11 Undeniable Signs It’s Time To Let Go Of A Relationship

Having a high-quality, intimate, authentic, emotionally mature, and healthy relationship with a romantic partner should be a high priority for all of us.

But as you've likely learned, love relationships are complicated and messy.

Sometimes you can clean up the mess and move on happily, but there are times you need to learn how to let go of a relationship.

Of course, it's important to try to heal the relationship problem before letting go of love.

Maybe your mantra has always been, “We can work it out.”

But sometimes, “working it out” means acquiescing, stuffing your true feelings, or tolerating things that deep inside you don't want to tolerate.

The pain of dissonance, differences, and responding inauthentically will eventually outweigh your desire to keep “working it out.”

Knowing how to end the relationship is one thing, but one of the most difficult stages of the process is knowing when it's time to cut the cord.

Let's go over some of the best ways to know for sure.

11 Signs It's Time to Let Go of a Relationship

Letting go of someone you love is painful — even if it is draining you, holding you back, blinding you to your true self, or worse yet, toxic or abusive.

The decision threshold is different for every individual. And certainly, the type of relationship can set the threshold. It is harder to let go of a marriage relationship that involves children than it is a short-term love affair.

However, there are some universal themes of discord in any relationship that lead to the realization it's time to say goodbye.

Here are some of the signs:

1. Verbal, Emotional, or Physical Abuse

Whether it's a spouse or love partner, if someone is abusing you in some way — through physical actions, psychological games, or consistently cruel words — it's time to let them go.

In many cases of abuse, the emotional abuser has whittled away at the self-esteem and confidence of the abused, making it much more difficult for the verbally abused person to leave.

Especially in a marital context, letting go of someone you love who hurts you is a complex situation that usually requires the intervention and support of a trained counselor.

couple talking, how to let go of a relationship

But unless the victim leaves the relationship, he or she will continue to be fearful, full of self-doubt, and constantly anxious and stressed.

And as long as you remain in an abusive relationship, the abuser will continue his or her bad behavior.

2. Consistent Dishonesty, Disloyalty, or Deceit

Most love relationships can survive the occasional incident of lying or dishonest behavior. Even some marriages can survive a one-time affair with counseling and healing.

But consistent, repetitive instances of dishonesty or disloyalty suggest the person involved has an issue of character and integrity that cannot be overcome.

If you've addressed this issue many times and the behavior continues, you will not be true to yourself and your own integrity to remain connected to your partner.

No matter how many positive qualities he or she may have, consistent deceit will chip away at your respect for them and for yourself.

3. Divergent Core Values

If you and your loved one have wildly differing core values on your most important life principles, you simply will not have a peaceful and mutually supportive relationship.

Some less intimate relationships (like a friendship) can handle this, especially if each person is respectful of the other's values and life decisions around those values.

But for romantic relationships where the two people impact each other on a daily basis, finding a middle ground for making decisions, choosing a lifestyle, raising children, managing money, making business decisions, etc., can be impossible.

It requires one or both people to compromise in areas where they simply can't or shouldn't compromise.

4. General Relationship Toxicity

There are some relationships where you and your significant other simply clash. You are like oil and water. There's something about the other person that brings out the worst in you and vice versa.

Things between you have never been quite right, but you've hung on because you feel bad about letting go.

There's a general air of toxicity and discord about the relationship that hangs around despite your best efforts to “make it work.”

For your own peace of mind, it's best to step back from a toxic relationship and admit it simply wasn't meant to be.

5. Consistent Irresponsibility

If you're in a relationship or marriage with someone who's consistently irresponsible, it will eventually undermine your love and respect for this person.

If his or her irresponsible actions relate to finances, life obligations, or raising children together, you will be directly impacted in detrimental ways.

No matter how much you care for this person, eventually, you can no longer tolerate their unwillingness or inability to step up to the plate and maturely handle their responsibilities.

You simply can't allow one person to undermine the other fundamental parts of your life.

6. Refusal to Communicate, Address Problems, or Invest

Some partners in a relationship are unwilling to communicate, address difficulties, or actively work on the relationship.

