5 Signs It’s Time to Leave a Relationship

Knowing when to leave a relationship is easy – unless you’re the one in the relationship! It’s always easier to see when someone else should leave a relationship. When it’s you who has to decide when to leave a relationship, it’s difficult.

“When you love a man, he becomes more than a body. His physical limbs expand, and his outline recedes, vanishes. He is rich and sweet and right. He is part of the world, the atmosphere, the blue sky and the blue water.” -Gwendolyn Brooks.

In Are You a Hopeless Romantic or Just Fooling Yourself?, I describe the “sunk costs fallacy” in relationships. Basically, it means you invested a bunch of time and emotional energy with this man. Maybe you even have children with him, a mortgage, decades of entanglements that aren’t easy to walk away from.

But, sometimes walking away is the best decision – even if it’s the hardest one.

1. Your partner bullies you into doing things you don’t want to do

Does he manipulate you into going places you don’t want to go, doing things you don’t want to do, or saying things you don’t want to say? If he’s a bully to you or anyone else you love, you should leave your relationship. Controlling men refuse to accept no for an answer. They don’t respect their partners’ limits, and use aggression and manipulation to get what they want.

2. Your partner abuses you

“Bullying” is a type of abuse – and it can get far worse. If you are coping with abuse in your relationship, leaving is not an easy thing to do. If you’re being abused, it is vitally important that you tell family and friends that he treats you like that – being honest with loved ones is more important than reading articles about when to leave a relationship.

3. You suspect your partner is cheating on you

If you think he’s cheating, he probably is. Your subconscious is picking up on hints and signs that you can’t explain. Your gut instincts are smarter than you are.

4. You have no boundaries in your relationship

Have you read about relationship boundaries? Compliant partners have collapsed or nonexistent boundaries; they say “yes” to everything. Similar to “people pleasers,” compliant people have weak boundaries that let everything in. They can’t say no. Avoidant partners tend to avoid conflict. They can’t ask for help, can’t express their feelings or opinions, and use their boundaries to keep everyone out. Avoidant people tend to see their needs as bad and destructive. Non-responsive people ignore their partner’s needs. They tend to be critical and self-absorbed – and they avoid healthy emotional intimacy. A lack of boundaries isn’t necessarily a sign it’s time to leave your relationship – depending on how willing your partner is to do the work.

5. You’re suffocating in your relationship

“Intimacy overload” involves blurred boundaries. Sometimes, there is no line between two people. Intimacy overload involves too many emotional demands, too much togetherness, and too much criticism. Feelings of suffocation and control become are impossible to ignore, and neither partner is happy. Too much intimacy may be telling you when to leave a relationship.

Sometimes walking away is the only way to love yourself. Sometimes you have to leave something to make room for something better.

For more tips, read 7 Ways to Know If Your Relationship is Worth Fighting For.


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13 thoughts on “5 Signs It’s Time to Leave a Relationship”

  1. i just left a man who has no feelings towards anything only the ex wife whatever she want she gets i was put on the side for sure and the real kicker he is in denial about his feelings for ex or he really is broken so bad he is un fixable
    what he did to me it was like emotional abuse always lied he only treated me like a roomate sad how some people cant see how they are and blames me on me walking out of course if a man was over his ex wouldnt he want to marry again get it right the second time around

  2. I’m want to leave I have to find apartment to live first but I’m tired of all the lies he tells I got made at my boyfriend cause we went away and ex wife text about a Christmas gift he sent son his name was on it and to son they had to text several times he had to explain to her I know she has him by you know what but after being divorced for fourteen years this still goes on I’m not sure if it is a habit of his or he is still hung up on her or what I was his first love thirty years ago we meet up two years ago we have a great relationship otherwise but now I’m getting insurcure and think he lies even if I got upset that one time he tells me I’m the most important thing beside his kids I don’t believe anymore and now I just want to move out I do love him but I’m tired of this bs with ex wife after all these years you would think it would not but I quess he had no relationship in a while he decided to be his ex best friend he never told me how close they are and still tells me they are not but all her text she sends and now he is hiding them I went on his phone I know not good but I just wanted to know

  3. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Dear Kyle and gift,

    Thank you for being here, and sharing about how confusing it can be to know when to leave a relationship.

    From the outside looking in, it’s easy. If you aren’t being treated well, if you’re doing all the work, and if you wish your relationship was better….then I’d say it’s time to leave.

    I wrote this article for you:


    I can’t give advice, but I did share a few thoughts on leaving relationships that aren’t healthy.


  4. Hi there,

    I have been in a relationship for six months. This is a short relationship, however, it is the hardest thing I have ever done. I feel like our relationship is completely one sided. I feel like I am making all of the effort, and he makes very minimal effort. Everything is at his convenience. We see, talk, and text each other when he wants to. When we are together, he is on his phone. He constantly snaps at me for little things. I’ll text him and he’ll go hours without responding. We only do things he wants to do. I constantly feel like I am walking on egg shells around him, so I listen to his requests. He communicates nothing to me, but he expects me to be communicative. He is also a pathological liar! I went six years being single, and this is not what I signed up for. I love him, and I would love for this relationship to work, but I don’t think it will. There are good things too! He can be very sweet and affectionate. That’s about it to be honest! Is there any advice you can offer that might save this relationship or should I just give up? Thank you!

