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Relationships are complex. We invest a lot of ourselves in relationships and knowing when to let go is a unique form of strength. Letting go does not mean that you do not care about a person anymore, it is merely obliterating the control they have over you. This is necessary for many reasons, especially if you need to focus on yourself instead of looking after others all the time. This might not be anybody’s fault as life moves forward causing us to change. Gaps form, and people drift apart. Suddenly you and/or your partner/friend relative might want or need different things from the relationship, and neither of you is happy in the current situation. If a relationship is draining more energy than it is giving, then it is time to move on.

In this guide, we look at romantic, friend and relationships with relatives to highlight how you can determine if/when a relationship has come to an end.

Romantic relationships

Couple travel

When the honeymoon phase is over, a couple might suddenly be straining to find ways to keep their relationship going. That is when the cracks appear, and you might find that you aren’t compatible with each other anymore.

It is not easy to suddenly cut things off as though you are ripping the relationship off like a band-aid. However, forcing things to work is a more significant problem because you might grow to resent each other. It is always more beneficial to end on mutual terms than allow a relationship to fester with negative feelings and emotions.

What are the signs it’s time to end things?

If a breakup is on the horizon, you might notice yourself become distant from each other. When they call or text, you might not feel like replying straight away. Either of you might also be prioritizing other friends and family instead of spending time with each other. Being together might start to feel exhausting and suffocating, where you prefer being elsewhere to catch a break. Both of you might have become more agreeable with each other instead of negotiating and discussing issues. This indicates that you have given up.

Psychotherapist and owner of Mind Balance, Rose Lawrence said, “They have chosen to submit to the fact they want out of the relationship, so their indifference displays as being agreeable. Being agreeable is great, but when your partner is always agreeable and indifferent, the spark is clearly gone and the fight to stay in the relationship is gone.” That is the time you should sit down for a long talk together and discuss is you want to move forward or not.

If you decide to continue as a couple, you will have to make several changes to create that spark again. Otherwise, the same problems will occur, and the breakup might be more difficult later.


Friendships come and go more quickly than any other kind of relationship. Thanks to social media, it is easier to stay in touch, but those messages can start becoming less frequent with time. If you find it difficult to hold a conversation with a friend, that is a visible sign that you both have drifted apart. You might have also seen their milestones on Facebook such as weddings, which they did not invite you to. The friend may have a different lifestyle or be hanging out with a new circle of friends that you are not part of. When you catch up, you reminisce the past, but it’s difficult to share new stories. Instead of messaging or calling each other, you might have resorted to merely liking their posts online.

When it comes to friendship as you get older, there isn’t necessarily a fight, as friends tend to separate more naturally when many changes in life occur. This is not a good or bad thing; it just means that you have grown out of the friendship and can meet other people to form closer bonds with.

Family relationships

break up

Letting family members go is one of the hardest decisions in life. This is because we are conditioned to believe that family is forever, and blood is thicker than water. We forget that family members are also just like any other people who can hurt us. A person can never truly walk away from their family unless they make a significant effort. Compared to any other kind of relationship, we tolerate poor treatment at the cost of our mental and emotional health because we believe that there is no other choice.

What makes families unique is that a breakup with one member can be detrimental for others. For example, an abusive wife or husband might avoid getting a divorce because of how it could affect the children they share. This compels them to stay in an abusive relationship for a longer time, and some may never leave.

When a relationship is based on abuse, whether it is mental, physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional, the healthiest option is to walk away to avoid further manipulation. However, this can be extremely difficult and challenging for several reasons. As such, you may require additional support to help you overcome an abusive relationship.

If a connection with a family member is creating too much stress, it helps to take a break and create a lot of physical distance. At times you might still have to see them during holidays but spending time apart might help you think more clearly. The distance could also give you the emotional strength to tolerate them again in the future if you need to. People can also change with time, and a separation period could be best for everyone involved. You can begin this transition by slowly saying ‘no’ to requests from the family members that put the most pressure on you.

If you have children, you might share custody, but limit contact with each other and try to be civil. If you do see each other, do not bring up the past and remind yourself that this is only temporary, and they do not have control over you. Some families might also cut ties with each other due to political and social differences. However, with families, it is challenging to separate, and the first step should always be to create as much distance as possible.

With any relationship its best to consider your needs and mental health first as this is the most consequential impact to a bad relationship whatever the connection to you. Sherrie Campbell, Clinical Psychologist, Author, and Radio Host said, “As I have grown and experienced adult life, I have learned the hard truth about things – about people. Not all people want what’s best for me. It was my job to make my world the best it can be.” (Huffington Post, 2014) And how true this is.

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