when to leave a relationship

When to leave a relationship: 11 signs it’s time to move on

Sometimes the old adage “Love is blind” cannot be truer.

There comes a point in our lives when we are in so deep that we cannot see just how toxic and damaging our romantic relationships are.

But no matter how much we love someone, it’s important to draw the line between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy co-dependency.

So how do you know when to leave a relationship when you’re too deep in the trenches?

Here’s how.

Why it’s so hard to leave

Exactly why do we have such a hard time leaving a relationship, when there is obviously so little joy in it?

The answer is more than complicated.

It’s difficult for us to fail. That much is true in our relationships.

We often convince ourselves we can make any situation better, even when we can no longer control things.

According to Karyn Hall, author and certified clinician:

“Choosing to end an important relationship can be a difficult decision even when the relationship seems full of conflict and emotional pain, with little joy or support.

“You may remember how it used to be, or what you hoped for in the connection. You may also wonder if staying in a conflict-filled relationship will result in a stronger bond.

“Sometimes long-term relationships are strengthened and more intimate after a period of conflict.”

Our attachment and emotional investments hinder us from looking at our relationships objectively. We fail to see the obvious reasons why a relationship is no longer working.

Ultimately, it comes down to this:

You have to let go of something that is not adding to your life. As difficult as it may be, there’s a time when to call it quits.

11 signs you should leave your relationship

If you recognize any of these 11 signs, it might be time to consider ending your relationship.

1. Physical and/or emotional abuse

Someone who loves you will never physically or emotionally hurt you.

Couples can hurt each other by saying the wrong things or doing something the other person doesn’t like. However, if it has become a pattern of abuse, that’s another thing altogether.

You cannot excuse abusive behavior from someone who claims to love you. And yet, it is particularly hard for victims of abuse to move on from partners.

Daniel G. Saunders, Professor Emeritus of Social Work at the University of Michigan, explains:

“Leaving is often a complex process with several stages: minimizing the abuse and trying to help the abuser; coming to see the relationship as abusive and losing hope the relationship will get better; and, finally, focusing on one’s own needs for safety and sanity and fighting to overcome external obstacles.”

Experiencing any of the above is a clear sign you are in an abusive relationship and should leave immediately.

2. Cheating

If you are in a monogamous relationship, cheating is absolutely unacceptable.

Cheating destroys the very foundations of a healthy relationship. When someone cheats on you, the trust, security, and openness in the relationship turn to dust.

Forgiveness can be given. And many couples successfully get over the affair. However, if you are someone who can’t handle the long and emotional process of accepting your partner back, staying is just not worth it.

According to breakup coach Chelsea Leigh Trescott:

“Even when your relationship feels solid, the past has proven to you there’s absolutely zero guarantees that you know what’s really going on.

“For those who saw no signs, and even in retrospect can’t see where they could have done anything differently, staying in a relationship with someone who has cheated will be like handing your heart over blindly to someone you know can’t handle you with care.

As a result, it’s unlikely that the person who was cheated on will ever feel safe, compassionate, or confident moving forward if they were blindsided by the experience.”

Remember, cheating doesn’t have to be physical, it can also be emotional. The hurt, either way, is something you should not tolerate.

3. No sense of purpose

We all need to live meaningful lives and to dedicate ourselves to the people we care about.

I know this because I’ve recently helped create an online course on taking responsibility for our lives. What we teach is the importance of having a sense of purpose and taking action every day towards it.

I think having a sense of purpose is incredibly important in a healthy relationship. On the flip side, when you don’t have a sense of purpose, then it could be time to leave a relationship.

A sense of purpose is especially important for men.

Conventional wisdom says that men only fall for exceptional women maybe she has an incredible personality or is a firecracker in bed. That we love someone for who they are.

However, I think this way of thinking is dead wrong.

Men care less about the attributes of a woman than they do about how the relationship makes him feel about himself.

Does the relationship provide him a sense of pride and purpose? Does it fit within his identity… the way he wants to see himself as a man?

That’s what the hero instinct is all about. This is a new concept by relationship expert James Bauer that’s generating a lot of buzz at the moment.

Men have a biological drive to feel needed, to feel essential, and to provide for the woman he cares about.

The hero instinct speaks to the built in desire men posses for something in life that goes beyond sex and even love.

For a relationship to be successful, it must give men a sense of meaning and purpose. That you genuinely want and need to have him around. Not as a mere accessory, ‘best friend’, or ‘partner in crime’.

How do you trigger the instinct in your man? And give him the sense of purpose he craves?

The best place to start is to watch this free video by relationship psychologist James Bauer. You can watch the video here.

James reveals the exact phrases you can say, texts you can send, and little requests you can make to trigger his hero instinct.

By triggering this instinct, he’ll immediately see you in a whole new light. Because you’ll be unlocking a version of himself he’s always longed for.

Here’s a link to his free video again.

4. Deceit

White lies are one thing, but deliberately deceiving your partner is a serious offense.

Like cheating, lies break trust. If your partner has lied to you about something significant or has continuously lied to you about a number of things, you should start reconsidering your relationship.

