When is it time to leave the relationship?

divided couple
Is it time to leave your relationship? See more relationship tips pictures.

You've given it your all. You've even tried counseling. You're considering leaving the relationship and even though things still aren't working right, you're not sure if leaving the relationship is the best thing to do. We talk about when to leave a relationship in this article so you can decide for yourself if leaving the relationship you are in is right for you.

Dennis Neder, an ordained minister and author of Being a Man in a Woman's World, says as long as kids aren't involved, it's time to break up a relationship when there's no longer any mutual benefit. "If you aren't getting what you want or need from being with someone, it's time to move on," says Dr. Neder.


While many people may view this as selfish, Dr. Neder says it can't be good for either person when one person is unfulfilled. It's much healthier to find a relationship that works for you and gives you what you need, than to cling to one that causes dissatisfaction.

"We all know people who are in unhealthy relationships, but either will not or cannot leave them," says Dr. Neder. "These people use all of their energies propping up the sagging relationship. Life is too short for this," he continues. In Dr. Neder's opinion, relationships should enhance your journey. The problem is, many people give up their journeys to take on someone else's. It's better to decide where you're going, find others who are on their own paths and then see where you might fit together, he says. "Give more thought to what you're looking for before creating your relationships," he advises. That way you're more likely have healthy relationships and end unhealthy ones quickly.

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Many people involved in long-term relationships find that they have given up their dreams, plans and future to "fit" into someone else's. The difficulty in breaking up often stems from people forgetting how to be self-sufficient. This creates a fear of loss and insecurity, which fuels the desire to keep unhealthy relationships together.

Neder says that we need to understand that we're alone throughout our entire lives — even when we're with someone else. "It's not a bad thing," says Dr. Neder, "in fact, it is quite freeing for most people."

Should You Break Up?

Everyone experiences low points in their relationships. That's normal and most couples work through these times. While the experts say there are no formulas for deciding when to break up, there are signs to watch for. If you experience more than a few consistently over a long period, it's probably time to move on.


Ways to Know if You Should Break It Off

Here are some ways to know if you should break it off.

  • You're no longer getting what you want or need from the relationship. Let's face it. If you're not happy, chances are your partner isn't either.
  • You can no longer communicate with your partner. Everyone has different communication styles, says Laurie Moore, Ph.D., author of Creative Intimacy and Choosing a Life Mate Wisely. "However, you don't want to spend all of your time in the relationship trying to communicate with each other. It's just too much work.
  • You no longer look forward to spending time alone with your partner. You may still have a good sex life, but you don't talk to your partner. You prefer to spend time with other people to avoid being alone together.
  • You criticize or micro-manage your partner. If you're always concerned with some aspect of your partner's personality or appearance, don't look at them — look at yourself. People who are in love overlook minor annoyances and see the bigger picture.
  • You compare your partner to others. When you love someone, you don't compare him or her to others. If you find yourself doing this, you should re-evaluate your relationship.
  • You try to change your partner. Often we fall in love with people who don't suit us. If you find that you're constantly trying to change your partner, it may be time to move on.
  • You don't laugh anymore. Humor is something that all relationships need. If you no longer find his jokes funny, or you can't have lighthearted conversations, it may be a sign that the relationship has lost its zing.
  • You're doing all the giving (or all the getting). Relationships are about mutual benefit. If one partner is benefiting over the other, the relationship is unhealthy.
  • Your friends no longer like being around you when you're with your partner. Your friends may like your partner, but they no longer like the affect your partner has on you. Dr. Northrup says when a relationship's not right, our friends tell us the truth and often are the first to see when a relationship turns sour.
  • You no longer feel good about yourself. Think about how it felt when you first fell in love with your partner. If this feeling is lacking, you may want to look at your relationship.

No matter how appropriate it is to leave a relationship, the loss of any significant relationship can feel like a death, says Christiane Northrup, M.D., author of Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom and The Wisdom of Menopause You have to feel the sadness and grieve fully for what might have been, adds Dr. Northrup. You can't skip from, or otherwise hide from the pain if you're to emerge at the next stage free to develop.


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