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When to leave a relationship: 10 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.

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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.

10 signs you should leave your relationship

If you recognize any of these 10 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 leave their 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.

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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. 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.

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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.

4. 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:

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“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.”

5. 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:

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You can’t.

6. 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.

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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.”

7. 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.”

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

How to properly break up with someone

Breaking up is a complicated and often nasty task. What people actually don’t realize is that many of the complications can be avoided if the breakup is done right.

If you’ve decided it’s best to end your relationship, you need to do it with as less 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.”

Know your worth

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.

Much of the pain and tragedy going forward will be avoided if you know your worth.

Having high standards for yourself, when it comes to things that truly matter, is something you are entitled to.

Deciding to leave someone who is not good for you is never easy. But you can make it simpler just by deciding what you deserve.

Hopefully, the lessons you’ve learned will take you one step closer to the love of your life.

***Do you want to be a stronger person? Do you want to stare down your challenges and overcome any obstacles? If so, check out our eBook: The Art of Resilience: A Practical Guide to Mental Toughness.

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Written by 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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