Signs you should leave a relationship

8 Undeniable Signs It’s Time to Move on from Your Relationship

Letting go of someone you care about is hard, even when you know it’s the right thing to do. 

All relationships have their weaknesses and none of them are without occasional conflict. In any normal relationship, there will be fights from time to time. Things will be said and occasionally rehashed for one-upmanship.

For the most part, though, normal relationships help you feel emotionally safe and secure in yourself as an individual. 

This is not the case in relationships with toxic individuals, such as narcissists.  Even when you know the relationship is bad for you, it feels impossible to leave because of the trauma bonds and cognitive dissonance that form over time. 

When life is telling you you’re in an abusive relationship that’s no good for you, it’s in your best interest to notice the signs and plan accordingly.  This is hard to do, though, when you’ve been gaslighted and are no longer sure whether the relationship is really as bad as everyone keeps telling you it is. 

To help you see through the fog with clarity, I’ve put together eight undeniable signs it’s time to leave a relationship:

1 – You constantly obsess about your partner and feel insecure about yourself

Do you obsess for hours, wondering what you’ve done wrong and what precisely changed about you that caused your relationship to be sucked into a spiraling vortex of despair?

Are you barely able to function at work or, worse, barely able to function as a parent because you’re immobilized by feelings of powerlessness and fear of what your partner is up to?

Do you constantly feel the awful knot of abandonment fear in your stomach, terrified that your relationship is on thin ice and in danger of falling into the subzero, deadly waters below?

Sure, maybe you’ve dealt with insecurity or struggled with low self-esteem before, but it was always a passing moment that you talked yourself out of.  Now, after meeting the narcissist, you feel like you’re among the dregs of society, despite your success and accomplishments. 

What does this mean?  Your whole state of emotional brokenness has been manufactured by the narcissist.  Your life may not have been perfect before meeting them, but you were generally happy and satisfied with life, right?

The only independent variable here is the narcissist. 

If you feel worthless, depressed, crazy, suspicious, and are unable to function in your daily life, it’s an indicator that you have Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome and need to leave.

2 – You’ve been encouraged to detach from your friends and family

Sometimes, a person in a relationship can become possessive. A possessive person tells you they care about your safety, and that their possessive behavior proves that they love you. Taken to the extreme, possessiveness causes you to isolate yourself from the people you know and love. The goal of isolation is to control you by breaking down your emotional will to resist.

Isolation is employed by cult leaders to prevent their followers from having contact with outsiders, including their family and friends.  Similarly, narcissists try to isolate their partners in order to deprive them of social support, thereby weakening their defenses and making them more dependent on the narcissist.

Additionally, the desire to isolate could be caused by a partner’s insecurity. They may project that insecurity onto you by trying to control everything you do, who you meet, and where you go. They may try to make you feel guilty for enjoying yourself or making friends. However, it’s important to remember not to cater to this excessive insecurity because it’s dysfunctional and you will lose yourself in the process.  

3 – You are the target of consistent verbal abuse

Regular verbal attacks on your character and value destroy your self-esteem. Continuous verbal assaults may cause you to put aside your most important ideals and beliefs. 

Verbal abuse is characterized by critical or humiliating remarks about you as a person. If your partner continuously puts you down and makes you feel unworthy of self-respect, this is a warning sign that something is definitely wrong. Verbal abuse may escalate into sexual or physical abuse if you avoid taking action to protect yourself.

It’s also one of the biggest indicators of narcissistic abuse. When a narcissist becomes abusive, it’s likely you will start having errors in thinking because of the constant verbal abuse.

4 – Threats have been made to either hurt or kill your pet or worse, they’ve actually done it

This might seem obvious, but I’ve worked with a few coaching clients whose partner hurt or killed a beloved pet…yet, they were still in the relationship.

If the narcissist in your life has harmed or killed your pet or your farm animal, this should be taken seriously, especially if you have children in the home.  Not only does this point to the fact that your children could be the target of this psychopathy at some point, it would be highly damaging to your child’s emotional and mental well-being, scarring them for life. 

If this happens, contact your local domestic violence center immediately for laws in your state and guidance on how to safely leave the relationship.

5 – Your child has started underperforming in school

If you have children and you live with an abuser, your children are at risk of developing brain abnormalities which can cause aggression, depression, ADD symptoms, and other forms of psychiatric illnesses. 

Recent studies using brain scans have shown that chronic stress, negative thinking (brought on by emotional abuse), and spending time with unhealthy people actually hurts the brain!

It shrinks the hippocampus and prevents new neurons from forming.  Simply put, chronic emotional abuse and living in a high-stress environment not only kills existing neurons, it prevents new ones from forming, leading to cognitive impairment or memory problems. [1]

So, if your child can’t seem to improve in school, you can chalk it up to living in a toxic environment. 