    1. Hi kyle you know what when i read it its seems you and me are the same. I experience it also. I don’t know how to know when to leave a relationship. I wait for him i fight for him i dont know until when it would be, and im always empty.

  5. Dear Mudita,

    It sounds like you have given yourself some really, really healthy advice! This is what I think you should do: follow your gut instincts, and go through with the plans you think will help you be happy and healthy.

    You already know what to do. That’s why you searched for “when to leave a relationship” — because you know that’s what you need to do.

  6. I am getting depressed abt my relationship. We have been in this relation for 5 years. For past 2 years, he has changed a lot. Everytime we have a fight he verbally abuses me. I try to end this every time bt he keeps coming back to me promising that it will nvr happn again & saying sorry. I always forgive him bcoz both of our family knows abt us & we wanted to get married. Bt now i can’t take it anymore. I want to break up with him bcoz i know my future will b in peril if i dont. Bt i still luv him & evn though i blockd his calls bt in my mind i keep thinking that he will b sorry & will actually nvr do it again & evrythng will b alrite. Plz tell me wat to do? I m really deprssd.

  7. Dear Kevin,

    Thank you for being here, and sharing your experience. It’s so disappointing and heartbreaking to be in premarital counseling, and have your relationship fall apart. You’re excited about your future together and about getting married…and the last thing you expect is for your fiancee to leave. It’s unexpected, and blindsides you. You knew you had issues to work out, but you thought you were on the road to communicating better.

    Of course we want our loved ones to change when they’re hurting our relationship…but we can’t expect it. We can’t push them to change, or even encourage them to change. All we can do is love them with all our hearts. How we communicate our hurt or hope with them depends on the issue and our partner – and taking a marriage course or premarital counseling is an excellent first step.

    But as you know, counseling or courses do not in any way guarantee a healthy relationship. In fact, counseling or courses can in fact put more stress on a relationship, and cause it to break down. The healthiest thing to do in this case is let your loved one go. Acceptance.

    Give the gift of freedom to both yourself and your partner. She can’t be married to you right now. Maybe she’ll be ready in the future, but you can’t change her. Pushing her to change is just pushing her away.

    I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers, that you’re able to heal and see your fiancee with clarity and forgiveness.


  8. Laurie,

    I was engaged to a woman with whom I dated for 3 years. We were in pre-marital counseling because of issues we were having regarding communication and getting on the same page with parenting.

    We had done our histories and it was time to start talking about the issues, but she cancelled the appointment saying there were other things she need to do. The week of Christmas she had a melt down emotionally which our counselors said I couldn’t have stopped and wasn’t my fault. We ended up getting into an argument and she broke off the engagement.

    How can you not want someone to change when what they do is hurting the relationship? And how do you tell them they are hurting the relationship?

    I later came to find out that she is love avoidant or counter dependent.

    Now she hates me and wants nothing to do with me and it’s killing me.


  9. Dear M,

    Has anything changed in the past couple of weeks, since you commented here? I’m sorry I haven’t replied sooner – Christmas and the New Year got the better of me!

    Do you still feel the same way about your boyfriend, and are you still thinking about leaving your relationship?

  10. Hi Laurie,

    I have visited your site often recently and I truly appreciate what you have taken the time to build. I am currently going through an upheaval in my relationship where I may lose my boyfriend and I can’t make up my mind. I know I love him, we have fun together and enjoy each other’s company. It’s easy to be with him; he’s not just my boyfriend but my best friend.

    I’m a people pleaser. I hate saying no to him, even if it’s as simple as what to eat. I have also let the boundaries of the relationship blur. If I’m out of town for any reason, I am constantly bombarded by messages of “I miss you and wish you were here.” While I enjoy being with him, I also need a break from time to time.

    My problem is that I have not been honest with him about our relationship throughout these past weeks. I harbor secrets because I’m either afraid he will find out or just because I want to keep something for myself. I haven’t cheated or found someone else, it’s not about that. I don’t like the person I’m turning into. I despise lying, and that’s precisely what I’ve become. I know I should talk to someone, but I don’t know where to turn. I just feel so lost.

  11. Dear sbg,

    If you don’t feel like he loves you, then he probably doesn’t. I’m sorry to say it, but you have to be honest with yourself!

    I think you know deep in your heart that doesn’t love you. And, you know when to leave a relationship — otherwise you wouldn’t be here.

    What should you do about this relationship? Let him go. Don’t let yourself be treated this way. Read articles about healing from a break up. Get strong.

    And, learn how to love and respect yourself. How? You make practical, tangible changes in your life. Maybe this means getting a better job, going back to school, developing your hobbies, exercising more, working on your self-esteem, or spending more time with people you respect. Maybe it means getting up early to exercise or finding out about student loans.

    Be strong, my friend. Leave the relationship and find someone who will love you the way you deserve to be loved.

    Love and blessings,

  12. i m in love wid him bt i dnt lnw he loved me or nt i never feel that he loves me or he never make me feel like his gf wt to do abt this relatnship??? plzz rply