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8 Undeniable Signs You Should Leave a Relationship

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Letting go of someone you care about is hard, even when you know it’s the right thing to do.  This makes it unlikely that you will be thinking about signs you should leave a relationship.

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 make your exit plan.

8 Signs You Should 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 unable 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 your partner, 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 this is one of the primary signs you should leave a relationship.

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.

It’s important to remember not to cater to this excessive insecurity because it’s dysfunctional and you will lose yourself in the process.  

heal from abuse3 – 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 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 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, but it also 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 you should leave a relationship. 

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 these make 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 abuse recovery 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 an abusive partner is not only possible – it is essential.

Break Free may be the missing piece of the puzzle. 

I know what you’re going through and I’m here to help. Learn more about the course and see what my students and neuroscience experts have to say about it.



[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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Michelle says January 28, 2024

I’m in a relationship with my husband who is verbally abusing me. I just don’t know how to stop seeing him even though I’ve moved my son and I into a travel trailer at a campground.

Jacqueline Bancroft says August 15, 2023

My biggest problem was being treated with indifference, ignored, stonewalled, absolutely no intimacy…for years..why isn’t this a major reason to leave? I left a few years ago but I almost lost my mind first from loneliness, confusion,sadness and frustration.

Sandy says November 13, 2022

Thankyou for all the helpful knowledge, it certainly has helped me by trying to accept the things that I can’t change about my Ex but by nourchering myself.

    Kim Saeed says November 14, 2022

    I’m glad you found my article helpful, Sandy. Take care of yourself!


Olivia says October 20, 2021

I’ve had this experience in a different way.
I was brought up by a narcissistic widowed mother, so I never knew who I was in the first place. Of course our mother gives us our view of ourselves, mothers are supposed to be loving and have our best interests at heart. She does not, so she constantly chipped away at my self esteem from my teenage years, so I always assumed I was unlovable, a burden, not the sort of person anyone would even like, let alone love.
From the age of 13, I had to be the parent. She would have all these crazy ideas and projects, they would always go wrong and I’d get the blame. ‘Look what you made me do.’ I was so relieved when I moved out of home and left her to deal with her own messes. I couldn’t get the blame because I wasn’t there!
When I lived at home, I was constantly walking on eggshells because whatever I said and did was wrong and she got in a huff. I tried to please her constantly but she was never happy. She was cruel to me when I broke up with my boyfriend, when I was ill, when I was pregnant. Every time I hit a low point and needed my mum, she showed her worst behaviour by trying to make things more difficult for me. A kind of emotional and sometimes physical torture.
I’d obviously got used to being treated like that because my first boyfriend treated me exactly the same, I must have chosen him subconsciously. I’m so relieved that our relationship went wrong and I met my husband, who is wonderful and I was able to escape my mother at last. He can’t stand her.

Laurie Mathis says November 30, 2019

Hello Kim, Thank you so much for all your support. My situation is difficult because my ex husband, NPD, the father of my two boys, has abused us all their lives and I became insane but im on meds now & Im fine but my oldest son has been affected by his abusive father severly. hes homeless, addicted, lost and a NPD himself. I don’t know what to do. I feel like my son is abusive towards me too & blames me for everything but I feel so BAD for him & Im constantly saving him & yes, enabling him. I NEVER want my son to live such horrible disorder, but how do I save myself? Please help me to find answers for my son. Thank you again!

Geraldine says November 21, 2019

I agree, such overwhelming joy not to care at all about them is bliss and to look forward in life rather in back. I will never take my mental health for granted again. However, the struggle goes on for me to fortify my boundaries and to start to slowly trust and even like people again. I realised the other day that once you are fully cognizant of other people and their motives (which as an empath I never really was, too busy worrying about whether they were happy), the world is a little more grey and dark but that is my growth to understand that we all come with our issues and no one is perfect, me of course included. Regarding narcs, you look back and see how small they are and there really is nothing to miss.

LeLonni M Keith says November 15, 2019

Help me please

Anonymous says November 14, 2019

Oh that last one is exactly me … always hiding the relationship out of embarassment for allowing the abuse. I was just planning on hiding things long enough for him to straighten up so things would get better. No, things got worse, much worse. He showed his true colors more and more and the verbal abuse hurt so bad. He was looking for new supply and that was the deal breaker. The separation hurt also but through this program I am healing and feeling hopeful.

