What to do when He/She Leaves?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Assuming you want her (him) back.

People frequently come to me with this problem. Actually this is my most read article. To me that suggests that a whole pile of people only "really wake up" when their partner starts to pull away. And you are probably one of them, right now. I feel for you. You've probably done a whole bunch of things "wrong" and don't know what for sure. I am sorry it took you so long to wake up. A lot of my work, shared here on this website, is for you. Take your time, breathe and read on.  Take heart!  Waking up is always a good idea – at least in the long run. 

First job is to turn your partner around, or at least halt their moving away.  Some years ago, in 1998 I believe, I came up with a short set of answers to this situation and have not felt the need to change them since.  It works.  Follow the four steps.  Print this Article in PDF


This is very important.  Your partner is already moving away.  Anything you do to push them will tend to make them move away faster and further.  Stop anything that might be construed as pursuing or pressing them.  If your instinct is to call them twice a day, start calling them once a week.  If your instinct is to send them a gift, do it once a month.  If you are trying to find out what they are doing by asking other people, don’t.  Leave them alone – a lot, but not completely. (I do not recommend "no contact." (See my article When to Fold 'Em.)  Let your partner contact you when they are ready. (See Reliable Membership Article.)


Do not be surprised that you may feel awful, or sick, or depressed.  This is normal when you feel left behind, abandoned.  The feeling will go away – with a lot of time.  We all can live alone.  It's not good for us, but we can.  So, in the meantime, continue to live your life.  Go to work.  Eat well.  Sleep well.  Do more exercise.  (It will help you sleep.  It will help with any depression you may feel.)  Be among friends.  While you do this, you might consider staying away from friends of your partner's gender.  If you cannot sleep or seem very depressed, see your doctor.  Some medication may be helpful for a while.  If your partner speaks to you, don’t tell them how hard a time you are having.  That will probably not get you the sympathy you want. Just say something like, “Well, it is tough.”  And say no more.


See a counselor.  Read books.  Talk your problems over with friends, your pastor, your priest, your rabbi, etc.  Learn what you can.  Read my papers on Using Turtle Logic and The Two Walls.  Chances are there is a lot for you to learn.  Most often when a partner leaves, they have been planning it for a long time.  Most often they have felt terribly lonely with you. You, on the other hand may have been taken by surprise.  Ask yourself, what led you to be so unaware of your partner?  What led you to be so unaware that they were in distress enough to consider leaving you?  Try to not blame yourself too much.  All relationship trouble takes two.  And so, Get to Work. Work on yourself.

And do this work so that your partner knows.  The chances are one of the reasons they are leaving you is because they believe you will never change.  They have become hopeless about you ever changing for the better.  By visibly working on yourself, they have to wonder what you are doing and who you are becoming.  That is much better than their continuing to believe that you will never change.

When I say “visibly,” I mean that you take opportunities to let them know that you are doing something.  If they call, say you only have a little time as you have to get to your counseling appointment.  Say, “By the way, I’ve been reading a book on marriage.  It’s interesting.”  Remember to follow Rule #1, and not say much. Don't try to "teach them." 


It is reasonable that your partner will try to contact you.  They may ask for a chat.  Ask, “How long?”  Agree to give them half that time.  They may ask for dinner together.  Agree to give them a short one.  They may ask for you to spend the night.  Stay only through the evening.   Get used to this.  Think that you are trying to get a deer to come out of the forest and eat from your hand.  You have to earn (or in this case, re-earn) their trust and never lose it again.

Good luck.  

P.S. And when he/she stops the leaving and starts tentative connecting or checking you out, be ready.  For more on this subject, particularly once you have managed to get your partner to slow down their leaving, you might want to read “Out of the Blue” means “Read the Tea Leaves”.

You will probably also want to check out my Map of Relationships to put a clear framework around what is going on and what your choices are.  Being foolishly stubborn, i.e. doing what you have been doing, will probably lead back to the same "them-leaving" problem.  Being stubborn about "learning-to-do-new-things" seems to be the only path.


There are so many excellent comments submitted that I archived them in two PDF files.  Aug2007–July2008 and July2008–April2010.  These are good.

Click here for “all” my articles on ClingersAvoiders.

Remember, this is just one (Reliable Membership) of the several major problems in relationships.  When you solve this one, when  your partner turns around and decides to consider staying with you, there are the other problems in front of you.  Take a look at How to Use this Website, or Using my logic on relationships, or Where to Start. The most comprehensive place to start is always my Map of Relationships.

Good luck.

Download an audio file of me sharing 26 minutes of further discussion for $5.00. 



