Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Wellness > Sex + Relationships

5 Signs It’s Time to Let Go of Your Relationship

Sometimes a relationship ends in a big way. Maybe you and your SO got in a huge fight or one of you seriously broke the other’s trust. But other times, it’s not so clear. All relationships go through problems, so when things just start to feel off, it can be difficult to tell whether a relationship needs to end or whether it just needs a little TLC to make things better.

Everyday details can make a significant difference in a relationship, but are they worth breaking up over? Or is this just your typical rough patch? We’re here to help you work through your problems with some sure signs it’s time to let go.

1. Your relationship consistently isn’t satisfying your needs

If you feel unhappy more often than not in your relationship, then it’s definitely time to take a closer look at what’s going on. To do this, Jeffrey Sumber, a licensed professional clinical counselor, recommends making the distinction between non-negotiable needs and wants.

According to Sumber, non-negotiable needs are those things that you just can’t compromise on, and they can be different for everyone. For example, one of your non-negotiable needs might be that you need to feel appreciated.

“[In this instance, if you’re] in a relationship where [you] feel an ongoing challenge around not feeling appreciated, [you] should run away from it because [you’re] not going to feel fulfilled,” Sumber says.

Wants, on the other hand, are those things you can give a little wiggle room. You might want an SO who will talk with you about political issues, but that doesn’t make news aversion a deal-breaker. You have to identify those aspects of a relationship that you must have to feel fulfilled, and then make sure that you’re getting those things.

If you’re feeling unfulfilled, try talking it out with your partner before breaking up. When starting this conversation, Sumber recommends speaking in terms of your own needs rather than your SO’s shortcomings.

“[The issue] needs to be about me and not my partner,” Sumber says. “I might communicate my need in terms of an expectation, like, ‘I need you to appreciate me more,’ and my partner might feel obligated and defensive.” Instead, you might say, “I don’t feel appreciated.”

If your relationship perks up and stays up after this conversation, odds are you were just going through a rough patch. But if you’ve communicated your needs more than a couple times and nothing has changed, it’s time to let your relationship go.

2. You’re being physically or emotionally abused

If your SO abuses you physically even once, it’s time to walk away. You should never tolerate violence in a relationship. Call The National Domestic Violence Hotline if you need help leaving an abusive relationship or need someone to talk to.

However, there are more types of abuse than just physical abuse. We often overlook emotional abuse in relationships. We may even attribute the feelings associated with it to one partner’s oversensitivity or already low self-esteem. But if your SO makes you feel bad about yourself or always points out your flaws, you need to take those feelings seriously and leave.

“Any partner who uses physical violence will do it again,” Sumber says. “The challenge is to also consider the emotional violence, or abuse, that happens if one partner is constantly chipping away at the other’s self-esteem. I don’t think that a partner ever has the right to say you look terrible, because we are all beautiful and we all have gifts and we all have challenges.”

If your SO critiques your appearance, your intelligence or anything else about you in a way that is hurtful and not at all helpful, it’s time to break up.

3. You’re not communicating

Do you and your SO speak less and less to each other when you’re apart? Have you stopped sharing your feelings with each other? Or maybe you just have nothing to say. Communication issues are all too common in relationships, and if you’re experiencing them, it’s time to take a look at the causes behind them.

If you and your SO have been together for some time and your conversations still feel forced and uninteresting, you may not really be compatible.

Robert, a senior at Vanderbilt University, says that communication issues were the biggest sign that his first relationship needed to end. “[My ex and I] needed other things to fill the null space,” Robert says. “Every silence was uncomfortable, and we didn’t have anything to say anymore.”

However, sometimes communication issues do arise from a rough patch. For example, maybe you’re both busy and stressed, and your moods are taking a toll on your communication habits. If you feel like this is the case in your own relationship, try putting in some extra effort.

Rhonda Ricardo, author of Cherries over Quicksand: Romance Secrets, Laughter, Wit & Timely Tales to Paradise, says that “The stories I collected [for my book] reveal the fact that heartfelt, daily enthusiasm is extremely important for sustaining loving energy and exciting passion. For example, when your partner texts you a question like, ‘How are you doing?’ if you answer, ‘Great! How are you?’ you just missed a huge opportunity.”

But maybe you are the only one putting in the effort and your partner consistently shoots you down. Or maybe you just don’t feel like trying anymore.

“If you do not feel like including him or her in your good news right now, stop and think about how it will feel to not have them with you to share your accomplishment,” Ricardo says.  “Also think about how it would feel to not have them there if your goals fall flat and you need a caring embrace.” Does this seem okay to you? That’s a sign that it’s time to let go.

4. You’re no longer excited by your relationship

You’re young. You’re in the prime of your life. And you’re totally bored. It’s clear that things can’t stay the way they are, so you need to figure out what’s going on.

Like communication issues, sometimes boredom is actually the symptom of a rough patch.

“I always think that if I’m bored, I’m crazy. There’s just so much to do,” Sumber says. “If I feel bored in the least, then I need to check myself and not my partner. I should never just sit in front of the TV because my partner prefers to sit in front of the TV.”

In this case, tell your SO you’re feeling stuck in a rut. Suggest an adventurous date idea. Your fun and exciting ideas might just rub off on your SO and pull you out of this rough patch. 

But if your SO is never interested in doing fun, exciting things with you even after you’ve made the effort, you might need to look back at your non-negotiable needs. If having an SO who is your fascinating partner in crime is important to you, it’s time to find someone who can fulfill that need.

Jessica*, a senior at the University of Massachusetts, says that she knew one of her relationships needed to end when she stopped finding it interesting. “I just wasn’t excited anymore,” she says. “I didn’t look forward to dates or phone calls. It became more of an obligation than a want, so I ended it.”

Ricardo says that you can’t force your SO to be more interesting; you can only make sure that you are living a life you personally find exciting and fulfilling.

“If your partner continuously finds it easy to turn away from you at your best and most fascinating and is not interested in ever being fascinating, warm and loving to you anymore, you will become bored, and you’ll know they are not the one for you,” Ricardo says.

5. You feel pressured to change

If you feel like you have to change for your SO, then you’re likely not with the right partner in the first place. Although your SO might help you grow as a person or give you respectful suggestions for self-improvement, you should never feel like your back is up against a wall.

If you and your SO have different goals and values, consider this: It is possible that your SO can challenge you to consider perspectives that you have never thought of before, and this could be a good thing.

“In our twenties, we are evolving in our understanding of self,” Sumber says. “It’s likely that most of our values are constantly evolving. If we get stuck in our values, we become stuck and stagnant.”

But if your SO is pressuring you beyond your comfort level to change your own values, you need to call it quits. Ask yourself, “What is truly in alignment with what I am? Is my partner making demands I’m not comfortable with, or is my partner challenging my boundaries?”

Even with something as simple as a haircut, your SO should never make you feel like being who you are is a deal-breaker. And if you feel like that’s the case, it’s time to move on.

When you find yourself wondering if your relationship is meant to last, Sumber recommends asking yourself, “Who am I? What do I need? And what will I do about it?” And if it turns out that your relationship isn’t just in a rough patch, it’s going to be okay.

No matter what, you deserve a life that fulfills you, relationship included. And, as Ricardo says, “Why would you settle for less than a wonderful love life? You are amazing!”

*Names have been changed.

Kathryn is a senior at Vanderbilt University pursuing a B.A. in English. She has successfully kept her dorm-plant alive since freshman year. Check her out on Instagram: http://instagram.com/katwill436