Pathological liars are particularly harmful partners. Prolonged exposure to lies and gaslighting can make the sanest person turn crazy.

As psychotherapist Robert Weiss explains:

“The most disturbing thing about gaslighting is that even emotionally healthy people are vulnerable.

“In part, this is because we naturally tend to defend, excuse, and overlook concerns about the behavior of people to whom we are deeply attached. In larger part, it’s because gaslighting starts slowly and builds gradually over time.”

“As the cheating or the addiction (or whatever else it is that the liar is trying to cover up) escalates, the fabrications also escalate.”

You have to consider what kind of lies you can forgive and what lies are absolute deal breakers.

5. Addiction

Helping your loved one through a tough time in their life is your responsibility as a partner.

However, addiction is cause enough to leave if your partner refuses to change or has repeatedly proven that they are incapable of getting better.

Psychotherapist Sharon Martin advises:

“I know from my personal and professional experience that relationships can survive addiction and become healthy.

“But I also know that codependents often stick around long after change is likely.

“Please remember that you didn’t cause your loved one’s addiction and you can’t fix it. It’s not about whether she loves you enough to quit or about what you did wrong or what else you can try. Sometimes you need to save yourself before you go down with the sinking ship.”

6. Lack of respect

Mutual respect is another essential aspect of a healthy relationship.

Being continually disrespected is something you should never tolerate, especially from someone who professed to love and care for you.

If someone doesn’t respect you, it means they don’t value you. It means every decision they make will revolve around their own happiness, not yours. 

How can you be with someone who doesn’t value your beliefs, emotions, and love?

To answer simply:

You can’t.

7. Emotional distance

Are you growing apart?

Do you feel a significant amount of emotional distance from your partner, despite working through your issues?

At some point, you have to give up and admit that you’ve done what you could and call it quits.

Sometimes couples just drift apart and can’t find their way back into each other.

Miscommunication, resentment, and many more micro-problems can pile up without being properly addressed. And they could all become the big elephant in the room.

According to psychologist and marriage counselor Randi Gunther:

“Perhaps these warning signs could have been addressed earlier and the relationship would still have had the vitality needed to reconfigure it. But many couples, with the best of effort and intentions, have been unable to stop themselves from destroying the love that was once there.

“If they have tried their best for as long as they were able, and still found themselves unable to triumph over their relationship heartbreaks, they must leave one another with respect and gratitude, and take the lessons learned as sacred bounty to use them in their next relationship.”

8. Prolonged unhappiness

It’s true that a relationship isn’t always rainbows and sunshine. But if you find yourself more sad than happy, then there’s seriously something wrong.

A relationship should add something to your lifebe it color, passion, growth, motivation, or all of it. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Gunther explains:

“On the surface, it may seem a magically compatible, quietly successful union, but the lack of excitement and energy observed can be a powerful warning sign that there is trouble brewing.

“There are no surprises, no challenges, and no growth. If their passive behavior is confined to the relationship, they will eventually have little to say to each other, and even lessened passion. If they are getting their needs for transformation elsewhere, the contradiction between their behavior within and outside of the relationship will eventually erase one or the other.”

9. You’re scared of being single.

Are you only staying because you’re scared of being single?

You should never settle for a relationship. Period.

A set of studies published in the American Psychological Association found that people who are scared of being single tend to end up in unsatisfying relationships. What’s worse, is that they actually pursue relationships they know won’t make them happy, just because they’re afraid of being alone.

The studies also found that people who “settled” are just as lonely and as unhappy as single people, which means that it doesn’t really make a differenceonly that they’re wasting their time and efforts.

Don’t be one of those people who waste years of their lives being in an unhappy relationship just because you’re scared of being alone. In the end, it’s just not worth it.

10. Co-dependency

Relationships should have balance. After all, it involves two people who are able to compromise, respect, and listen to each other.

An unbalanced relationship, where one partner gives more than the other, is not healthy or normal at all. A relationship isn’t a dictatorship where one must lead and one must follow. It’s supposed to be a team of two people growing together.

Co-dependency is a dangerous thing.

According to Dr. Adithya Cattamanchi, a person who suffers from codependency:

  • Find no satisfaction or happiness in life outside of doing things for the other person.
  • Stay in the relationship even if they are aware that their partner does hurtful things.
  • Do anything to please and satisfy their enabler no matter what the expense to themselves.
  • Feel constant anxiety about their relationship due to their desire to always be making the other person happy.
  • Use all their time and energy to give their partner everything they ask for.
  • Feel guilty about thinking of themselves in the relationship and will not express any personal needs or desires.
  • Ignore their own morals or conscience to do what the other person wants.

If you recognize yourself or your partner in some of the above, it’s time to reevaluate if you the codependency can be fixed or if you should continue being in such a toxic relationship.

11. High demands, low gains.

Are you or your partner expecting too much from each other? To the point that you’re obstructing each other’s life goals?

People who are healthy and loving relationships don’t make unnecessary demands that would hinder their partner’s growth and success.

In fact, relationships should nurture individual growth and happiness, not take away from it.

