How to Leave Someone You Love

"I love you, but I'm leaving you." It seems like a contradiction, breaking up a relationship when love still exists. How can you deal with these situations? Find out here.
How to Leave Someone You Love
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

To leave someone you love seems like a contradiction in terms. However, it’s a really common experience. Sometimes it happens when you’ve been betrayed and you have to leave nursing a broken heart, but still loving the one who deceived you. It also happens when, despite your passionate feelings for each other, you just can’t live together.

It’d be wonderful if love were simpler and not prone to so much disharmony. Because, as the French writer Françoise Sagan said, loving isn’t only wanting, it’s understanding too. However, she also claimed that the only sensible way to love borders on madness. Therefore, it seems that contradiction is a given when it comes to love.

It’s hard to keep your feet on the ground when you’re in love, but you should never lose your head. Continuing in a relationship where there’s love, but the emotional wear and tear and suffering are continuous, doesn’t make much sense. In fact, although you may find it hard to believe, sometimes, the one who loves you the most also hurts you the most and this is something you mustn’t allow.

Let’s see how you should act when you find yourself in this kind of situation.

Leaving someone you still love is an experience that usually leaves scars.

Sad boy thinking how to leave a couple he still loves
Few experiences are harder than realizing that the person you love isn’t the right one for you.

How to leave someone you love

Sometimes love and events clash. Like two planets collapsing. Indeed, by the time you reach a certain age, you discover that love can’t do everything. You also realize that those who really love you shouldn’t make you cry, but they do. In these cases, there’s something not quite right in the formula of affection between the two of you, and you eventually become aware of the fact.

It’s fairly common to find you have to leave someone you love. Research conducted by the University of Utah claims that the reasons for leaving a relationship are multiple, but the one decisive factor is a lack of trust. 

This doesn’t only mean you stop feeling a sense of connection and complicity with your loved one. It means realizing that, no matter what you do, and how much effort you make, the distance between you can’t be resolved. In these kinds of circumstances, you should try and do the following:

Speak honestly, but don’t be swayed

To leave someone you love, you must be honest with them. You can’t end a relationship without giving an explanation, and without having a final conversation to clarify why you’re breaking up with them. Don’t use clichés or set phrases, and avoid the classic “It’s not you, it’s me” or “I just need some time”.

If you’re clear that your relationship isn’t bringing you genuine happiness, you must be assertive and say it out loud.

  • First, clarify what you’re going to say. Plan in advance and be concise.
  • Be prepared for what they may say. If there’s love in the relationship, they’ll probably use it as the main pretext, using phrases like “If you love me, you won’t leave me”.
  • Don’t fall into the trap of giving them another chance. It generally only intensifies the suffering.
  • Use explanations like “I’m leaving because I love myself. I’m leaving the relationship because I love you and neither of us deserves to hurt each other like we’ve been doing”.

Don’t look for blame

When a relationship ends, there’s almost always blame. Perhaps one betrayed the other. Maybe they neglected to pay their partner attention or give them affection. It’s often the case that, despite loving each other, couples just simply can’t get on.

However, when you’re leaving someone you love, it’s best to avoid blame. Assume that breaking up is the best option for both of you and that it’s the only way to stop suffering and be yourselves again. Do it without harboring grudges.

Get support to deal with your grief

When your relationship breaks, you break too. Especially if you still love them. In these situations, you have to live through your pain and all the necessary complex emotions. It’s a process that takes time and you’ll undoubtedly have difficult days and moments of doubt.

In those moments of difficulty, make sure you have good support around you. Friends and family will usually be your best allies.

Apply zero contact, the best strategy to move forward

Don’t continue to follow your ex-partner on social media. You must avoid all contact, both in real life and in the online universe. This will prevent you from continuing to feed your thoughts and emotions that are no longer relevant. Furthermore, you’ll find it easier to move forward without looking back, and without being anchored to someone who no longer has a place in your life.

Remember why you left

When love remains in a broken relationship, comings and goings are common. They’re those ‘chewing gum’ ties that are never completely broken. They repeatedly go from reconciliation to break-up. This is never the right thing. It’s certainly not recommended for a harmonious mental and emotional balance.

If you’re faced with the temptation of regaining contact with your ex-partner, remember what led you to leave the relationship. Think about the suffering you experienced, and ask yourself where your dignity would be if you started to contact them again.

Woman walking thinking how to leave a partner she still loves
When you leave someone you love, it’s a good idea to set yourself new life goals, meet new people, and make changes.

Commit to the decision and set yourself new life goals

It’s a brave decision to leave the one you love because all you got was unhappiness. Nevertheless, prioritizing yourself is wise, and reaffirming your own decision without looking back is an act of great emotional maturity. Even though, at times, when you close your eyes, certain significant and magical moments of the relationship might come to mind.

However, this is a positive thing, because you should treasure the good moments. The most important thing is not to go back, not to resume that link that hurt and invalidated you as a person. You must move forward, set yourself new goals, meet new people, and continue growing and learning. That’s the secret of life.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Joel, Samantha & Macdonald, Geoff & Page-Gould, Elizabeth. (2017). Wanting to Stay and Wanting to Go: Unpacking the Content and Structure of Relationship Stay/Leave Decision Processes. Social Psychological and Personality Science. 9. 194855061772283. 10.1177/1948550617722834.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.