When Should I “Call it Quits” on My Relationship?

If you are wondering when to call it quits on your marriage, you are not alone.

This is probably the most common question given to marriage and family therapists.

Recently I asked my audience to send in their questions and here is what I received back from one of my readers.

When should I call it quits on my relationship?

I read all your emails and blog posts and try to apply your advice, but it sometimes comes to a point when I’m not sure we should keep trying. My husband is a good person and we do love each other. I don’t want to leave something that can be laved, but I also don’t want us both to stay in a situation where we are unhappy.

Laura’s Response:

Dear Reader,

Thank you so much for sharing your situation and your question! You are not alone in this dilemma as ending a relationship is a difficult decision. Usually the problem is that it is painful on both sides; it’s painful to stay in an unhappy relationship, and breaking up with someone you love is sad and lonely.

Of course, there is no right or wrong answer as this is a personal decision for you to make on your own. There comes a time when it is crucial to stop working on fixing the relationship problems and start reflecting on whether or not the changes you need to see are even possible. If one or both parties feel they are trying to change the integrity of who they are versus making external behavioral changes, it might be time to consider calling it quits.

Signs and Symptoms to Assess When Deciding Whether or Not to Call it Quits on Your Relationship

Whether you have been dating for a few months or married for several years, certain signs may indicate that it’s time to end the relationship. Here are some signs to take a look at that may help you determine when it’s time to call it quits in your relationship. As you assess each item, remember that all relationships have moments when these symptoms rise and fall. Consider the frequency of these problems and the degree to which they cause suffering. The presence of several of these risk factors do not automatically mean it is time to run for the hills.

  1. Lack of trust: Trust is an essential part of any healthy relationship. If you find yourself constantly questioning your partner’s actions or behavior, or if your partner has broken your trust, it may be a sign that the relationship is no longer working.
  2. Constant fighting: Disagreements and arguments are normal in any relationship, but if you find that you and your partner are constantly fighting and unable to resolve your issues, it may be a sign that the relationship is not working.
  3. Different values or goals: If you and your partner have different values or goals in life, it may be difficult to build a long-lasting relationship. While it’s important to have some differences, if these differences are significant and cause constant conflict, it may be a sign that it’s time to call it quits.
  4. Lack of intimacy: Physical and emotional intimacy is important to any relationship. If you and your partner are no longer intimate, it may be a sign that the relationship is no longer working.
  5. One-sided effort: A relationship requires effort from both partners. If you find that you are the only one putting in effort, it may be a sign that your partner is no longer committed to making changes to better the relationship.
  6. Physical or Emotional Abuse: Any form of abuse is unacceptable in a relationship. If you are experiencing abuse from your partner, it is important to separate immediately.

What to Do While You Are in the Process of Deciding Whether or Not to Call it Quits on Your Marriage

Making the decision to end a relationship can be difficult, but it is important to prioritize your well-being and happiness. Here are some steps you can take if you are considering ending a relationship:

  1. Take time to reflect: Take some time to reflect on your relationship and the reasons why you are considering ending it. Write down your thoughts and feelings, and consider talking to a therapist, trusted friend or family member about your decision.
  2. Communicate with your partner: It’s important to communicate openly and honestly with your partner about your feelings and concerns. This way you are not silently suffering and you both have an opportunity to work to make things better as a team. If you do eventually decide to leave, you can be comforted knowing that you have “left no stone unturned.”
  3. Seek support: You and your partner don’t have to do this alone. You can hire a licensed couples therapist, enroll in a workshop or read a book together.
  4. Do some research: It’s worth doing some research to see what kinds of resources might help you in this phase of your marriage or relationship. Here is a quiz to help you self-assess what you need next.

Questions to Ask Before Calling it Quits in a Relationship

Questions to ask yourself before calling it quits:

  • Is this relationship worth fighting for?
  • What would I miss the most if we broke up or separated?
  • Do I have the time, energy, and motivation to try another approach, product, or service?
  • Why do I keep holding on?
  • Am I staying for a sense of obligation?
  • Who else would suffer if we broke up?

Questions to ask your partner before calling it quits

  • Have you made a decision but just afraid to tell me/hurt me?
  • Do you need me to make a decision?
  • Would you like to take a break before making a decision?
  • Do you think this relationship is still worth fighting for?
  • Do you have the time, energy, or motivation to try another approach, product or service?

HERE is a list of free resources.

HERE is a link to sign up for couples therapy in the state of Pennsylvania

HERE is a link to a list of our favorite online quizzes to help you learn more about your strengths and challenges.

What to Do If You Do Decide to Call it Quits in Your Marriage or Relationship

There comes a time when it becomes clear that it is time for the relationship to end. There can be many emotions attached to this decision including anger, sadness, grief, and fear. What happens next can determine whether the break-up is civil or contentious. Here are some recommendations to help reduce the suffering during the break-up process.

  1. Create a plan: If you are living together or have shared finances, create a plan for how you will separate your lives. Seek legal advice if necessary.
  2. Remember not to add insult to injury: If you decide to leave your partner, there is no benefit in reminding them of what they did wrong or how they hurt you. Now is the time to let go of the conflict and dissolve the relationship respectfully.
  3. Take care of yourself: Ending a relationship can be stressful and emotionally draining. Make sure to prioritize self-care and take time for yourself to heal and move forward.
  4. Resist the impulse for closure: When a relationship ends, it is tempting to process your feelings of loss with your former partner. This usually backfires because instead of providing the desired closure, it opens the issues back up. Sometimes the opening is in the form of re-connection (which requires breaking up again) and sometimes it’s in the form of re-injuring which adds to the pain you both are already experiencing.

Ending a relationship can be a difficult decision, but it is important to prioritize your well-being and happiness. By recognizing the signs that may indicate it’s time to call it quits, reflecting on your relationship, and seeking support, you can make the best decision for yourself and move forward with confidence.

If you have a question you’d like me to answer, write it in the comments and I’ll answer for you to my best ability.


Laura Silverstein, LCSW

Laura Silverstein is a Certified Gottman Couples Therapist, and author of Love Is An Action Verb.  She has thirty years of clinical experience and is the founder and co-owner of Main Line Counseling Partners, based in Bryn Mawr, PA. Laura is a frequent contributor to The Gottman Relationship Blog and has appeared as a relationship expert in media outlets such as the New York Times, ABC, and Today. She helps couples find more happiness as a research clinician, speaker, trainer, and writer with a positive, action-oriented style.

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