What to do when He/She Leaves?

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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? — 524 Comments

  1. Hi , I am Allen, I was with my girlfriend from last 2 years, where we had enjoyed a lot and visited many places.
    My story begins from here:

    After 6 months of our relationship I get to know about her past relations, one relation was on the verge of completion when I entered in her life. But she never told me about about her existing relation, where her boyfriend was working with her in her business venture. After some time when I got to know about her relationship, I get to know that they were in a relationship from last 10 years, and that man is idle and she only provides her money for his needs. She told this man neither marries her nor leave her, and she also cant leave that guy as she is too much emotionally attached with him. And because she was unable left that guy, she tried 3 more relation along with that guy; as a trial so that she can move forward by having a relation first parallely and slowly she will move to other guy. Being her 5 boyfriend I understood her miserable condition and I tried very hard to remove that man from her life, and finally we were successful.
    After that I started to work in her business venture, but we were failed because of the location of her institute and secondly because of her very rigid nature, it was difficult to instigate her for any work that she must religiously perform. Then one of her one more past boyfriend tried to enter in her life, and she entertained her telephonically and later with 3-4 dates without informing me about the same. When she decided that guy is nothing in front of me, she left him and came back to me; intially after listening about her dishonest step I panicked a lot I left her, but later I accepted her again.
    Again we started concentrating in our business, and again we failed because of her rigidity, and excessive procrastination and eduaction that she was pursueing, and location of the institute, I explained her many time to be sincere but she never managed her self regularly. Then again I left her, and she sold her business. When we departed she cried a lot with many withdrawls regarding me, again we associated I asked her to do a job, and visited with her to many places so that she can get a good job and she got it.
    After the completion of her education I pressurised her to pursue phd, and she was selected for the same. But slowly I get to know she is procrastinating her phd work also, and along with it I get to know she is talking with other guy telephonically and he proposes her everytime, but she never stops him doing so along with when I discuss all such things with her she started showing lots and lots of aggression when ever she felt trapped. Due to this dishonesty we again departed, she again cried a lot, weeped a lot and again we reassociated.
    In the mean while I started remaining confused whether she loves me or not or she is just an attention seeker, and I started imposing some mediatiational techniqes, reading religious text, and exercises on her stating that these are the task if u will do regularly , u will prove that u loves me. She tried but she again procrastinated every task. Slowly my feeling started vanishing, but we didnt left each other. Every time I asked her to lets have a new start once again, she started and procrastinated again and again.
    Now she complaines me that I dont love her, and I dont have any feelings for her, and she started blaming me for no feelings that I blamed her for excessive procrasfination, dishonesty and aggression, this continued for 2-3 months. She always said she tried a lot.

    Now 20 days back she decided to marry and registed at one matrimonial website, because being good education (which I suggested her, and pressuried her to earn education) and good looks, she got many proposals. Now she is enagaed with a new guy, from other city who is rich but is very less eduacted as compared to me, but that guy makes much more money than me. Now she is happy talking with him day and night, and her family members are also happy. I built her career, I tought her, I removed her from her past relationships which were a huge mess, I suggested and supported her for a good job with degree like bachelor of education followed by Phd. But even after this now she left me and engaged with other guy of her caste and society, just by saying I panic a lot because if her past relationships, procrastinations and aggreasive nature.

    From last 5 days I cried a lot, weeped a lot, asked sorry for many times; but every time I weept she blames me for my bad behaviour stating that now I dont have any chance to have her again in my life.
    I am weeping, I am having serious withdrawls, but today I am helpless instead of so much efforts to improve her life.
    Now every 2-3 days she calls or messages me and bullies me for my past bad behaviour, and every time I weeps and asks her please dont leave me.
    Please suggest me what should I do now, shall I let her go, or what efforts I must do to get her back.
    Every time I thinks of her, everywhere I tries to see her but she have left me. She will get married within a month or two. Please suggest a good strategy what should I do, so she may forget this new guy whom she is going to marry, and come back to me again. Because I love her so much, and I did everything for her progress in life.

    • Hello Allen, First let me share that my experience so far is that what I teach works in other cultures than the American one it was created in. While issues of language and culture structure (caste, etc) often seem to add color, still the principles seem to work.

      It sounds as if she and you have had a lot of experiences that have led to her wanting to get away from you. I gather you both went through a Romantic Period and have been struggling since. My guess is then that you are a good match and are into the Power Struggle and beyond, but not yet into Door #1. (See my Map of Relationships for all references.) The door of exiting (Door #3) is open.

      Now you cannot force her into Door #1, but you can lead. Someone has to. I wrote a piece on this and another on leading. Bottom line: learn the skills of the Biological Dream as fast as possible and be prepared to show that you’ve learned them if she gives you the chance.

      Learn the skills of making her safe while keeping you safe.
      Learn the skills of connecting reliably but not excessively.
      Learn the skills of respecting her differences while standing firm in your own.
      Learn the skills of respecting her rights and duties to be responsible for herself while you take care of your own.

      That’s a lot.

