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.”
- 11 Signs It's Time to Let Go of a Relationship
- 1. Verbal, Emotional, or Physical Abuse
- 2. Consistent Dishonesty, Disloyalty, or Deceit
- 3. Divergent Core Values
- 4. General Relationship Toxicity
- 5. Consistent Irresponsibility
- 6. Refusal to Communicate, Address Problems, or Invest
- 7. One-Sided Relationship
- 8. Emotional Neediness
- 9. Unrealistic or Demanding Expectations
- 10. General Bad Feelings
- 11. Loss of Love and Affection
- How to Let Go of a Relationship
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.
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
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.
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.