They allow it to languish, or worse, actively resist any attempt you might make to work on improving the relationship.

They find it too painful or complicated to communicate openly, or they simply haven't learned the skills of healthy communication.

Or perhaps they aren't invested enough in the connection to make an effort. Regardless of the reason, when there's only one person making an effort, it's not really a relationship. It's time to let them go.

7. One-Sided Relationship

A relationship isn't really a relationship when you are the only person putting forth the effort.

If you find yourself always initiating time together without any reciprocation, or you regularly acquiesce to the other person's wants and needs, it's time to find someone else in your life who offers you more.

Often kind and giving people attract those who are selfish and demanding. It may take a while to realize that the relationship is one-sided and that you are scrambling to maintain it while the other person does as he or she pleases.

You will never feel validated, supported, or valued in this kind of relationship. You have to let go and find someone who is an equal partner.

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8. Emotional Neediness

You may have a partner who is emotionally needy, not just on occasion, but in nearly every encounter you have with him or her.

This person doesn't just bend your ear. He or she unloads on you and expects you to be his or her personal therapist. Except no matter how much you listen, how many ideas you share, how much good advice you offer, it's never enough.

The neediness may be based on insecurity in the relationship, and your partner requires constant reinforcement or is frequently jealous.

The relationship seems entirely based on your ability to be the sounding board or a validator. You feel like you're living with an emotional vampire.

When you try to share your own problems or discuss something that's bothering you, somehow the conversation always winds up about your partner.

9. Unrealistic or Demanding Expectations

Your significant other may have expectations of you and your time that you can't honor.

Perhaps he or she wants you to behave, talk, and dress in a certain way. Maybe they have expectations about how you should raise your children, how you keep your home, or what your political or religious views should be.

Some people have expectations that you spend more time with them than you want to, or they expect you to be available for them all the time.

If you find yourself always compromising your own desires because you don't want to rock the boat or make your partner mad or upset, it may be time to let this person go.

10. General Bad Feelings

Do you notice that every time you're around your guy or girl, you just feel bad? Maybe you feel bad about yourself, and he or she negatively impacts your self-esteem or confidence.

Or you feel uncomfortable, bored, down, frustrated, or any other negative emotion. You may not know why you feel the way you do, but you more often feel bad than good around this person.

A romantic relationship should be primarily uplifting, not diminishing. If this isn't the case for you, then it's time to move on from this person.

11. Loss of Love and Affection

If either you or your lover seems to have fallen out of love and there's little physical affection or sex, your connection will wither on the vine.

Maybe you're staying together for convenience or because you have children. But the romantic connection seems gone for good. If you're married and divorce seems untenable, couples' therapy may help revive your love and intimacy.

But if you're dating and already see your love light dimming, then it's time to acknowledge the truth and move on.

How to Let Go of a Relationship

We invest a lot in our romantic partners and in keeping the connection close and heal. Unfortunately, it's this person with whom we've been intimately and deeply involved which can cause us the most pain and turmoil.

At some point, you will reach the realization that the pain and difficulty outweigh the positives — where the consequences of letting go seem less daunting than the reality of staying put.

Knowing how to let go of someone when you still love them is challenging. Your love may make you question yourself, and you may think, “I don't want to let go,” even when you know you must.

It's also uncomfortable to end the relationship with someone you no longer love because you know you are causing pain for this person. Either way, it's valuable to know how to let go of unhealthy relationships.