Natasha Cannavo says November 14, 2019

I have found the emails you have sent me very helpful. However, my situation is family scapegoat in a malignantly sociopathic family. I’ve had to leave (during a breakdown and suffering from learnt helplessness) my entire family, nieces and nephews, the family business, the country I lived in. I haven’t to date found any sight that helps people in my situation. There needs to be more help specifically for the family scapegoat who has no one at all in the world to help or support.

    Susan Willey says February 4, 2023

    I was the family scapegoat for decades. My husband’s family found it convenient to lie and blame me for things I didn’t cause. Please don’t do what I did and continue on being a doormat for all of them for years. Get out, break the ties. You will never have a peaceful, satisfiying life until you do. I know that feeling of having no support but when you decide to get away from the toxic influences you will find there are supportive people who want to help you. I wish you the best.

The Scary Truth Between Toxic Home Environments and Adverse Childhood Experiences - Kim Saeed: Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Program says July 7, 2019

[…] it may seem frightening, the best choice may be to consider leaving this negative relationship. Sometimes, with conscious effort, partners are willing to change and grow. However, if you’ve […]

Maria Friberg says February 6, 2019

In mars, it will be a year since I broke up with the narc. I was devastated to find out that he had two more relations beside me.
I was trauma bounded, I see that now. He came back a couple of time and love bombed me.
It felt fantastic, but I never again agreed to anything he said. (His lies and statements/”truths” about me.
I wanted to be with him, but I didn’t forget what he had done, so it never lasted.
I had read a lot about narcissists and I SAW what he was doing. Everything was fake and he always had a hidden agenda. He actually was delusional, with his own truth, that has never happened in reality.
I finally went no contact in the autumn. Very hard in the beginning.
He lives in the neighbourhood, so I have bumped in to him in person 2-3 times.The first times left me anxious. I was almost crazy afterwards. I had some kind of ‘melt down’ at my job and with my family. (I still were ‘no contact’ with him. He can not contact me by phone, mail or social media.)
Last week I bumped in to him again. I tried to walk away, but he saw me. I stopped and said hello.
I didn’t feel anything for him (or maybe I wanted to throw up a little…)
I didn’t ask him anything (there was nothing I wanted to know), and only answered shortly at his questions (“How are you?”, “Fine.”)
I think that I am free. ? Afterwards I only fell eased.
I can’t believe it. I really don’t care about him any more. I don’t even need to hurt him.
It feels very strange that this sorry old man could have had such an inpact on me before?
He is truly nothing to me now. It is so liberating! ❤️

Still, I work on my boundaries and attachment style, to never be involved with a toxic person again. I remember how bad it was.

To everyone struggeling:
It IS possible to be free from the narcissist. I didn’t believe it before. I was so crazy…
But when it happened, it was easy!
Love to you all. ❤️

    Gita Durairaj says February 7, 2019

    I wish I breathe easy like you.
    I am struggling to get out of such s toxic relationship.

Shirley says February 5, 2019

All 8 signs are true. It is time to move on. I have done that after 27 years. Brainwashing is a terrible thing. I have taken responsibility for my part of enabling and codependent and allowing the abuse believing the lies,I can’t go back and change any of it. I can only go forward with my life and learn from my mistake. Thanks Kim for all your help.

    Kim Saeed says February 6, 2019

    It’s my pleasure and honor, Shirley. Thank you for stopping by 🙂

    Kim XoXo

Anonymous says February 5, 2019

The biggest power of a narcissist lies in making you believe that you both a pair of quartz stars that cant live one without the other, until you come to the cruel reality that they can perfectly and have been rehearsing life without you. This comes without warning, and you are left feeling nothing but powerless which you come to realize once you apply all the known methods to try to make them come back to their senses and they just proud themselves of that having no effect on them. This is the cruelest way to end a relationship which to them they are not really finished because you are just being overly sensitive. Only someone who has been with a narcissist can understand this.

