call it quits on someone who means the world to you. Falling in love can make you blind to the red flags and you may be in denial about how your relationship is doing you more harm than good. This is why walking away from someone you love becomes an act that you may not necessarily want but something that you definitely need.

Since the toxicity in your relationship eventually becomes the “normal” that you get used to, since there’s no real rulebook that signifies what makes a relationship healthy and what doesn’t, it gets difficult to ascertain when to walk away from a relationship. That’s why we’re here to help. Let’s take a look at the signs it’s time to walk away from a relationship, how you can do that, and why it’s okay to do it.

Is It Okay To Walk Away From A Relationship?

“I’ve invested so much time into this relationship with Jenine. Plus, I can’t get myself to hurt her like that, even though this relationship always makes me feel worse about myself.” What you’ve just read are two very bad reasons that Mark gave his friends for choosing to stay in his relationship. Thankfully, however, he realized that walking away from someone who doesn’t value you is almost a necessity for your own mental well-being.

Though it may seem hard and you may feel like you’re better off clinging to the hope that things will get better one day, walking away from a man you love, or a woman, is absolutely okay. Once you’ve been in a relationship for a while, you may feel you’re now bound to make it work somehow due to the time you’ve invested and all the promises you’ve made.

Some believe that the toxic relationship will one day magically get better, or that they somehow “deserve” to be in a bad relationship. Such thoughts are the reason why people keep wondering, “Is it time to walk away?”, but never take any action.

Walking away from a relationship is absolutely okay if you think that that’s truly the best thing you can do for yourself. You don’t owe it to anyone to spend your life in misery, just because you were once in love. If you think leaving is in your best interest, leave. Even if you’re walking away from a relationship you wanted to work out, it’s okay as long as you believe in your reasons for ending it. Perhaps the relationship was damaging your career or your mental health, or it just wasn’t the right fit.

However, the tricky part often is trying to figure out when to walk away from a relationship. At what point can you truly say that leaving is in your best interest? Is the relationship actually toxic or are you blowing things out of proportion? Instead of trying to figure out how to walk away from a relationship when you still love them, should you be figuring out how to fix the kinks in your dynamic?

Since the question, “When is it time to walk away from a relationship?”, isn’t the easiest one to answer, let’s help you out with that. After all, you don’t want to be questioning your decision of ending things, dreaming about all the what-ifs, a decade down the road.

11 Signs To Know When To Walk Away From A Relationship

As human beings, we resist change because uncertainty makes us feel uncomfortable. This is the reason we stay in relationships even when we have fallen out of love because we don’t want to face the grief that comes with the act of letting go. Or, we mistake love to be something that has to be painful, and even if the relationship causes trauma, we don’t quit it in the name of love. 

So it becomes important to draw the line between what is love and what is not. Believe it or not, walking away from a relationship can sometimes be as cathartic as quitting a bad habit like smoking. So, here are some clear signs that can aid in knowing when to walk away.

Related Reading: 12 Tips To End A Toxic Relationship With Dignity

1. Walking away from someone you love who is abusive

Physical, mental, sexual, verbal, or/and emotional abuse are all signs you should stay away from someone. If you are not treated well, it can hamper your relationship with your own self in multiple ways. You may not just lose your sense of self-esteem but also end up damaging your mental health.

If there is a lack of mutual respect in your relationship and you both don’t make each other feel good about yourselves, it is a clear sign that your bond is unhealthy. And trust us, the power of walking away from a relationship is such that as soon as you distance yourself from it, you’ll realize the harm that was done to you for the entirety of your relationship.

knowing when to walk away
Any form of physical, verbal or emotional abuse is a major red flag

2. When to walk away from a relationship? When you feel suffocated

If the idea of commitment feels like a burden to you and you feel stifled by an over-possessive partner, it is better to walk away from him/her. A little jealousy and possessiveness are natural but if your partner tries to control every aspect of your life, then it is extremely unhealthy.

If they keep asking for your passwords and are constantly jealous when you hang out with people other than them, you are in a dominating relationship. It’s one of the clearest signs it’s time to walk away from a relationship.

3. When to walk away from a relationship? Look for the red flag of gaslighting

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse where a person makes you question your own reality. If your partner manipulates you into believing that you are oversensitive or overreacting every time you try to show them your true feelings, they are gaslighting you. Gaslighting can affect you in several ways, from anxiety to not being able to trust yourself anymore. It will lead to trust issues with not just your partner but with your own self too. 