Rules of Thumb for Letting Someone Go

  • Never just “ghost” someone and drop out of his or her life without a word. An in-person conversation is the best way to go. A call or hand-written letter can suffice for short-term relationships — but never a text.
  • Try to have the conversation when you are calm and clear-headed about your decision and can articulate your feelings without rancor.
  • State why you need to end the relationship without unkindness or blame. Offer examples if you need too. Focus more on your own feelings and needs rather than blaming the other person.
  • Listen to the other person's response and feelings without anger or defense. He or she will likely be hurt and angry, so prepare yourself in advance for these emotions.
  • If the conversation becomes too angry or emotional, you can end it or suggest a follow-up conversation or call once things have calmed down. If you are ending a long-term love relationship, you will likely have many of these follow-up conversations before you completely let go.
  • Try to avoid the other person's attempt to re-engage you or guilt you into remaining in the relationship if you are determined it's time to drop the relationship. It's hard to let go, so a clean break gives you the space you need to process your decision.
  • Communicate with any other people who will be affected by your decision. You don't need to throw the other person under the bus, but you can state that for your own mental health and happiness, you need to break from this person. (Communicating with children about a divorce will require more intense and detailed conversations based on the ages of the children. It's advisable to seek the support of a trained counselor to help you.)
  • Take care of yourself physically and emotionally. Ending a relationship can be a very stressful time. Make sure you're eating well, getting enough sleep, and taking time for self-care activities like exercise, meditation, or hobbies. Reach out to your support network and let them know what's going on so they can provide emotional support.
  • Consider seeking professional help. If you're finding it difficult to navigate the end of the relationship, a therapist or counselor can provide guidance and support. They can help you process your feelings, maintain your self-esteem, and guide you toward healthier relationship choices in the future.
  • Allow time for grief. Every relationship leaves its mark with shared experiences and memories. It's crucial to allow yourself to grieve as part of your healing. Freely express your emotions, whether they be sadness, anger, or relief. Remember, there's no standard timeline for recovery. Be patient and gentle with yourself.

Final Thoughts

Do you know when to let go of a relationship?

If you see yourself and your partner in any of these themes, it might be time to let go of the one you love — or once loved.

Letting go of someone you love is painful and sometimes very complicated, but in the end, you must ask yourself if the positives outweigh the negatives.

  • Is the connection is lifting you up or dragging you down?
  • Do you feel better with or without this person?
  • Have your feelings for him or her been damaged beyond repair?

Ultimately, the most important relationship you must save is the one you have with yourself.

Letting go of people in your life is never easy, and it takes strength and self-compassion to move on from a romantic connection. But it doesn't mean you have to let go of love forever. Use what you've learned in this relationship to help you grow in the next one.

33 thoughts on “11 Undeniable Signs It’s Time To Let Go Of A Relationship”

  1. Thank you for sharing this. I used to have trouble letting go of bad relationships, those that drags me down and kept me from living a healthy, happy life. I want to share this prayer that helped me a lot during those sad times:
    “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

    P.S. I’m a subscriber of your blog and I just want to let you know that you’re such an inspiration to me. 🙂

    • Hi Giz Elle,
      I love the serenity prayer. Sometimes we just have to accept that there are people who simply aren’t good for us, and we can’t change that. Thank you so much for your kind words.

  2. Succinct listing but I would add another aspect – negative thinking and support. These types of relationships are not severe in their damage; rather, these are the ones that slowly drag you down with them. I ended a ten year friendship after recognizing that she was complaining about the same things and held the same negative views when I first met her. I felt terrible for months and still feel occasional pings of guilt but I also realize that she was unwilling to do the work necessary to improve her life. Fear and childhood trauma were at the root of her issues but she continually sabotaged her attempts to get well.

    Because of her own unhappiness, she was incapable of seeing the good in my life and instead, offered a continual string of negative thoughts and responses to what her friends were doing. I hope she can find a happier path but unfortunately I will not be present to witness or help. She has exhausted me.

    • I once had someone like that in my life and for a long time. I liked her very much (no one is black or white) but she always seemed to have a problem, was always mired in some process approaching critical mass. She would ask for advice. We’d talk about it and solutions would arise. She would ask another friend, then another, often getting the same response. Then she would never act on it. I finally got to the point that, when I was in her presence, my stomach tightened like a vice and I felt ill.

      So when an opportunity to talk to a professional about it, I found out that there are people in the world who let themselves remain victims of their circumstances even when there is a solution. As long as they are unhappy or unsure, they have your sympathy. As long as they do nothing about it, they cannot fail. By taking no action, they don’t have to take responsibility for the outcome and they retain the concern of those around them.