If you notice that you keep putting important life goals on the back burner to maintain the relationship, it’s time to think things over.

What if you once had a great relationship?

The simple truth is that some relationships are worth persevering with.

And not all break ups need to be permanent. If you’ve already broken up, there are some situations where this can be reversed and you can get back with your ex.

I only ever recommend this when:

  • You’re still compatible
  • You didn’t break up because of violence, toxic behavior or incompatible values.

If this is you, then you should at least consider getting back with your ex. True love is extremely hard to find and if you are still in love with them then your best option may be to get back together.

But how?

You need a plan of attack to win them back.

I’ve recently come across someone who specializes in helping men and women get their exes back. Although there are a lot of self proclaimed “gurus” who claim to offer this solution, none are as authentic or popular as relationship coach Brad Browning.

He runs a popular YouTube channel with around half a million subscribers, where he dispenses practical advice on how to reverse break ups and improve romantic relationships.

I first learned about him after watching one of his videos.

If you want to get your ex back, check out his free online video here. Brad gives away some free tips you can use immediately to win them over.

A few months ago I read an eye-opening claim from a relationship psychologist: that over 90% of all relationships can be salvaged. While you may think that number is unreasonably high, I tend to think it’s on the money.

Over the past few years, I’ve been in contact with countless Ideapod readers who are happily back with their ex. And getting back together was the best thing they did.

These couples broke up for relatively trivial reasons or because of circumstances out of their control. None of their relationships were the toxic ones I mentioned above.

Here’s a link to Brad’s free video again. If you want an action plan to get back with your ex, then Brad will give you one that will work,

How to properly break up with someone

If breaking up is the right way forward for you, you’ll find it’s a complicated and often nasty task. However, what people actually don’t realize is that many of the complications can be avoided if the breakup is done right.

You need to do it with the least amount of damage as possible. Not only will it make the task easier, but it will help both partners move on better as well.

Here are some simple but effective tips on how to break up with someone:

Be objective when making the decision

Making the decision to end a relationship while being so emotional is a big mistake. It’s not easy, but try to be objective about it first.

According to certified clinician Karyn Hall:

“When you are emotional, it’s harder to problem solve or even consider solutions to difficult issues. All relationships have issues to work out. In the moment, you may view a problem as unsolvable or unacceptable when that is not actually the case. “

Follow through your decision

Don’t add any more drama to the whole thing and change your mind at the last minute. This is why you need to think things through before you break up.

Once you’ve made the choice, stick to it.

According to dating and relationship expert Bernardo Mendez:

“Often times we feel like we have to decide between two bad choices. But remember that there’s always a middle third choice if you’re willing to dig deep.

Moving forward doesn’t have to wait until you have a perfect plan, because let’s face it — there’s no perfect plan nor a perfect time to do this. Breathe, move and connect to the vision of the future that you want. From this emotional space, you can then have a conversation with your partner.”

Have a good support system

Now is the time to depend on friends and loved ones. You can’t go through this alone, and you can’t go through this with your partner.

This means that you have to establish a good support system. Surround yourself with the people who love and uplift you, not people who urge you to make stupid mistakes.

Mendez advises:

“This support group can include friends, family, coaches, therapists or anyone who can safely hold a higher vision for you as you navigate through this difficult change. It’s important to be specific with them about what you need in terms of accountability, connection and heart-space.”

Confession of an emotionally unavailable man

Navigating love and relationships is part of the challenges life gives us.

We make mistakes, that’s inevitable. But we have to learn from them.

I know this because I’ve been an emotionally unavailable man my whole life. My video above reveals more about this.

And learning about the hero instinct has made it crystal clear why I’m like this.

It’s not often that a mirror gets held up to my lifetime of relationship failure. But that’s what happened when I discovered the hero instinct. I ended up learning more about myself than I bargained for.

I’m 39. I’m single. And yes, I’m still looking for love.

After watching James Bauer’s video and reading his book, I realize that I’ve always been emotionally unavailable because the hero instinct was never triggered in me.

Watch James’ free video here for yourself.

My relationships with women involved everything from ‘best friends with benefits’ to being ‘partners in crime’.

In hindsight, I’ve always needed more. I needed to feel that I was the rock in a relationship. Like I was providing something to my partner that no one else could.

Learning about the hero instinct was my “aha” moment.

For years, I wasn’t able to put a finger on why I would get cold feet, struggle to open up to women, and fully commit to a relationship.

Now I know exactly why I’ve been single most of my adult life.

Because when the hero instinct isn’t triggered, men are unlikely to commit to a relationship and forge a deep connection with you. I never could with the women I was with.

To learn more about this fascinating new concept in relationship psychology, watch this video here.

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Genefe Navilon

Genefe Navilon

Genefe Navilon is a writer, poet, and blogger. She graduated with a degree in Mass Communications at the University of San Jose Recoletos. Her poetry blog, Letters To The Sea, currently has 18,000 followers. Her work has been published in different websites and poetry book anthologies. She divides her time between traveling, writing, and working on her debut poetry book.

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