But worse than that, it leads to PTSD, which is one of the most difficult injuries to treat as it is stored throughout the brain. [2] One of my readers recently wrote in to tell me that all of her children had been diagnosed with PTSD, sharing how remorseful she felt that she’d stayed in an abusive environment.

The takeaway here is that toxic stress derails healthy development in children and can affect brain development, leading to potential long-term consequences on learning, behavior, and health. [3]

You can see, then, how the old adage of “staying together for the sake of the children” is not only harmful on many levels, it’s the root of generational dysfunction which has led to the epidemic of clinical depression, anxiety, and wounded adults in our society today.

6 – Your partner constantly points out things they “don’t like” about you

Oddly, they may be the very things they loved about you in the beginning.  Narcissists groom their targets by claiming to love everything about them…the way they dress, their hairstyle, their interests, their taste in music, their love of the arts.

Then shockingly, the things they once loved about you became the reasons they were ‘forced’ to cheat, stop having sex with you, or start a new relationship with someone else.

The reason this manipulative tactic has such a profound effect on your self-esteem is that you’ve spent a good portion of your life developing your preferences, interests, personality, and personal style.  Along the way, you became comfortable in your own skin.  Then, along came someone who appeared to love every little thing about you.  In fact, it seemed the two of you shared many things in common.

Then slowly, like dismantling a jigsaw puzzle, they began taking little parts of you away by claiming they were intolerable.  Things that meant the most to you:  your family, your friends, your appearance, your relationship with your children, the love you have for your pets, your charity involvements, your violin lessons.

Until you didn’t know who you were anymore.

True love doesn’t take away the things that make up who you are.  It doesn’t diminish you.  If you feel like you can’t do anything right, that you couldn’t possibly attract someone else, that you’re “too old”, too needy, too sensitive to be in a relationship with anyone else, these are signs which shout it’s time to leave. 

7 – You have to behave like a parent to your partner

Being in a relationship with a narcissistic individual often feels like you’re raising a child.

Sure, maybe they have a great job…perhaps even a decent bank account.  Both of which makes it all the more confusing that you find yourself having to constantly teach them the basics of human decency.

I’ve seen the comments.  Some targets of narcissistic abuse find it endearing that they have to follow up on their partner and clean up their messes for them.  The poor thing can’t help it, they just can’t handle adult responsibilities.  The narcissist would be lost without their doting partner by their side to wipe off the stage and be The Cleaner. 

Much like the crime scene cleaner in popular psychological thrillers, the narcissist’s partner has to go in behind them and make everything disappear…only to find themselves cleaning up another mess before they’ve had time to catch their bearings. 

Adults should not be taking care of other adults as if they were children unless said adult is incapacitated.  Otherwise, this is the basic dynamic of denial and enabling. 

8 – You keep your relationship secret from the people you love

This may possibly be one of the more telling signs that you’re in a relationship that is very bad for you. 

If you were in a relationship with someone who respected you, treated you like you deserve to be treated, and generally helped you reach higher levels of happiness, there would be nothing to hide. 

The people in your inner circle would be happy for you, realizing you had a partner who was caring and compassionate towards you.

On the other hand, when you hide your relationship from people you love, it’s because they know you’re involved with someone who doesn’t treat you well. 

In the same vein, you know you’re involved with someone who doesn’t treat you well and you would be embarrassed for your loved ones to know you’re still putting up with the mistreatment, lies, and betrayals. 

Keeping your relationship secret is a sign of severe trauma-bonding.  Normal relationships do not cause you to form trauma bonds.  And it’s important to understand that a relationship in which you are trauma bonded will never change into a healthy, loving relationship.  In fact, the longer you stay, the worse the bond will become, making it that much harder to leave the longer you stay.

Getting Out and Getting Help

No relationship is perfect, but healthy relationships are free from fear and bullying behaviors. Being open about your thoughts, feelings, and experiences, and being there for each other are the qualities of healthy relationships. And remember, healthy relationships do not develop from trauma bonding.

If you recognize yourself in any of the above scenarios, seek support from a good trauma therapist.  You’ll also want to consider an effective online program to keep you on track in between sessions.  With support, you may feel more capable of getting out of a bad relationship.  Although it might seem impossible now, living a happy life without your abusive partner is not only possible – it is essential.

Copyright 2018 Kim Saeed

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[1] Bremner, J. D. (2006). Traumatic stress: effects on the brain. Retrieved December 30, 2016, from

[2] Your Brain on Trauma. (n.d.). Retrieved January 01, 2017, from

[3] Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. (n.d.). Retrieved January 03, 2017, from

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