Do I Stay Or Do I Go? When Should You Leave A Relationship?

Updated March 20, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

Note: This article addresses topics like domestic abuse and substance use issues that may be triggering for some. If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse or problems coping with substance abuse, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or for substance abuse issues, the SAMHSA National Helpline 1-800-662-4357

Sometimes, it's clear when you need to leave a relationship; other times, there's a lack of clarity. Relationships can be rewarding connections between two people who love each other, but sometimes, the connection fades over time. Maybe you thought you knew who your partner was, but as you got to know each other, you learned things about the other person you disliked or realized over time that your values are different. 

Maybe there's infidelity in the relationship, or the person betrayed your trust in some other way that's unforgivable. Or perhaps no one thing’s causing you to consider splitting up; maybe you’re just growing apart.

Regardless of the circumstances, there are helpful things to consider when deciding whether to stay or leave a relationship.

Ilona Titova/EyeEm
Relationship are often complicated

Should you stay?

Some people know when they want to break up with their partner, whereas there are other dynamics where an individual isn't sure and feels conflicted. You may turn to a friend or family for advice because you trust them and respect their opinion, but at the end of the day, in cases like these, it’s imperative for you to have the final say. 

The people whom you are closest to may have unintended biases that can interfere with your judgment or aren’t in your best interest. They may have difficulty being objective, especially if you’ve been together for a long time and your friends and family have a relationship with your partner. 

Only you can know whether staying in the relationship is the right thing to do, partially because you are privy to all of the history you tell. You'll know if you want to be with someone when you reflect on how you feel in the current relationship and about the future. 

If your partner or spouse is invested in saving the relationship, and you are, too, it might be worth it to work things through. On the other hand, if they don’t want to put in the work and show no willingness to change the things that need to change, you have to be honest with yourself instead of hoping for something that may not happen. 

Do you want to be there? 

This may seem like an obvious question, but it still merits examination. Outside of what you feel like you should do, what is it that you actually want? A common reason people stay together when they don't want to is for the sake of family life or to “keep the peace.” This might be the best choice in some cases, but some professionals say it isn’t always the best decision and can even be harmful. If you're staying out of obligation, but the relationship isn't good for you or makes you unhappy, you may want to reconsider. 

Are there red flags or toxic behavior? 

Be honest with yourself about the answer to this question. If your spouse is exhibiting controlling behavior, manipulative behavior, or otherwise abusive and unhealthy behavior, you have every right to go, whether that is because it's impacting you, your family life, or anything else.

Are you compatible? 

Do your wants and needs match up? If your desires or lifestyles are entirely inharmonious, you may decide to leave, particularly if the issues are serious dealbreakers.

Are you afraid of being alone?

This is an excellent question to reflect on. Only you can answer this question for yourself, however. One way to tell if you’re staying in a relationship out of loneliness or the fear of loneliness is to think about dating again. If you find yourself minimizing or justifying the things about your partner’s behavior you don’t like, you may be afraid of loneliness.

Are you afraid of change?

The same behavior may manifest if you’d rather stay for the sake of comfort. If you aren’t in love, aren’t compatible, or don’t see yourself having a future with this person, you may still make up reasons to stay because you don’t want to deal with change. 

Getty/Halfpoint Images

Should you go?

Although no one but you can know for sure, there may be some clear signs that indicate things likely won’t work out. One of the most pressing reasons to leave a relationship is also the most difficult for many- abuse. 

There are many forms of partner abuse, so if you aren’t sure, contact a mental health professional to discuss your circumstances. In essence- if you feel that your partner is abusive, there’s a chance they are. 

If your partner abuses you in any way, including emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, you must stay safe and exit the relationship. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline, or reach out to an organization in your local area to help you find and maintain safety. 

You may decide to exit a relationship if your partner is involved in substance use or has a substance use disorder, if your partner lies frequently or is deceitful, or if your partner makes no effort to improve things in the relationship when something isn't working. Ultimately, you deserve to be in a healthy and stable relationship, so if you feel that the relationship is dysfunctional, you have the right to leave.

Your partner or spouse refuses to go to counseling or therapy

If you’ve tried to communicate with your partner about the problems in your relationship, but it’s not working, visiting a relationship therapist should be the next step. If they don’t want to work with you there, it may be time to make your exit.  

You can’t compromise

Compromise is necessary for a healthy relationship. If they’re unwilling to compromise with you on the issues you must resolve, you won’t likely arrive at a happy conclusion. 

The relationship is toxic

It could be that your spouse or partner does something that makes you uncomfortable, or it could be that there’s manipulation and emotional abuse. Either way, if it's toxic, prioritize your well-being and safety, and leave however you can.

You don't want to be in a relationship anymore

Although hard work can help couples work through problems, if one or both of you does not want to be in the relationship, you may be left with little choice but to leave. 

What is a toxic relationship?

Toxic relationships can manifest in various ways. A toxic relationship may mean a relationship with constant conflict or competition, a lack of communication or support, disrespect, manipulation through gaslighting, stonewalling, or other means, jealousy, a lack of trust, or undermining behaviors. Also, if your partner uses criticism, emotional manipulation, or any other hurtful method to control you or your relationship, the relationship is toxic, and it’s time to get out. 

Relationship are often complicated

Determine the pros and cons of leaving your relationship in therapy

Although it’s so critical to relationships, many couples have trouble with communication. If this is the case for you, you’re not alone. The next step is to speak to a relationship therapist who can help get the communication started and give you the tools you need for success. 

If you’ve already come to terms with the fact that your relationship is ending, therapy is a vital tool for helping you cope with the situation, explore some of the things that contributed to your split, and provide you with tools to carry on and move forward confidently. 

Despite the benefits, people don’t always seek the advice of a counselor. Some don’t think they can fit appointments into their busy work week. Others don’t have a traditional therapist or transportation to and from appointments. Still, others assume they can’t afford therapy, or it won’t work for them anyway. 

Online therapy is an excellent solution to barriers to treatment like these. Online platforms like Regain match mental health experts with people looking for help with relationships, mental health guidance, and better well-being. You can speak to a Regain therapist at your convenience from the comfort of your home via text, phone, online messaging, and video chat. Online therapy is often more affordable than conventional therapy without insurance and is also just as effective

Whether you work with an individual counselor or pursue couples counseling with your partner, online counseling is a convenient way to get the support you need. 


When you're with someone in a romantic relationship, it can be hard work to keep it together. Talking to your partner about what's working and what's not is extremely important. Remember that you can't will anyone to change. The only person you can control is yourself. You must be willing to accept that if someone doesn't want to change, they usually won't. Both of you must want change in the relationship dynamic for it to happen. 

We’re all human beings with flaws. Trying to “fix” someone usually does not work. Modifying their behavior or making great strides in their life is up to them, and they must come to terms with what's not working for them on their own. Blaming each other and pointing fingers is not helpful. It takes two to work on a relationship and both partners to argue. 

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