    Anonymous says June 7, 2022

    Felt this whole thing to my core.

katja says February 5, 2019

Dear Kim,
thank you very much as always. Receiving your e mails is very important for keeping me up on track and you are one of my “rocks of Gibraltar”. I have experienced much of what you are describing in this blog.
It took about 3 month after breaking contact with two toxic people in my life at once, which was a very hard thing to accomplish, to bring my thinking back to almost normal. And sensing this brings a lot of optimism and strength back to me. It is such a relief to see that it is really possible. You all should give yourself a lot of time to heal. Also I want to tell you that I was very lucky to find three other “rocks”: a best friend who is always there for me (I never had this in my life before), a puppy-dog who loves me unconditionally and absolute. He makes me smile from morning until evening and we dance in the kitchen together every day. And I finally found a very experienced trauma-therapist. She is extremely efficient and I was able to make huge progress in very short time. I wish all of you the same luck I am having!

    Kim Saeed says July 21, 2019

    Thank you for your kind words, Katja, and for sharing…I am so very happy to know you are healing.

    Big hugs,

    Kim XoXo

Lora says February 5, 2019

I don’t know who’s the narcissist – I think it is me.
I”m the one who doesn’t like him going out and asks him to stop doing it. For example, every Friday and Saturday night he goes for dinner followed by nightclubs and dancing with work colleagues (including “lots of single young women friends”, his quote). And, I’m the one who calls him using derogatory terms (“selfish”, saying “his behaviour does not reflect what a good husband does…” etc.)
In fact I’m so confused that I no longer know what a good relationship looks like, or, what behaviour is acceptable in a marriage.

    Getaldine says February 10, 2019

    Hi, you’re not the one out at nightclubs with young men. You are calling him names as his behaviour is rude inconsiderate and outrageous. I suspect you are not sleeping around on him etc. If you are the one in pain and he’s not, then you have your answer. They can however send you round the twist and you start talking in ways and with anger you’ve never experienced before which can feel very disturbing. It disappears the longer you are away from them.

Survivor says February 5, 2019

You are a wealth of information and this article describes my situation exactly. Thank you so much for all your emails and instagram posts too. You are a truly incredible person helping others the way you do.

I left my marriage of over 20 years, but it’s been a living nightmare ever since as he alienated our children from me. He twisted everything he did and pointed the finger at me. I never shared his abuse with anyone. I always made excuses for his anger to calm my children. I am in such a better place without his abuse, dishonesty/infidelity, but still struggling over the loss of my children, when we were all so close before the separation. Our childrens’ school and health are still suffering and no one can help because of their ages. They all respect and support their father and believe that I abandoned them and lost my mind, leaving the best husband/provider ever. His brainwashing doesn’t stop.

Kathy says February 5, 2019

Do you have info on narcisstic parents, adult kids, siblings? I enjoy your emails, they are great. I am afraid that some of my family members also have narcisstic tendencies!

Kim Monarch says December 11, 2018

I was married for 25 years to a narcissist. I stayed because I was isolated from all of my family and friends and had three kids with him. I was reliant on him for everything. I am a strong woman.

    Kim Saeed says December 12, 2018

    Glad to know you’re free now, Kim! Wishing you all the very best!

    Kim XoXo

Rafal Pakosiewicz says November 17, 2018

hi Kim, many people belive that abusers abuse those who have poor boundaries and they enable this abuse. I don’t believe that . I think abusers abuse when victim is of a little value to abuser. Abuser knows that you might leave after abuse and he doesn’t care if you stay or go .

    Kim Saeed says November 18, 2018

    Hi Rafal,

    All people are of little value to narcissists and other manipulative types…at least emotionally. And, they do tend to have more success gaining power over those with poor boundaries. A person who has healthy levels of self-respect and little tolerance for games would leave the relationship early rather than being drawn in time after time.

    Hope that helps…


Carla says September 2, 2018

Morning Kim
I have been in this relationship with my current person for about 5 months. Although I can’t for sure say he is a narcissist he has all the signs.
Anyway I just wanted to say thank you and thank the universe for helping me find all of these articles. They are really helpful.
I’m getting ready to leave him but the truth of the matter is that I’m scared. Not sure where I will go or what I will do but I do know that I need to get out of here.
Once again
Thank you

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