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How and When to End a Long-Term Relationship

There’s likely a long-term relationship in your life you’re better off ending right now. It could be your marriage, but more likely a partner you see or a toxic friend.

How do you know when to end a long-term relationship? When you know it’s best to finish it, how do you end a long-term relationship without having the person burn your house down? This article answers these questions.

The Most Common Mistake When Ending a Relationship – and What to Do Instead

The normal way to determine if you should end a relationship is a pro-con scale. You analyze what’s good and bad then weigh the points against each other. This creates the dilemma and confusion of when to terminate a long-term relationship. “No connection is there, but he’s so nice to me.”

Mira Kirshenbaum, in her book Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay, describes the “ambivalence” we experience in relationships. There’s the good side of a relationship where you’re financially looked after or you’re not beaten. Then there’s the bad side where your needs are ignored, you’re emotionally degraded, or you’re with an addict. Positives exist but so do negatives causing the pro-con scale to not be of help in your final decision.

…use a diagnostic method much like a doctor uses symptoms to diagnose a disease.

The correct approach Mira suggests is to use a diagnostic method much like a psychologist uses criteria to classify mental disorders or a doctor uses symptoms to diagnose a disease. If your relationship exhibits certain symptoms – notably something like abuse – it’s diseased and you are better off ending it.

Advice For the Married Reader

Nearly every book and article I discovered on this topic helps you decide if you should end a relationship from a selfish standpoint. The summary is: if you’re not happy, end it. A healthy marriage is more complex than that.

Marriages around the world end because men and women are unhappy then unwilling to honor their vows working through the inevitable challenges. One man thought he should end his marriage because he no longer loved his wife. “I just don’t love you” is not a sign the relationship should end. Love is a skill. You can learn how to love people to rebuild a relationship.

I believe marriage is another ballpark to the discussion here. What’s revealed is not intended to fully apply to marriage. I don’t want the signs of an ending relationship revealed to be reason for you to get out when things get tough. That’s selfish. The self does not always precede others.

Two become one in marriage – your unhappiness doesn’t justify divorce. No marriage exists without the couple changing and working through problems.

10 Signs of an Ending Relationship

How do you know if your friendship or date is on the brink of finishing? Below are some symptoms of a dying relationship. If you spot several signs of an ending relationship, that alone is not enough reason to terminate it. The signs are just indicators of the current relationship condition:

  1. You break their boundaries. Respect is absent.
  2. You’re more resentful than usual. This shows up in irritability and fighting over little things.
  3. You fight less. Whatever happens, happens because you no longer care.
  4. You jump to harsh conclusions. For example, your partner is late to arrive home from work so the thought of an affair crosses your mind.
  5. You describe the person to someone in unflattering words. Similarly, if someone else belittles the person, you agree and feel satisfied.
  6. You find yourself spending less and less time together.
  7. You have chronic boredom. This means you do little together, aren’t having fun, and don’t enjoy each other’s company.
  8. Promises aren’t kept.
  9. The two of you remain at emotional opposite ends. This signals no rapport, a disconnect, and a lack of love. The relationship is weak when it doesn’t bother you the person is hurting.
  10. You’re concerned you’ll find signs here that apply to your relationship.

If you saw one or two signs in your relationship, don’t freak out, call the person up, and say it’s over in a crying mess. Let the signs be red flags for you to address. We all make relationship mistakes that can be solved.

What’s not a sign of an ending relationship is fighting. Conflict is healthy to have so it’s important you resolve conflict when others avoid it.

7 Questions for When to End a Long-Term Relationship

For our diagnosis, ask yourself the following seven questions. These are filters that indicate you should end the relationship:

  1. Has there been multiple occasions of physical violence in the relationship? All violence is inexcusable. If you answered yes, get support, be safe, and leave. You deserve better than abuse.
  2. Does the person have a behavior like an addiction that makes the relationship difficult to be in and they’re unwilling to change? Most people are addicted to something. The questions to consider are: What? How destructive is it? And are they seeking help?
  3. Were times ever good together? The relationship may have been doomed from the start. The question gives you a higher perspective that current problems can be worked through. People change so don’t forever clasp the past trying to recreate it.
  4. Do you want to bring up important issues? It’s good if you actually do it, but a desire to address an important issue is enough indication you care for the relationship.
  5. Have you chosen a goal like a career move that must exclude the person? There’s no reason to keep a relationship going when you’ve already decided the person being in your life is not viable. Be honest to yourself and them.
  6. Aside from positive traits and current problems, do you and the person like each other? Not an easy question to answer because it’s difficult to see through resentment.
  7. If I told you it’s okay to leave, would you feel responsible for your decision, say yes, and be relieved?
A less important relationship may not be worth fixing.