      Poof. Just like that, the power she took from me returned and, although still in my life for awhile after that, I could distance myself from making the predictible response she craved. Once the behavior was recognized, my stomach was at ease and my mind was clear. I was not responsible for fixing her life as she led me to believe.

      Apparently it was just how she wanted it.

    • Thank you for this topic Barrie. Really timely for me. Sue, your reply really hit me like a sledgehammer and has helped me so much today in my guilt over my struggling relationship with my sister. After at least 30 years of constant draining negativity and unwillingness to attempt any possible solutions in her life, I have walked right away from her, but have been feeling like a very bad person for doing so. We are now only in touch very rarely and my life is so much lighter without the almost daily phone calls which invariably began …”you’ll never guess whats happened now”…Thanks again.

    • Donna, I’m so glad the counselor helped you get clarity on this relationship. Isn’t it wonderful to regain your power and define your own boundaries? Bravo for you!

    • Dear Sue, thank you for the reply you left to Barrie’s great post. I’m actually trapped in such a relationship myself at the moment and I’m slowly trying to work up the courage to get out of it. Unfortunately, as Barrie writes, it’s a very complicated and painful process. I may start using Giz Elle’s prayer because life is to short to waste it on someone who doesn’t appreciate what you do for them.

    • Hi Sue,
      It’s hard to let go of a friend, especially one you’ve had for a long time. You want to be there for your friends, but you are right. If they are unwilling to work on themselves, you end up becoming just a sounding board for complaints and frustration. I know it was painful for you.

  3. Recently reading an article on INFJ I saw myself especially in the relationship area.

    Twenty three years ago I ended a 30 year marriage. There are no ‘war stories’.
    I spent 5 of those 30 years evaluating the thoughts of ending it. I agree with parts of Sue’s statement. My relationship was not severe in damage. It was one that slowly dragged me down eventually eroding my self-confidence, causing me to question my value and of course I took full responsibility for its erosion.

    When I did leave it was not to find someone to appreciate me (lol). It was when I asked myself – ‘Which is better to live the rest of my life alone or to live this life’? When alone was the answer, I left.

    My exit was as kind as my entry but still I lived with guilt for causing such pain to another and it took me years to turn the guilt into regret and from regret into peace.

    Because of that decision – today I can look back and see the positive value of that marriage. I acknowledge its good. I think had I waited this would not have been possible and what a waste that would have been.

    Letting go of a relationship is hard…but allowing a relationship to destroy is sometimes irreversible.

    • Sandra, you have been through quite a growth process with your marriage and divorce. It is so hard to cause another person pain, especially someone who is good but simply not right for you. Hopefully he can see it was for the best and has grown from it as well.

  4. I think I’m probably a lot like you’ve been in the past, Barrie. It’s not necessarily easy for me to let go of relationships. But, some of the signs you’ve outlined begin to appear and the intuitive part of me knows it’s time to make a change. I’ve learned that sometimes I simply outgrow a relationship and need to move on to a more relevant and richer connection. The process of letting go itself has given me more confidence and shown me that there’s likely more goodness to come.

    I think understanding our personality type can really help too and I’m so glad you mentioned that in this article.

    • Hi Sandra,
      I love what you said about a “more relevant and richer connection.” We change over the years, and sometimes people change with us, and sometimes they don’t. I’ve come to believe that letting go is part of becoming.

  5. I think it’s extremely important not to have divergent core values with your partner. So many people overlook this, but for me it’s the #1 thing.

    • You are so right Jeremy. Your values define you, and it’s really hard to compromise them or walk side by side with someone who doesn’t share them.