Speaking on the subject, counseling psychologist and therapist Neha Anand told Bonobology, “People underestimate the repercussions of such manipulation. Gaslighting in relationships has a very long-lasting effect. And no one knows how to resolve these issues – What can be done with the emotional baggage? How do you recover from an unhealthy relationship? Because it hasn’t just changed your views on dating, partnership, etc, your self-image has undergone a (negative) makeover.”

Though it may not sound as sinister as it is, gaslighting phrases like, “Stop overreacting! You’re just crazy”, can end up making you question your own thought process. If you’re experiencing this damaging emotional phenomenon in your dynamic, it’s a clear sign that you must walk away from a man or a woman you love.

Related Reading: Gaslighting In Relationships – 7 Expert Tips To Identify And 5 Ways To End It

4. You feel lost and numb often

A toxic relationship can make you lose touch with your original self. If you constantly have this feeling that you don’t recognize yourself anymore, then that is a huge red flag. The purpose of love is to uplift you and change you into a better version of yourself. If constant fights degrade your performance in your career and you regularly feel disheartened and sad, it’s a sign that this relationship is not serving your growth. Walking away from a relationship becomes a must when you are not evolving in it.

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5. Walk away from someone you love who is obsessive and addictive

Codependency is very different from depending on your partner for your happiness. In obsessive relationships, there is no concept of personal space and partners cling to each other for happiness. Psychologists often compare love to drug addiction because both lead to euphoria and the release of feel-good hormones like oxytocin, adrenaline, and dopamine.

If even the thought of staying away from your partner makes you experience the dread of withdrawal that a crack addict gets at the thought of quitting drugs, you are mistaking the concept of attachment for love. Though it may seem like you’re walking away from a relationship you want to work, the cracks that come with an addictive attachment will become apparent over time. By that point, you’ll be asking yourself how to walk away from a relationship that is going nowhere.

Related Reading: 13 Warning Signs Of Being Obsessed With Someone

6. You are the only one trying to make it work

Relationships can only work if there is a two-sided effort. If only one partner is taking initiative and making plans, you are in a one-sided relationship that will leave you feeling drained and frustrated. So, if you’re wondering when to walk away from a relationship, it’s when you are being taken for granted and not being valued by your partner. In all likelihood, this lack of reciprocal effort may already have become a sore spot in your relationship. You’ve probably even pointed it out to your partner but your pleas fell on deaf ears.

7. The bad moments outnumber the good ones

You might not even realize but maybe you have just become subconsciously addicted to the highs and lows of a relationship. If you both are always fighting but you still find yourself waiting for the rare good moments, you are doing yourself gross injustice.

No relationship is all rosy but you deserve to be in one that makes you happy, at least most of the time. Psychologists say that people who have been brought up by emotionally unavailable parents subconsciously attract emotionally unavailable partners. So, it is imperative that you become aware of the role your childhood trauma plays in your choice of a partner.

If that’s too much introspection for you, just try to think about if you have more happy memories with your partner, or if you two always seem to be fighting. If it’s the latter and it seems like you’re walking on eggshells, you might need to ask yourself, “Is it time to walk away?”

8. Their actions don’t match their words

They constantly say that they love you but you don’t see it in their actions. Expressing love is no good when they act otherwise. You might see them making tall claims about how much they value you and love you, but you never see them turn down any opportunity to disrespect you and make you feel bad about yourself.

If they are constantly trying to change you into someone else and don’t love you for who you are, then know that it is a sign you should stay away from someone. The power of walking away from a relationship will make you realize that you deserve to be loved and respected for who you are.

9. When to walk away? When you both use sex to fix everything

Physical intimacy plays a key role in every relationship but using physical intimacy as a substitute for emotional intimacy is not a sign of a healthy relationship. If you are using lust to compensate for love, the time has come when you need to walk away from your relationship.

You must be able to communicate with your partner effectively. If instead of having uncomfortable conversations about what is bothering you, you resort to hot, passionate sex to resolve your fights, then you are doing it all wrong. Though it may seem like you’re trying to figure out how to walk away from a relationship when you still love them, you might just have misconstrued sexual chemistry for love. If you still want to give it a try, maybe stop resolving all your arguments in the bedroom.

10. You can’t be vulnerable with them

You must be able to show your flaws and your true self to your partner. Your partner should be that solid rock source of support on whom you can depend on your worst days and vice versa. If you are asking yourself when to walk away from a relationship, it’s when your partner seems inaccessible and unreliable to you.