By © Al Turtle 2002



What to do when He/She Leaves? — 708 Comments

  1. Hello Al

    This is my first attempt at speaking with someone outside of my family, because if they knew the truth of it all, the shame I would feel would become overwhelmingly intense. My husband and I have been together for 8 years. 3 of those years we have been legally married. Our story of us is an amazing one, I think. We went to school together and although we knew of each other, we were not in the same crowd. We ran into each other in 09 at a small gas station in the town we grew up in. We talked and then with in 2 weeks we were monogamous. Every day was wonderful to say the least. I had been through years of heartache from previous relationships and a single working Mother to two kids. We dated a while before I introduced him to my kids, bc I did not think it would be healthy for my kids to meet someone that would not be sticking around. Needless to say we all clicked perfectly. He was the Dad I longed for my kids to have. Extremely dependable, loving, caring, compassionate, and made it a point to be involved in everything that we did. Sometimes I felt that this was too good to be true because I had never had a man in my life that made me feel like I was worthy. It was real though, all of it. We were together every single day and never got tired of each other. It was unbelievable how happy we were and that we became this perfect little family. There was a downfall however, he indulged in smoking pot. I’m not one of those people who feel that it’s an evil drug and shame on them. As long as my kids were never exposed to it and he kept it away from my home I never had a problem with it. He was always really laid back, enjoyed playing with the kids and I. When I say that it was unbelievable how happy we were, it’s true. I never ever had any man make me so happy and feel so secure. His habit started to become extreme in which it was before everything he had to smoke. I started to feel as though I was having to compete over it and also felt that I was losing our connection. In doing so, so started smoking pot just to try and compensate for what I was feeling because if I ever tried to talk with him about it, he would say that I got with him knowing it’s what he does and I shouldn’t be asking him to stop. Of course this was really hard to hear because I felt like I was thrown back into time in which my self worth was questioned. I ended up just leaving it alone and stopped smoking on my own. I felt that I loved him so much and my kids adored him that I shouldn’t focus on that and just focus on all of the good things we have together. At one point he ended up slowing down and I became very proud of him. Over time the stresses of life increased and he diced back in to. Things were really hard all the way around. I had a surgery that required pain medication, at the time I didn’t think it was a big deal but started to become addicted quickly. This of course caused more tension and he started doing them as well. This habit tore us apart for sure. But there’s also something else that I feel more or less added to why we are where we are now. My daughter is now 18. Her and my husband used to have an amazing relationship. She was closer with him that her own father. After she turned 16 her bio dad got her a car. I can understand her new found freedom and having a sense of being a young adult but it turned into hell for us as parents. She was caught numerous times with alcohol in her vehicle, grades were falling and then she started smoking pot. She became seriously disrespectful to me. Yelling throwing stuff you name it. My husband was great at putting her in her place and refusing to take her crap. It only got worse as the years passed. At one point she got into my husband’s face and bucked up to him. My husband is a big man. 6’3, around 180 lbs. Not a small man by any means. He has great patience but she finally pushed him to the edge. He never touched her but what I saw was frightening. I could tell he was at his limit. I feel that I failed as a Mother in expecting more from my child and disciplining her more and I can’t change that now. I’ve created this hole. He hates her and she hates him. He’s become so angry and unhappy and he has every right to feel that way. I should have done more bc of all that he has done for myself and my kids. Last week was the last straw for him and he left. I’m completely heart broken. I love this man with all my heart. Im so sorry that i didn’t do a better job at being his partner and wife. I know Its bc we both allowed an addiction to lose value in each other and our relationship and I don’t know how to fix that. I have started to wean myself off of what I was taking because I so am so determined to get us back on track. I don’t want to be what we were, I want us to be better than what we were. He has been living with his parents for a week now and has taken all of his things. I have tried to send him messages to tell him how sorry I am and to make sure he knows that I take the blame for what has happened but I also feel that he should accept that it’s both of us that caused this especially my daughter. I want to work on things and both of us change for the better. I know we were meant to be together forever. All of this has been an eye opening experience and made me realize that we both lost sight of what we once meant to each other. I have backed off and not sent anymore messages hoping .maybe he will try and reach out to me. He stated that he had fallen out of love with me. I don’t understand how that can happen if I was put through just as much turmoil as he has been through and I’m still willing to fight for us. Why didnt he try to tell me that he began starting to feel that way? If I had those concerns, I would at least tell him so he had the ability to communicate with me and us work on it together. I dont want to live my life without him. He’s everything my to me. My daughter has caused so much heart ache. I know if she wasn’t here we would be fine other than our own issues. I could really use some suggestions as to how to approach this besides having my friends advice. While I appreciate it greatly it can sometimes be biased bc they don’t want to say anything that will upset me, but I would rather have the honesty. Is there a chance for us to try and work on things or could this be the end?



    Ps.. sorry this is so long

    • Hi Jennifer. I haven’t read your whole post. Haven’t had time. But saw your comment on shame. Maybe you would prefer to email me rather than post your story for all to read. Besides I am on vacation and maybe can’t respond fluently. Mexico and all that. You spoke of shame. I posted your piece but can take it down and turn it into an email conversation. What would you prefer? Email me at al@alturtle.com.

Leave a Reply