How To Help Someone Leave An Unhealthy Relationship

Medically reviewed by Arianna Williams, LPC, CCTP
Updated December 1, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Sometimes, people may struggle to identify if their relationship is unhealthy. However, it can also be difficult to accurately judge a bad relationship as an outsider. If someone you know is dating or in a relationship that seems to be unsupportive or lacks respect, you might wonder what you can do to help.  In some cases, you may even ask yourself, “How do I get a girl to breakup with her boyfriend?”. This can be a challenging dynamic to navigate, especially if you don’t know the other guy and if there’s no clear-cut answer for every situation. We're going to cover some of the ways you can move forward.

Do You Need Guidance In Your Relationship?

Should You Ever Encourage Someone To Break Up?

Having an outsider's perspective on a relationship can be valuable, but it’s important to communicate with the person in the relationship. You may be able to notice trends, a lack of respect, or issues that are occurring within a partnership. These intricacies of the relationship might not be as obvious to those in it, whether each partner can’t see them or chooses not to altogether. While anyone can have a perspective and opinion about a relationship, encouraging someone to end a relationship is a significant step.  

In some cases, you might have an opinion about the relationship that isn’t supported by facts. You may also just be hearing one side of the story without enough information to give helpful advice. If you lack tangible evidence that a breakup is necessary, you can still be supportive by communicating any hesitations you have about the relationship. Whether someone chooses to end their relationship or not is their decision. Although you may have some influence on their choice, they will ultimately have to make it for themselves. No matter the outcome or the point you are trying to make, being supportive of their decision can help them. 


If you observe dynamics that you would categorize as abusive or hurtful, it may be imperative to speak up.

If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse in any form, you can reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) for immediate support, advice, and assistance. 

How To Identify Negative Patterns In Relationships

If you’re thinking about suggesting that someone eventually break up with their partner, you should consider all angles before having this conversation. Start by observing the relationship and identifying characteristics that appear unhealthy or negative for one or both parties. Ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Have they changed since becoming romantically involved?
  • Has anyone’s self-esteem dropped?
  • Are these changes primarily harmful?
  • Are any of these changes linked to the other person's influence?
  • Are there any symptoms of abuse or mistreatment?
  • How do they talk to one another?
  • How do they speak about the relationship when their partner is not present?
  • Are their needs being met? 

An Open Dialogue: Is This A Healthy Relationship?

After making your initial observations, consider sitting down with friends or a loved one to have an open and honest conversation. Although you may perceive the relationship one way, they may not see it the same way.

Remember to keep an open mind during your observations and recognize that you might have a limited perspective on the relationship. It can be hard to remain unbiased toward a friend’s or loved one’s relationship. However, the conversation might be most productive and effective when you remain empathetic and fact-based.  

For example, start by asking this person how they feel about their relationship. Do they perceive it as healthy and happy? Is there dissatisfaction on one or both sides? Sometimes simply starting a conversation about the relationship will lead one or both parties to begin their own analysis.
Also, if you have a best friend, consider speaking with them about the issues you see. Let them know the warning signs of bad relationships you may have noticed.

Addressing Objections

When you have this conversation about their relationship, it is possible that your friend or loved one may not want to leave. There are several objections that people may pose to ending romantic relationships. 

It is common for those in an unhealthy relationship to weigh their feelings as well as the costs and benefits of breaking up. Keep the focus on your loved one and remind them of what they deserve. Simply listening to their concerns without judgement can help keep them safe. Asking them what they need from you can also help you support them more effectively. If you consider yourself one of the “nice guys”, remember to take care of yourself as you look out for your loved one – your mental health matters, too. 

Supporting Your Loved One

Providing unconditional support for someone in an unhealthy relationship may be the most powerful way to support them if they are considering not dating the person any longer. Your loved one may be able to feel more understood, heard, validated, and valued as they make a decision. While choosing to break up with someone is a personal decision, they might lean on you for emotional support and reassurance.

Ilona Titova/EyeEm
Do You Need Guidance In Your Relationship?

Fostering Healthy Relationships

Breaking up with someone can be difficult, even when it’s the right choice to make. It is important to spend time healing from an unhealthy relationship. Once someone has recovered from past relationships, they may be better able to have fun and hold a happy and healthy relationship. 

While loved ones may be quick to spot harmful relationships, it’s equally as important to notice when a partnership is loving and healthy. Just as you’d let your loved one know if you thought their relationship was unhealthy, you should also tell them when you see healthy, fulfilling relationship patterns. This kind of encouragement can often help others navigate to healthier relationships more naturally, since the healthy patterns are being recognized. 

Watching a someone you love stay in an unhealthy relationship can take a toll on your mental health. In these situations, online therapy can be a helpful option to pursue. At BetterHelp, you can speak with a therapist to navigate your own mental health and well-being. 

Additionally, whether someone needs help before, during, or after a breakup, therapy may be a powerful way to receive support. Having an online therapist in your life can provide unbiased advice, and give you an outlet to voice your concerns. This study found that online therapy was “clinically efficacious” and “equivalent” to traditional in-person therapy, producing positive outcomes and high satisfaction for users. 


You may still be conflicted about how to talk to your loved one about their relationship. Though you can support someone through their decision to stay or leave a relationship, you cannot make that choice for them. Focusing on what you can control, such as your ability to continue talking to them and be a supportive friend. This can help you move forward productively. 

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The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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