How to Know When to Give Up on a Romantic Relationship

Why it’s Important to Know When The Relationship You Want Won’t Happen

It’s challenging to know when to give up on a valued romantic relationship. Usually, others around you know when it’s time to give up on a relationship that doesn’t work and isn’t fulfilling for you. It’s often easier for them to see the signs than for their own relationships because it isn’t about them. They won’t feel the same pain you will if you break off your current relationship.

Some people hang on forever, having the same hopes that don’t seem to come to fruition. But in general, if things haven’t been good for a while, most often, they won’t get better. At least not without a lot of effort in making changes occur.

Sometimes people don’t have enough in common, so they are on different paths. It’s often not easy to bring both paths together. For example, one partner wants to live in the city, and the other wants to be in the countryside with their family and friends. Or perhaps one partner wants children one day, and the other person doesn’t.

It’s important to be realistic about your situation. If your partner refuses to get help moving forward as a couple, how can your relationship be fulfilling? These things don’t magically change on their own.


Seeking Professional Guidance May Help Before You Give Up A Relationship

If you feel your relationship could be helped by a psychotherapist or marital counselor, you need to bring this up with your partner. If you and your partner can move forward to make positive choices together, great.  However, if your partner is not willing to get professional help to work through the challenges you need to understand that the issues don’t just resolve themselves.

Whether or not your partner agrees to seek professional counseling, it is very possible that counseling will help you one way or another, either as a guide of how to move forward with your partner, or moving on alone.


When is it Time to Give Up Trying to Make a Romantic Relationship Work?

This is a tough question to answer. There is no straight black or white way to look at this. But let’s look at some of the possible signs you might recognize:

  • Your mate answers your concerns with a “plan” to make things “better,” but nothing changes.
  • You’ve brought up your unhappiness or concerns many times, and nothing changes.
  • When you bring up an issue, your mate shuts you down or says your complaint is never valid.
  • Or they turn negative statements towards you instead.
  • You often feel blamed for things that you feel are untrue when you bring up your concerns, so you shut down.
  • Maybe you feel you have made your concerns very clear over time and nothing changes. That may be a warning sign that the relationship isn’t going to get better, at least not on its own.
  • Your mate refuses to seek professional help, alone or with you.


If You Would Feel Guilty in Breaking Such a Relationship, Why?

When you truly care about someone, it’s really challenging to make tough decisions. However, it doesn’t change the fact that you need to make some positive movement.

It’s important to be realistic about what you really want in a relationship and to determine with complete openness and honesty if this relationship matches what you want in the future.

If you believe you have asked for what you want over time and nothing has changed, you have no reason to feel guilty. We all have choices in life. They made their choice — you should, too.


What if You Are The One Who Cheated?

Now, here is an important piece that should involve some guilt on your part. If you find you are attracted to someone else and have made gestures toward another person, then yes, feeling guilty would be absolutely natural.

In such a case, you need to ask yourself why you did that. Sometimes people stray to get caught so their partner will decide to end the relationship. If you truly feel you are not happy and want to end the relationship, then do so without cheating.

But don’t end it because you want to start over with a new person because it’s easier than working on the current relationship. That won’t work because you’ll likely be trading one problem for another.


After You Give Up On The Relationship, What’s Next? Making Peace With Yourself

Sometimes we feel guilty because we “knew better” than to continue an unhealthy relationship. Often the signs were there, and we didn’t want to see them. Or, we feel we have truly hurt the person and could have broken off the relationship by being more honest about how we truly felt. What if you brought up issues sooner?

It’s important to think about these issues to better understand what you want in a future relationship. It’s equally important to make peace with your current situation.

If you believe the relationship could have improved, what stopped you from asking for what you wanted? Sometimes we don’t ask for fear of being rejected. Or perhaps you thought you would hurt your partner’s feelings if you brought up issues.

If you find that you did everything you possibly could have done, then you have found peace of mind. It still may hurt for a while, but you can’t have a relationship on your own. It takes both of you to put a lot of effort into making it work.


Moving On From Here: What Will That Be Like?

Hopefully, you have done a lot of soul-searching as part of your healing process from the breakup. If that’s the case, here are some things to think about for a future relationship:

Are there habits or behaviors you wish you had demonstrated in the previous relationship? If so, what kept you from doing those things?

What do you want in your next relationship?  Be clear about what fulfills you and what makes you feel empty. For example, cuddling or being playful, or bringing you gifts once in a while. What things draw you closer to a mate? What are the characteristics you really value in a mate? Be very specific about this one.

Your future mate needs to fulfill the most important behaviors, as well as completely avoid those you will not tolerate.


Final Thoughts

Healthy relationships are challenging for most everyone even when they are done correctly. It’s important to think about these issues to better understand what you want in a future relationship. In addition, it’s healthy to make peace with your current situation.

Healthy couples allow for differences but also have chosen a mate who wants to communicate and talk things through. Healthy relationships involve a mutual effort to please both people, asking for what each need from the other.

Successful couples know when to get professional guidance to improve the relationship. These couples recognize when they’re unable to make positive changes on their own. Remember,  creating healthy adult relationships is not taught in school. It’s really helpful to get professional advice.

Most importantly, to have a mate who truly values you, you must first value yourself. 

Remember that.

About Susan Saint-Welch

Susan Saint-Welch LMFT has counseled couples and individuals for many years on issues such as dating, marriage, family drama, coping with difficult times, improving self-image and living the life you love. She provides psychotherapy for clients in California and Dating, Couples and Life Coaching for clients outside California through secure video conferencing. She has published numerous articles regarding these issues on her website, on and on

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