The first spark, the first date, the time your hands touch—these are all defining moments of a budding relationship. But not all relationships last, creating other defining moments—the ones that point to an inevitable end.
These realizations can be as sudden as lightning or as gradual as the final straw. I asked women who recently ended long-term relationships about their own breakup epiphany. Ultimately, their stories are different, but their conclusions are the same. If any of these "aha" moments sound familiar, we feel you. Just know that you're not alone—and it gets better!
01. When spending time with him drains you.
Becca, who dated a man for three years, found herself needing to refresh and recharge after a weekend together. “Every time we would get together, I would abandon things that made me feel grounded and grateful (e.g., exercising, eating well, maintaining thought-provoking conversations).” Rather than feeling energized after spending time with her boyfriend, she was depleted. Afterward, she would immediately search out ways to rejuvenate herself, in order to gain back her energy and happiness. It was a gradual realization that he exhausted her, but a powerful one that propelled her to search for something better.
02. When you realize that you are not valued.
“From the very beginning with him, I felt like an obligation he couldn't shake—a burden," Stephanie shares. "Someone he wasn't proud to have on his arm. I knew he wasn’t right for me from the very beginning—I simply didn’t want to acknowledge it." After months of seeing each other, he still refused to say they were dating. Then finally, it happened: “Everything about the moment when he said, ‘So, I guess you're my girlfriend,’ I had built up in my mind to be such a perfect moment, and the moment he said it, my heart sank. I could tell it wasn't what he really wanted and that this wasn't right. There were many things following that, that should have been red flags, but by that time, my self-confidence had eroded to such a point that I felt if I could just be accepted by him, everything would work out.”
Ultimately, if you don’t feel like you’re truly valued and cherished for who you are during the dating period—take it from us—it’s not going to get better.
03. When you realize that your relationship is just a matter of his convenience.
Making compromises and sacrifices is one thing, but constantly adjusting your lifestyle and desires to match what your guy wants is a clear sign that things aren’t as they should be. Becca explains that her ex basically wrote the script for their time together, “Spending weekends together were largely centered around hanging out with his friends and me hanging out with his friends' girlfriends. I realized how unwilling he was to accommodate my schedule. He would get in the worst mood if I asked him to attend a friend's wedding, yet I went to so many events with him gladly.”
Genuine love requires both parties to put forth effort. As Stephanie adds: “If that isn't happening in your relationship and your partner refuses to recognize the issues—causing the give and take to be lopsided—as a woman, I feel in that moment you have to accept the fact that this might not be the man for you.”
04. When you realize that you cherish him as a person but not as a partner.
Katherine was dating a great guy: kind, considerate, funny, and smart. But she just couldn’t shake the feeling that deep down, it wasn't right—a feeling that never went away throughout the four years they dated. “I think I knew the whole time he wasn’t the one. . . . I never liked touching him, and I didn’t really like his work ethic or his unruly cleanliness." She explains that it was never anything that he ‘did' exactly, but an intuition she couldn't push away, as much as she tried. It can be especially difficult to break away from relationships where nothing is "wrong" or when the person hasn’t done anything wrong. But your intuition doesn't lie, he isn’t the right one.
05. When you realize that he does not bring out the best in you.
Our partners shouldn't just verbally encourage us to become better people, their presence and love alone should bring out the best versions of ourselves (at least most of the time). After three years, Becca decided the relationship needed to end when she realized that she wasn't the person she wanted to be. “You could say the moment you know if it’s right or not is when you realize which version of you, you are around this person," she shares." Are you your best you? Your lost and confused you? Your mediocre you?" She encourages us to ask ourselves: When you're with him, is the person you are the person you want to be?
When it’s "off," the feeling typically doesn’t just go away—it grows. Stopping to pause and listen can be a big step forward in finding the right life partner. After that, we just need the courage to walk away.