If you pretend to be someone else around your partner and constantly find yourself hiding your true nature, then maybe, you are with the wrong person. You need to figure out how to start walking away from someone who doesn’t value you.

signs you should stay away from someone

11. Difference in core values

Last but not the least, if you feel that you are fundamentally different people who want really different things in life, then you should know that it’s better to walk away than to stay in a relationship that will inevitably turn unfulfilling. Being compatible with your partner is a prerequisite to building a strong bond with them even if it doesn’t seem so during the heady, can’t-keep-hands-off-each-other honeymoon phase.

Compromises can be made about smaller things but the bigger things like approach toward life, values, and goals have to be in sync. If you cannot imagine a future with them, and your friends and family also think that they are not the right fit for you, you should consider the possibility of walking away.

Related Reading: 13 Signs A Relationship Is Ending

When To Walk Away From A Relationship Quiz

If you’re still confused about the question, “When is it time to walk away from a relationship?”, you probably need to ask yourself a few questions and answer them honestly. Take a look at the following questions that we’ve listed out for you, and things might just get a bit clearer:

  • Is your physical or mental health threatened by your relationship?
  • Does your partner manipulate you?
  • Do you fight more than you agree with each other?
  • Does your relationship hamper your personal growth?
  • Do you feel scared of telling your partner about things they won’t approve of?
  • Are you always worried about a fight breaking out?
  • Do you keep things from your partner because you’re worried about how they’ll react?
  • Do you doubt your partner’s feelings for you?
  • Has your partner been unfaithful?
  • Does your relationship feature lies?
  • Do you feel like you’re taken for granted and not respected?

If you answered “yes” to most of those questions, the answer is pretty clear: you need to leave. Instead of spending your time trying to figure out how to walk away from a relationship that is going nowhere, pack your bags and get out of it as soon as possible.

Key Pointers

  • If your relationship has been hurting your mental or your physical health, it’s definitely time to walk away from it for the sake of your own safety 
  • If you’re being gaslighted, manipulated, or if you think you’re in a codependent relationship with someone, it’s a clear indication of a toxic relationship 
  • If your relationship lacks any of the basic fundamentals that every dynamic must have — trust, respect, love, support, and empathy — you should contemplate whether it’s worthwhile to invest more time into it

Knowing when to stay and fight for your togetherness and when to walk away from a relationship isn’t always easy. After all, emotions have a way of coloring your judgment. Even more so, when you’re in a relationship that’s not healthy and wholesome. If you have not been able to shake off the “something is amiss” feeling, it is the first telling indicator that you need to scratch beneath the surface and explore what your issues are. 

Chances are you’ll know that walking away from someone you love is in your best interest, and perhaps, theirs too. In case you find yourself struggling to make sense of your relationship patterns, counseling can be immensely beneficial for gaining perspective. Licensed and experienced counselors on Bonobology’s panel have helped so many people in similar situations. You too could benefit from their expertise and find the answers you’ve been looking for. 


1. Why can’t I walk away?

People often tend to overstay in relationships because they are afraid of the guilt that comes with giving up. Know that it is okay to give up on someone and that is also an option. You invest a lot of time and energy in a person, so it becomes difficult to trade all that away. Also, since you are habituated to your partner, it might be one reason you are not able to walk away.  A low sense of self-worth, an overly forgiving nature or hopes that your partner will change someday may be keeping you in a relationship, even when you know it’s toxic.

2.  Why is walking away so powerful?

It is important to know when to walk away from a relationship because dragging a relationship can sometimes be more painful than the breakup itself. Walking away from someone you love seems extremely difficult at first but once you take that call, it might be your best gift to yourself. It can begin a never-ending journey of self-discovery and self-love. Choosing yourself and your peace, happiness and mental health isn’t always easy but it is liberating. To choose your growth and liberation is powerful, and freedom lies in knowing when to walk away.

3. Will he come back if I move on?

It is your responsibility to set boundaries and not let him come back. There is a reason why it ended. If it was healthy enough, it wouldn’t have left you so confused and miserable. If you are waiting around for him to come back, have you truly moved on? Your sense of self-worth must come from inside you and not be dependent on anything external. A relationship should merely serve as a cherry on the top of the cake of an already fulfilling life and not anything more. If it’s not serving that purpose, know that these are signs you should stay away from someone.

4. How to walk away from a relationship when we still love them?

If you still love your partner but need to walk away from them, the only way to do so is by ripping the band-aid off and pulling the plug without hesitation. With your reasoning, convince yourself that this truly is the best step for you and don’t look back after you make the decision. That means, you need to establish the no-contact rule as quickly as possible and for as long as possible.

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