Do you really need to “wait it out”, until a relationship becomes “objectively” bad, or should you let it go after what you perceive as the first, potentially too-early red flag? 

In my experience, those sensitive to societal expectations around relationships – young women in particular – tend to doubt their intuition to the point that leaving a relationship only becomes a viable choice when all other options were exhausted; where leaving is rationally justifiable to the outside world, where it is seen as ‘legitimate’. 

Perhaps it is because of this tendency that women are more likely to grieve a relationship before the breakup even happened yet – as heard on Maybe Baby’s podcast – while men more often mourn the loss of a relationship post-breakup. 

This phenomenon hit close to home and got me thinking: what could be the potential symptoms or early signs of such a “premature-morning” process of a future ending?

And is it really necessary to go through such a prolonged period of indecision – for the sake of certainty, or for “learning” – when you already sense that the relationship is not going to end well? 

In this piece, I go through some of the get-ready signs of it’s time to go, based on my personal experience, and that only, with all the layers of privilege that entails. It shouldn’t really be taken as advice, nor as universal truth (that doesn’t exist anyway!). It’s up to you, dear Lazy reader, how much you read into it. 

1. Decisions, decisions

All of a sudden, making decisions seems so tiresome, so difficult. The question “what do I want” feels distant, because in answering that question, you’d have to face the real issue: you don’t actually imagine your life together with the person you’re currently with. In avoiding the real question you need to face (should you break up), it might be that other decisions (unrelated to the relationship) seem increasingly difficult, too. 

Silver lining: Sometimes it’s OK to start with something easy. Instead of tackling “the issue” itself, a good way to begin could be a general evaluation of how you’ve been constructing your life: do you really like your job? What about the city you live in? And the clothes you wear? Making a true and honest decision in one fundamental feature is likely to trickle down into other important aspects of your life, too. You just need to find something that nudges you out from feeling stuck, triggering a chain of events where you’re left with no choice but to face what you’ve been avoiding.

2. What is “good” and “bad” anyway? 

When chronic indecision kicks in, in my experience, a certain lack of “cornerstone values” – aka. your true beliefs of what is right and wrong – follow. Such a kind of extended uncertainty and desensitisation from instinctive feelings can make your moral compass go numb, even making excuses for unacceptable behaviour. Questioning and doubting yourself becomes the norm (some examples: “surely they didn’t mean what they said [insert your no-go]; what counts as cheating is complicated; whatever love even means”). 

Silver lining: sometimes you only realise what your red-line is once it has already been crossed. But just because you let it happen once and you didn’t act upon it, doesn’t mean that you have to now endure it forever. Some things just cannot be talked-out, or changed-for-the-better: and they give a perfectly valid reason for leaving, even if no one gets why you didn’t try harder to salvage an “otherwise pitch-perfect” relationship. 

3. Too good on paper, not enough in reality 

This saying about what’s good “on paper” (definitely heard too many times on Love Island) becomes too relatable. In theory, your life is so great. On paper, your partner is perfect. But… there’s always a but. Something is clearly lacking, something that cannot be found on that paper you keep mentioning. 

Silver lining: once an old lady I met on a rainy afternoon in a Parisian café, Jacqueline Leschaeve, told me that my problem is that I am trying to know my emotions, instead of feeling them. She was in a way, right. In the age of overthinking, we – especially women – tend to analyse and objectivise romantic situations to a point where they become rather abstract; pushing each other and ourselves into “rational life choices”, we’d do anything just not to be labelled as ‘irrational’, even if that means being so out of touch with our intuition. 

4. Inner dialogues

You’re not 100% comfortable sharing with your partner what you really think, or how to make things better. You act out conversations in your head and downplay what you feel is overreacting. God, isn’t all this inner dialogue just so exhausting? 

Silver lining: Try to decide what’s keeping you from sharing. Is it the fear of how the other person will react? Or is it that there’s no point because you know that sharing would lead to that ultimate conversation you don’t feel ready for? Either way, don’t suppress what’s not perfect. Instead, think of it as a test: those who cannot handle the discomfort that comes from the fact that you’re another human being with imperfections will never give you the safety you seek from the relationship in the first place. 

5. (Self)-isolation from your friends

You spend a lot of time thinking about how other people would view the same relationship – instead of asking them for their honest advice. Bringing up the fact that not everything is as perfect feels shameful. Wouldn’t they feel deceived, that you didn’t tell them about your real thoughts this entire time? 

Silver lining: Being worried that other people will be disappointed in you if you share the truth about a possibly bad relationship is natural, but most likely unreasonable. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that this thing you’re going through matters to others in the same way: they have their own heavy stuff to figure out, too. What others think is truly the last thing you should be paying attention to right now. Disappointing yourself is much worse.

6. You know there’s no way back 

Once a certain boundary has been crossed, you might find yourself suddenly realising that you simply need to get out, as fast as you can.  And, in my opinion, once you actually say this out loud, there’s no real way back. Of course, there are plenty of scenarios where this process takes time – due to external or internal constraints – still, in the back of your mind, you are somehow certain that someday, you will just rip the bandage off, and leave. The decision is ready-made: what’s left is “only” to realise it. Which is of course, not as easy as it sounds. 

Silver lining: In my experience, if you’re already thinking about it, you should make a run for it. Not because that’s the right thing to do, but because that’s the only real choice you have once the idea has even crossed your mind. Staying is waiting. For the right time, the courage, the whatever. 

The takeaways 

If any of this is relatable, I’d say abandon justifying the complexities of life (especially ambiguous feelings of affection or comfort), take a deep breath, and leave whatever you have to leave – be it a romantic situation or a friendship, a place, an experience, a path you’ve previously chosen. And situations do exist when you cannot just get up and go, but at least admit to yourself that if you were braver, that’s what you’d do – and that someday you will. 

Start sharing your honest thoughts with your friends and realise that they were never going to judge, that they knew it all along.

Reconnect with those for whom you’ve never been too much. Know that you’re not alone going through this – in fact, the people who love you have been there all along, guiding you along the path as you come to your senses – an expression that all of a sudden means so much. Feel that you’re so full, so whole: all that integrity, all those honest conversations that you thought you could be happy without. They are all yours and you deserve to have them. 

So whoever is reading this and relates: I truly think that you don’t need to go through it to know it wasn’t worth it in the first place. But while you choose what to do (or not do), I’ll leave with this great Foster the People song to remind you: 

“every day that you wanna waste, you can

every day that you wanna wake up, you can”

Written by Zsofi Borsi. Find her most recent pieces by clicking here