Having gone through the seven questions, do you think you should end the relationship? You may want to not cut the relationship and instead correct the problem pulling you two apart. If the person behaves destructively, consider expressing what you expect from the person. If your career has you travel around the world, describe the scenario then let the person decide if he or she wants to be part of it.

A less important relationship may not be worth fixing. These are relationships easy to create with new people and ones you care little about. It is natural and common to end invaluable relationships. You have dying relationships where the investment of time and emotional energy to revive the relationship is better spent elsewhere.

How to End a Long-Term Relationship in 8 Simple Steps

Leslie Baxter from the University of Iowa in her Strategies for Ending Relationships: Two Studies paper analyzed how people end relationships. The communication researcher found that how you end a relationship depends on relationship closeness and your perception of what caused the relationship to rot. Dating for one week and got cheated on? You may dump via an angry text and leave it at.

10 Ways We End Relationships

Here are 10 ways we end relationships based on the research of Leslie Baxter:

  1. Evasion. Dumping your new date 101.
  2. Direct dump. “It’s over. Bye.”
  3. Justification. “Here’s why it’s bad…”
  4. Betterment. “Here’s why we’ll benefit from splitting…”
  5. Dating someone else.
  6. Gossip. “I don’t like how he…”
  7. Threats.
  8. Blame. “I’m not the problem, you are.”
  9. Mutual decision.
  10. Time. Natural decay.

If you want a plan to end a relationship because you don’t know how, I’ll give you a simple eight-step process. Most difficulty in ending a relationship comes from you not wanting to hurt the person. Here you take responsibility for their feelings – a toxic trait. Release yourself from controlling other’s emotions and instead focus on being responsible for yours.

You can choose from the indirect and direct options. The indirect option is letting nature pull you apart. You stop doing nice things, you skip deep conversation, and time causes you to split. The direct option of splitting up face-to-face is more difficult. Use this process:

  1. Think through what the person will say. This isn’t to make you a rigid robot, but aims to put your best foot forward.
  2. Share a quiet place between the two of you.
  3. Begin by saying, “This isn’t easy for me to bring up because I know it’ll hurt you, but I need to do it.”
  4. State your reasons without rambling. If the person wants more detail, they’ll ask for it. When you clearly give reason to why you’re ending the relationship, you help the two of you move on. Not understanding the justification for splitting up is the number one reason someone fails to get over a relationship break up.
  5. Be specific where possible. Say, “The other day when you…” instead of “You don’t care for me anymore.”
  6. Expect and accept strong feelings from the person. He or she will feel rejected and likely deal with the emotion by making you feel guilt. Don’t let their game alter your stance.
  7. Avoid reassurance (“Things will work out for you”). It is a frustrating communication barrier to hear and an attempt to stop the person from feeling hurt. Nothing you say will change their hurt.
  8. Learn some techniques of how to say no so you stand your ground.

Stop driving yourself crazy. You know the signs of when to end a long-term relationship and how to do it so get off the fence and pick a side. If you choose to leave, you’ll look back in 1 year and be happy you made the decision.

If times are tough and you decide to try make the relationship work, keep learning and developing your relationship skills and eliminating the 12 communication barriers. Relationships are hard. That’s why they’re so satisfying.

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Joshua Uebergang aka "Tower of Power"

Joshua Uebergang, aka "Tower of Power", teaches social skills to help shy guys build friends and influence people. Visit his blog and sign-up free to get communication techniques, relationship-boosting strategies, and life-building tips by email, along with blog updates, and more! Go now to


Ashlyn Umbach

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