Is It Time For You To Walk Away From Someone You Love?

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated May 15, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide, substance use, or abuse which could be triggering to the reader.
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Romantic relationships are often complex, and there are usually many factors to consider when deciding if you should stay or walk away. Ups and downs are natural in any dynamic, and determining when the low points signify a larger issue that you can no longer accept can be difficult and prompt you to wonder when to walk away from a relationship.

Love can keep you stuck in an unhealthy place

Mental health and love

Research has been done to determine all the reasons that people decide to stay in or walk away from romantic relationships. According to a 2018 study, the top five reasons for staying include:

  1. Emotional intimacy
  2. Emotional investment
  3. Family duty
  4. The partner’s personality
  5. Enjoyment

The top five reasons for leaving someone include:

  1. The partner’s personality
  2. A breach of trust
  3. The partner having withdrawn
  4. An external reason
  5. Physical distance

However, the researchers also note that a major decision like this is rarely clear cut—that “people experience subtle shifts in their commitment that build up over time”. For example, the top five reasons to stay could all exist in a person’s relationship, but they could still realize that one issue outweighs them all, or gives them the courage to walk away. You may also decide you want to edit these lists, and your reasons don’t match up. Deciding whether to walk away from someone you love often involves a complicated review of the situation. No matter what your scenario may be, coming to the right decision can take time and involve difficult feelings.

Walking away from a relationship: Signs that it could be time to leave

If you’re wondering if a relationship has come to its natural end or you need to walk away there’s usually a specific reason. Maybe you feel the love has run its course, or perhaps you are struggling to devote enough time to your relationship due to your career. Some elements of a relationship that make us feel inclined to end it can be improved or fixed or aren’t serious enough to outweigh the good. Others, however, may be indicative of a fundamental problem that is unlikely to be overcome, which may indicate that it’s time to go. Some of these include the following:

Your dynamic as a couple is unhealthy

Everyone deserves to feel safe and respected from their partner in a romantic relationship. If you don’t, it is time to seek help. Some signs your relationship is unhealthy could include hostility, isolation, manipulation, or one person attempting to track or control another. In unhealthy dynamics, one partner may blame you when things go wrong and negatively impact your well-being. Feeling afraid of your partner and their reactions or having a relationship that’s characterized by frequent, extreme highs and lows can also be signs of trouble. The experience of abuse of any kind—physical, emotional, sexual, or otherwise—is also a clear indication that your relationship dynamic is unhealthy and may be harmful to your physical and mental health. You deserve to feel safe, loved, and respected.

You both have different goals

Even the healthiest of love relationships may need to end if the people involved have incompatible life goals. For example, if one person happens to want to have children someday and their partner does not, the couple may decide to split up to pursue their separate dreams. Other potentially problematic incompatibilities could include wanting to live in different places, wanting to get married or not, significant religious differences, differing preferences on monogamy, etc. This doesn't mean your relationship isn't loving, but it may mean you have different long-term visions. Navigating this situation can be one of the hardest things because it can be hard to imagine the person you love being out of your life forever just because you disagree on some goals. However, compromising on goals that are truly important to you can leave you feeling hurt, resentful, and angry with your partner – all hallmarks of bad relationships. For this reason, it’s important to determine if breaking up is the right thing for you, your partner, and your relationship.

Something fundamental is missing in related discussions

You might not align with someone you love in every single area, so it’s not unusual to perceive that some small things are missing in your relationship. Your relationship may also grow over time to include these missing elements; if you’ve only been together or in love for a short period of time, it may be helpful to give the relationship more time. However, if a significant, fundamental element of your relationship is missing and seems unlikely to change, it could be a sign that it’s time to walk away before spending a long time in a potentially mismatched partnership. For example, if you love someone but disagree on basic morals and values, these things probably won’t change and may be ‘deal breakers’ in the quest for true love. It can be hard to discern when love is missing fundamental aspects that make a relationship last, and below we explore when it might not be healthy to spend more time than needed in a relationship due to love.

Potentially unhealthy reasons you may stay

Every relationship is different, and only you can decide whether a particular reason to stay or leave is valid for your situation. Our feelings can change moment to moment, and it’s important to talk to your partner about things that are bothering you before making any drastic decisions. That said, there are a few potentially unhealthy reasons that may encourage you to want to stay when it could be better to leave. 

For example, if you’re unhappy in the relationship but you’re afraid of being alone or if you feel guilty about leaving, it may not be fair to you or your partner to stay. There are likely to be other potential partners out there who could be a better fit for each of you, and though it may be sad, spending some time on your own and practicing self care may also be helpful in learning more about yourself and what you want. Staying together simply because you are afraid your partner would have their heart broken is another example of a potentially unhealthy reason to stay. While most every decision in a partnership should be mutual, the decision to break up does not have to be. In general, each person has the right to do what’s best for them, even if it leads to a broken heart in the end.

