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Signs that it’s time to end a relationship

Reader submitted articles


Updated July 14, 2014

Caucasian couple arguing on sofa
Blend Images - Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Christina Steinorth, M.A., M.F.T.

A friend of mine, let’s call her Gina, has been in a relationship with a man for over three years.  For most of that time she’s seems as though she’s been miserable. During this time, I’ve watched my friend who was once upbeat, outgoing and who always had a smile to share become withdrawn and solemn.  Gina does not have any children, is not married to this man and maintains her own residence and finances.  When we speak, she’ll tell me this man makes her unhappy and the relationship is going no where.  I’ll ask her why she stays and she answers “Our past was great.”  What I remember of her relationship is that she was giddy for the first six months of it.  This is quite normal, in that we typically do not notice an individual’s negative qualities during the initial “romantic phase” of a relationship.  After that, I started to hear more and more complaints about “Mr. Wonderful.”  In my observation, through the course of her relationship, her self-esteem has plummeted.  Ending a relationship is usually never easy because good, bad and everything in-between, it’s still a loss and losses hurts.  Most people are passive about ending unhealthy relationships hoping the other partner will call it quits, while others take a more active stance and initiate the end.  The difference between the two types of people is usually rooted in his/her childhood.  Children that were raised by nurturing, caring and loving parents are for the most part more secure in themselves as adults and find it easier to leave a bad relationship because they have less fears of being alone (but that’s another topic in itself).                              

Signs that it’s time to end a relationship…

  • You have a feeling of continuous frustration about the relationship  (E.g., your emotional needs are not being met)
  • You’re finding more reasons to spend time apart
  • You’re being emotionally abused
  • You no longer have strong feelings about your partner but reminisce about the feelings you used to have
  • You’ve changed your core values, beliefs and goals to accommodate your partner in hopes that your relationship will no longer be problematic
  • You’ve made drastic changes in your appearance hoping your partner will find you more attractive
  • You have a growing feeling of emptiness
  • You’ve put extreme distance or totally cut off former close relationships you used to have with your other friends and/or family

How to make the final decision...

The most pragmatic way is to make a list with two columns.  One that lists the positive attributes of your relationship and one that lists the negative.  Next, itemize the good and bad parts of your relationship honestly.  Sometimes seeing a concrete list where one column is much longer than the other will help you see your situation more objectively hence making it easier to end a relationship that no longer brings you joy and fulfills your needs.  Relationships should add to your quality of life—not subtract from it.

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