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How do you know when it’s time to let go of someone?

Letting go of someone you care about is one of the most difficult things we have to do in life. Whether it’s a friend, family member, or romantic partner, deciding when to walk away from a relationship you once cherished is enormously painful. However, there often comes a point when holding on does more harm than good – for you and potentially for the other person as well. This article will explore the signs that indicate it may be time to let go, as well as offering advice on how to healthily detach from someone.

When communication completely breaks down

One of the clearest indications that it’s time to let go of someone is when communication between you completely stops. If your repeated attempts to contact them go unanswered and one or both of you refuse to engage, then the relationship has likely reached an impasse. At this point you’re no longer functioning as a partnership or getting any of your emotional needs met. Prolonging an attachment once communication has broken down is unlikely to be fruitful or satisfying for either party. It may mean the relationship has run its course.

Tips for identifying breakdown of communication

  • You never hear back from them despite repeated messages over an extended time period
  • When you do talk, it tends to result in arguments or them shutting down
  • Your interactions are stilted and surface-level, no longer deeper relating
  • They express directly that they no longer wish to communicate with you

Of course, context matters. Has there been a specific recent incident that could explain the temporary lack of communication? Are they going through a challenging life event? Consider the circumstances before concluding the relationship is unsalvageable. But sustained unresponsiveness, hostility, and refusal to engage signal it may be time to step back.

Your needs and boundaries are repeatedly disrespected

Healthy relationships require mutual care, respect, and responsibility. When someone consistently ignores your stated needs and boundaries, it’s a sign the relationship is turning toxic. For example, they may promise to stop doing something that hurts you but continue anyhow. Or they might be unreliable and repeatedly break commitments and plans without justification. At some point their actions (or lack thereof) cross the line from accidental to willfully disrespectful. You deserve to be heard and have your requests honored in close relationships. If the other person seems chronically unwilling or unable to do so, letting go may be the right call.

Signs your needs and boundaries are not respected

  • They continue behaviors you’ve asked them to stop
  • They frequently break or change plans at the last minute
  • Your feelings are invalidated or dismissed
  • You express hurt and receive indifference or retaliation rather than care

Occasional mistakes happen, but a pattern of disregard for your needs and boundaries signals a lack of concern. Letting go frees you from a relationship causing more pain than joy. However, first communicate openly about the issues and what needs to change. If no progress results, it may be time to move on.

Your trust in them has been broken

Trust is the bedrock of healthy relationships. When someone betrays your trust significantly, it can irrevocably damage the relationship. Certain acts like infidelity, financial misdeeds, or sharing private information against your will constitute a profound violation of trust. After these incidents, it becomes very challenging to rebuild the openness and confidence once shared. You may constantly question their motivations going forward and struggle to be vulnerable around them.

Behaviors that break trust

  • Infidelity or inappropriate emotional/physical intimacy
  • Lying about or hiding important things
  • Gossiping about you or sharing private details without consent
  • Financial theft or dishonesty
  • Repeatedly breaking promises or going back on their word

If your gut instinct is screaming at you that this person can’t be trusted, listen to it. You might want to cling to the relationship if there are still positive elements. But once trust is broken, both people must be fully committed to repairing it through open communication and changed behavior. If you don’t sense they are putting in this work, letting go may be healthiest.

They feel more like a burden than a joy

With the right people, relationships energize us. We look forward to time spent together and feel uplifted by the connection. When someone becomes more draining than fulfilling to be around, however, it skews the relationship dynamics. You may begin resenting them and wanting to limit interactions. If spending time together starts to feel like a chore, constantly leaving you tired or moody, listen to that instinct. At this point the cons likely outweigh the pros of holding onto this relationship.

Signs a relationship is more burden than joy

  • You frequently complain about them to others
  • You start avoiding their messages or company
  • Your mood sinks when plans are made with them
  • You feel drained and unhappy after interacting vs. positive and energized
  • You dread seeing them vs. looking forward to it

This may signal poor interpersonal chemistry or that the dynamic has turned unhealthy for some reason. Unless circumstances drastically change through open communication and commitment on both sides, it may be wise to let go and redirect your energy to more life-giving relationships.

Your paths no longer align

As we mature and change over time, we sometimes simply outgrow relationships we previously nurtured. Your values, interests, life goals may diverge from those shared with certain people. Where you once wanted the same things, you now find yourself seeking different paths. If your visions of the future no longer align and you sense the relationship holding you back, letting go may be the healthiest option. This allows both people to move forward freely onto the next phase of their journeys. Though painful, sometimes love means letting go.

Signs your paths are diverging

  • You have incompatible future goals or visions of life
  • Your personalities, interests, values no longer mesh well
  • The pace of your growth differs (one advances faster)
  • You feel the relationship holds you back from your dreams
  • Your lives are moving in very separate directions

If staying together means sacrificing core dreams and identity, this breeds resentment. As hard as it is, letting go and allowing each other space to flourish may be healthiest. However, first communicate openly in case any compromises or adjustments are possible.

How to detach in a healthy way

If you determine it’s time to let someone go, try to do so in a way that honors the positive history between you, if applicable. Avoid spite or passive aggression which only prolongs pain on both sides. Instead:

  • Be honest yet kind when explaining your need to detach – don’t ghost them
  • Give them closure through a farewell conversation, if possible
  • Cut contact if necessary to avoid prolonging attachment
  • Wish them well and mean it – hold onto goodwill
  • Reflect on lessons this person brought into your life

Letting go can be an act of self-love and a chance for growth. Trust that there are always more meaningful connections out there waiting.

When to seek outside help

If you are struggling to detach from someone in an unhealthy relationship, seek professional support. A counselor can help:

  • Work through grief, anger, or guilt around letting go
  • Gain clarity on if cutting contact is healthiest
  • Handle any retaliation gracefully and firmly
  • Identify destructive attachment patterns
  • Strengthen your sense of self-worth and resilience

You deserve fulfilling relationships that nourish you. By tapping into both inner wisdom and outside support, letting go can pave the way for greater thriving. Trust that there are always more meaningful connections out there waiting.


Deciding when to detach from someone is complex. There are no absolute rules that apply to every situation. You must look holistically at the circumstances and relationship dynamics to determine if letting go is healthiest. Overall, consider if the relationship still adds value to your life or has turned toxic and draining. Reflect on whether your fundamental needs are being met or disregarded. Weigh if hanging on is stopping either party from growing into their best selves. These are signs it may be time to let go and redirect your energy elsewhere. With self-compassion, honesty, and open communication, letting go can lead to renewal. New horizons open when we find the courage to release relationships that no longer nourish our spirit.