Factors to consider if you lose faith in your partner

As you weigh your options, you might want to consider some of the realities of most relationships. For example, it can be helpful to remember that virtually all relationships change and evolve at different points of time. The infatuation and electric feeling in your heart which many people feel at the beginning of a new romantic relationship tends to fade over time into a more comfortable, affectionate bond, which isn’t necessarily a sign of a problem. It can also be useful to remind yourself that it’s generally not realistic to expect to find someone who is a perfect match for you in every way—or who is perfect at all. Humans are incredibly complex and imperfect beings, which means that being in any kind of loving, healthy relationship usually involves accepting another person’s flaws and differences as they accept ours. You may also want to steer clear of holding unrealistic expectations from what you see on social media.

Furthermore, walking away from love isn’t your only option if you’re unhappy or if you lose faith in your relationship. Along with communicating your problems to your partner, you may also wish to discuss your issues with a trusted friend to see if they can offer any helpful advice. You may also consider utilizing therapy if you can’t figure out the answer to your relationship dilemmas.

Strengthening the relationship

While you may have seen a dramatic conclusion depicted in a movie, in real life there are various strategies you can consider if you’re interested in strengthening your connection so that you can remain in this relationship. A few research-backed examples include:
  • Learn your partner’s love language. If you and your partner don’t know each other’s love languages—or the methods in which you each prefer to receive love—it could be helpful to learn them. A 2022 study reports that “people who expressed their affection in the way their partners preferred to receive it experienced greater satisfaction with their relationships and were more sexually satisfied” than those who were less able to meet their partners’ needs. The person you’re in a relationship with may not receive love in the same way you do, so paying attention to their love language can be key to long-term fulfillment.
  • Create a more balanced dynamic. Like a song without a chorus, an unbalanced relationship could lead to disharmony and dissatisfaction over time. As one study indicates, “The happiest couples were those in which both partners reported a high sense of personal power”. Making sure you both feel that you have equal say in decisions and feel confident that your needs will be heard and respected can be key to keep the other person from wanting to walk away from the relationship.
  • Avoid boredom. After you’ve been with the same person for a while, it’s not uncommon to settle into routines. For some people, these eventually translate into boredom—which can undermine closeness and then relationship satisfaction over time, according to one study on the topic. It suggests that “present boredom was found to be positively correlated with a decrease in satisfaction nine years in the future”, so trying new things with your partner regularly can help you avoid drifting away from each other.
  • Cultivate or renew a sense of emotional intimacy. Feeling emotionally close to your partner can be one of the most significant factors in the health of your relationship. A 2018 study found that “emotional inaccessibility” was more likely to cause both men and women to end a relationship—even more so than “sexual inaccessibility.” Feeling as if you’re experiencing unrequited love in a relationship with your partner can be disheartening. Taking the time to rate what emotional aspects of your relationship are most important, and deciding to work on those aspects, can help you rekindle your relationship if you sense that you’ve drifted apart instead of having to walk away. 

Love can keep you stuck in an unhealthy place

Getting help from a therapist

Deciding whether you want to stay in your current relationship or leave can be a difficult thing to do alone and finding support from a family member or professional may be beneficial. That’s why some people choose to turn to a therapist for support and guidance, rather than friends and family members, who may not be impartial. Their job is to provide a safe, nonjudgmental space with a policy where you can express and process your emotions. They can help you take a more objective view of your relationship and you and your partner’s love, habits, and behaviors so you can see the situation clearly and make an informed choice. In addition, if the effects of past trauma or symptoms of a mental health condition are making it more difficult for you to find contentment in love or make decisions about your relationship, they can also help you address these.

Some people find meeting with a therapist in person intimidating, while others have trouble attending appointments due to busy schedules or transportation inaccessibility. In cases like these, online therapy can represent a viable alternative. With a virtual therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can get matched with a licensed therapist with whom you can meet via phone, video call, and/or online chat from the comfort of home or anywhere you have an internet connection. Research suggests that virtual and in-person therapy may be “equally effective, " meaning you can typically choose the best format for you.   


Deciding whether it’s time to walk away from love can be difficult, as it usually involves many factors and a number of complicated emotions. The points discussed above may help you consider your situation from different angles so you can be better equipped to make a decision. Speaking with a qualified therapist may also be helpful as you determine whether you’re ready to move on with your life without the person you love.

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