  6. Just right on time topic.
    For me Love is the most amazing gift from GOD to humanity in anyway.
    Love deffines on what you feel in a certain relationship that you have been to a certain person.
    Theres no such thing as perfect relationship because it should always work both ways.
    If you Love someone its normal to give everything of you and you can do to make that LOVE works.
    Knowing that you gave your everything even if that relationship wont work the way you wanted to be
    you will leave with no regrets or wondering what could have been or what if ?
    coz You know yourself that you gave your 100% on it.
    Sometimes our loved ones just need our loyalty and patience to make that change.
    I believe that if you cant handle your loved ones worst part of personality then You also dont desserve the best part.
    If you gave up that easy how would you know?
    I know its easier said that done 🙂
    Love and Relationship is never promise to be easy but its all Worth to invest because its going to be the rest of your lifes happiness is what at stake.

  7. I’m in the midst of ending a 12 year relationship with someone 16 years my junior. Thank you for writing about all the themes. Many of them apply to my situation, and when he said to my ‘why now?’, I found myself so muddled with feelings about ALL the above, that I couldn’t express why…I couldn’t put all of the above together without sounding like I’m blaming him or making it all his fault, but truth be told, we are not, and never have been, in sync about anything. I acknowledge that I was as big a player in our relationship has he was. We’ve disagreed about pretty much everything. I’ve been his mother, his stability, his enabler. Because he was so damaged when we met, I’ve focused 12 years of trying to raise his self esteem and self worth. I’m turning 50 next year, and the irony is that I’VE finally raised MY SELF ESTEEM AND MY SELF WORTH and I’ve stopped giving my life away to anyone who needs it. If YOU don’t live YOUR life, someone will use your life to their convenience. I have had 3 relationships in my life, starting from the age of 13. I was married at 19 and I’ve had ONE year of my adult life that I was not in a relationship (I’m 49!). I acknowledge that these were all my own choice and I’ve done the soul searching to look at what I’ve been avoiding all these years, which is taking responsibility for my life and my happiness, and stop being victimized by choosing partners that I know are wrong for me. I’m living, and learning…. thank you for the post.

    • Wow Wendy. I so admire your courage and self-awareness. I know it was hard to let go, even though you knew it wasn’t the best relationship. We all continue to learn, and one of the benefits of getting older is having the confidence to reclaim your life. Wishing you much happiness.

  8. I became friends with a neighbor of mine around five years ago. After a while I got so tired of the repeat of the same old problems she had. She and her male friend lived together for 25 years and she hated him, she needed to stay with him to help support her. She is a great artist, but too many people blocked her from painting. Again, just an excuse. I kind of dropped her because of all her negativity. Too much stress. I went to college at the age of 59 and took night classes and worked days. I graduated last June, she is now painting but wont get her paintings out to the public, and she kept bringing up how having a college degree doesn’t mean a thing. Also, she wants to be a filthy talking comedian, and wants to talk about vagina disease. I had enough and finally told her that I did not want to be her friend anymore, she is 62 years old, but this immature talking was taking its toll on me. I felt bad about breaking off this friendship, but I feel so much relief and am happier I did it.

  9. “Refusal to communicate, address problems, or invest” – That’s it! That’s the one! It’s a killer. When relationship issues arise, you have to know and feel secure in the fact, that your partner will give the issues due attention, concern, thought and work toward resolution. I’ve been in a three year relationship with a man who clams up when a problem crops up. He literally shuts down and shuts me out. He refuses calls, doesn’t respond to texts, and appears to be happy not only to drop the subject entirely but me as well, as if I didn’t exist. His fear of “confrontation” has hurt our relationship far more than resolving sometimes even minute issues ever would have. It isn’t even possible to live a life completely free of the need to discuss concerns, problems, etc. That’s like saying life will never involve stressors or conflict; so, he just blames YOU if they arise and walks away. Amazingly frustrating. Thanks for your article. Sometimes you just need to see it in writing! LOL!


  10. You don’t realise how much some relationships are draining you until you get out of them. I have been in an on again off again relationship for 4 years and have once again made the break. I feel the confidence I have gained from your online course through really looking at what was going on for me has given me the strength to be able to walk away. I too have always thought it is not to fair to hurt someone else’s feelings but am now discovering it is grossly unfair to keep dishonouring my own feelings. The relationship had impacted on my self confidence and I didn’t like who I was becoming. Thanks to a bit of self development I feel proud of myself to have moved on. Thank you

  11. Its time to move on, I guess and thanks to everyone, your comments have really helped me to make a good decission.

  12. I married a man, I looked at as successful and driven. Those perceived traits were what attracted me to him. About 3 years into the marriage, he became angry about everything and began treating me very disrespectfully. He started criticizing most of the things I did, cooking, cleaning, and closing the blinds the wrong way.