  2. My name is Nate and my fiance left me 2 weeks ago. She says that she wasn’t happy anymore and could not see herself happy with me in the future. I proposed 6 months ago and she claims when she said yes she was 100% sure that’s what she wanted.

    She says that in the last month I have been very mean and that I made her feel worthless. We had a beautiful baby boy 11 months ago but she says I do not pull my weight with him. I do see and admit to her that I haven’t been the nicest person in the world and that I probably don’t do as much as I should with our son. To be fair I have lost 2 of the most important people in my life ” my grandmother and grandfather” within the last 6 months so I have have been very depressed about that and unfortunately have took it out in her.

    She told me she did not want to work on it because she did not believe that If I showed her change that it would stay that way. So I tried to give her time but she would text me and call me. So I tried to beg of course and she would say I wasn’t giving her space.

    I am so confused I try doing what she wants but it’s a lose lose situation. I’ve asked her if she was 100% sure there was no chance of us working it out and she quickly said yes! I feel it’s unfair because there were multiple times I felt like I wanted to leave due to some severe situations but I decided I wanted to work on it and ended up falling even more in love with her. I let her stay at our place and have moved into my parents for the time being due to I want my son to be home. I offered to pay bills again for my son and to help with anything she needs. She does keep talking to me like we are friends but gets mad when I bring things up… I am deeply depressed and am at a loss with how to cope with this situation, and how to accept it!

    • Hello Nathan, That sounds like a mess. Your last line, about deeply depressed and wanting to accept “it”, makes me think that my website is probably not adequate to what you need. I recommend finding someone, maybe a professional counselor-type nearby, who can walk with you through all this. When things pile up (death of close people, etc.) it is a time to have a good support system. And you and your fiance are in the “building support system” stage – not the having one stage. With all you’ve got going on I think you should be depressed.

      As to the rest (“I am so confused”), my first thought was to look at my Map of Relationships to figure out what is going on and where you are. Sounds as if you and she switched bluntly out of the Romantic Phase just recently – maybe her first. That is completely normal and inevitable, I believe. So if you can just see yourself in the Power Struggle with this gal, things will make more sense. And it is nice for things to make sense to you.

      At this point you are probably running into her Avoiding you and you trying to Cling onto her – in Panic. Probably want to read up on Reliable Membership so that you understand that dynamic and aren’t so confused.

      There may be lots to learn in her phrases about “your being mean” and her feeling “worthless.” I bet there was arguing going on too. Well, I often say, “You’re either going to learn something or it’s going to be a nice day. So it’s all ok.”

      And in the middle of all this you’re trying to raise a kid. Learn as fast as you can so that you can be more helpful as a dad, Nate.

      Good luck. Keep a going.

  3. Hi Al! my name is Helena. Im going trough very difficult time with my husband. we have been together about 6 years , married about 2. first 2,5 years where fine but after i decided to move for him from NY to California things got worse. In fights he always preffered to walk out of the door no matter how hard i was asking him to talk or tried to stop him. Meanwhile he was putting his hands on my troat in a moment of his madness. i always tried to forgive him and forget it. Then we got married and things seemed to get better BUT then he started to “forget” to put his wedding ring on and more and more often was taking it of , coming up with excuses like “forgot” or “not comfortable to wear it at the gym”. Of course it was making me upset and after one of those times i confronted him. That leaded to a huge fight and he filled for divorce. One year passed and we got back together. We decided to never look or talk at the past. But after 3 month same issues came back.He said he thought ive changed but i didnt. He said its over and he moves out of our apt in few month. Meanwhile he took a trip to Thailand a day before my 30’s birthday without saying anything.( i found out where he is through mutual friends) As of now i depend on him not only financially but mentaly as well. i Have a deep pain in my chest and huge range of emoutions through the day..
    i know that he might come back to apt soon from his trip ( he also has his stuff here). But i dont know how to behave etc. I love him so much and in the same time feel a deep betrayal he caused. Most important i think i cant live without him.
    Please help me
    Thanks in advance

    • Dear Helena, it sounds really rough for you. To me it also sounds very normal. (Which probably doesn’t help you at all.) I’ll bet there are millions of couples going through similar situations. Some will figure the way out. I did. That’s why I searched for, created and shared my Map of Relationships, so that I could know what was normal vs what was healthy and what to do about it. Normal is pretty awful, I fear. The Map is free, but I believe it is worth a lot.

      Couple of quick thoughts. Learn that you can live without him. I believe that while we humans are not designed to live alone, we can do it. Part of that learning is to learn how to take care of yourself. Becoming dependent on unreliable people is not a wise idea. My suggestion is to work toward being able to be independent – though you may never need it.

      You mentioned “fighting”. Don’t do it. It’s a sure sign that your communication skills are deeply lacking. Learn good communication skills. Read the Master/Slave materials.

      You mentioned his walking out of the door. This is normal survival skills. My guess is that you’ve been a Clinger. It’s good to know that cuz you can fix that problem without any help from him.

      Good learning and good luck.

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