    Then came the name calling (some pretty bad words that didn’t seem so appropriate for a woman). He lied, a lot. He never allowed me to manage the money and in the end, drained our bank accounts.

    After about 5 years, friends stopped coming over, and rarely called. If I objected to his bad behavior, I was punished with name calling, being locked out of the house and he’s trash the house. In an effort to ‘make things better’, I’d apologize, for making him angry. I’d clean up his tantrums (trashing the house) and take his verbal abuse. After 8 years of marriage, I pulled away emotionally. This caused him to increase the abuse.

    On the day we were leaving for vacation, he waited until I had everything packed up in the truck. As I came out with one last thing, my suitcase, he was pulling away without me, telling me that his leaving without me was my fault.

    I stayed with him three more years, the last two of which I was locked out of our bedroom – he kept ‘his’ groceries in the room. He kept the house trashed, would throw my clothes from the washer and dryer, onto the floor and will call to harass me throughout the day.

    At the end of my rope, after spending a weekend at my Mom’s house, I finally filed for divorce. Before I was able to have him served with the divorce papers, he woke me up by assaulting me one night. I called the police. When they came, I was served with an order of protection and ordered to leave my home in the middle of the night. A kick in the head and banned from the home we shared for 11 years. I was launched from my private hell. Best thing he ever did for me.

    The divorce process was extreme. He defied every order and continued to make my life hell. The divorce was just finalized and the property distribution was ordered by the judge. After spending a small fortune, I had to hire another attorney, so that I can obtain the things I’ve been denied for the past year.

    My ex-husband is still making it difficult for me. I realize now, after much counseling, his level of narcissism makes him feel compelled to degrade, harass and abuse and it was his low self esteem that was bent on creating a low self of sense for myself.

    He’s not so attractive, obese, very unhealthy and many times unemployed, things I overlooked in the name of ‘love’. I’m fit, told that I’m attractive, very healthy and have had a long duration, successful career, yet I put up with the abuse for 11 years. He convinced me that I was nothing.

    I’m telling this story so others will realize that trying for so long to ‘make it work’, putting up with severe abuse, is senseless and unreasonable. I’m free now, but still picking up the pieces of my shattered self esteem, and life. But, I am happy.

  13. I love your website, Ms. Davenport. Every article has been so insightful: showing deep caring and thought put into each topic. I have recently gone through a break up though I have never quite understood when it was appropriate to let go a relationship. These points have helped me breath more fully, and gain more perspective into my situation, especially your points on refusal to communicate, dishonesty, and divergent core values. Thank you!

  14. Thank you for your post, I have recently let go of a friendship when I realised that the other party was only interested in a fairwether friendship. My husband had just left me and this friend called on the third day and basicaly told me to get over it and move on. Then they refused to listen to me as I grieved the loss of a 17 year marriage. My so called friend was only interested in the fun stuff and none of the support through bad times. I let that friendship go and found a support network of friends, who did let me grieve but by the same token they also gave me a kick in the pants when I needed it, and that is what a friendship should be….. Give and take along with ups and downs.

  15. thank you very much. So many of your sentences could be used as reminder quotes.
    Lack of communication and the ability to communicate and the unwillingness of the other to work it out properly, and even the fact that i was miserable for an indecent amount of time where some of the trademarks of a relationship i’ve tried to make work for 4, exhausting years out of 12. I should have realised it was time to let go much, much earlier.
    this helps on so many levels. Most of all, it helps me understand that I should stop dwelling into regrets and guilty feelings, though i believe they will keep haunting me for a while.

  16. I love my fiance so much l have done all can think of but never good enough.so sad she is always accusing me of all sort. Am a very generous person but reso

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