Letting go of someone you love is one of life’s greatest challenges. It is something that we all end up going through at some point, but each one of us is impacted a little bit differently. For some of us, letting go means having to exit a toxic relationship. For others, it means moving forward after someone who inexplicably up and left.
Whatever the case may be, there are a few ways to start learning the art of letting go. Throughout the process of doing so, you will learn many valuable life lessons, one of the most crucial and enduring being the art of learning how to embrace and more deeply love yourself.
Acknowledging Your Emotions
Are you wondering how to let go of someone you love? If you are asking yourself this question, there is a good chance that you have already initiated the process by examining some of the issues you have with your loved one. The emotions that accompany this process can feel overwhelming at times.
Grief is not a process that is restricted only to the death of a loved one. In fact, many who go through the breakup of a relationship (romantic or otherwise) tend to experience what is called post-dissolution grief. In this sense – you might go for a slightly different version of the five stages of grief. You might feel lonely, sad, frustrated, and/or angry. Looking at other couples holding hands in public or seeing two best friends sharing a laugh might arouse these feelings, even when you aren’t expecting them.
It is okay to acknowledge these emotions. Our emotions are inextricably linked with our thoughts and lead to our behaviors. In situations we perceive as negative, we might experience irrational and even harmful thoughts. Letting go of a loved one can certainly evoke such thoughts, and it is crucial that we learn to replace them with more helpful and realistic thoughts, as is coached by counselors using the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) model.
When Cutting Contact Is Necessary
Learning how to let go of someone you love means cutting off contact with your loved one. You might find yourself still feeling dependent on that person for support. Whether that support is emotional, financial, or otherwise, it can be best to sever contact entirely so that you can move forward. Coping with the breakup of any relationship can be even more difficult when you feel like you still depend on that person for any type of support.
Cutting off contact does not have to be permanent. In fact, in many situations, it is possible to re-establish a friendly (or at least civil) relationship after being out of contact for several months or even years. If the relationship was toxic, however, you might want to keep the connection more permanently severed.
Separating Fact From Fantasy
As Dr. Jill Weber writes, when you do not sever contact with the person you ended a relationship with, you might end up ensnared in the fantasy of being together again. This desire for a re-established bond of intimacy is far from being abnormal. However, it can get in the way of letting go and moving forward. Any time you come into contact with this person, you might be stung again with the disappointment of the relationship not working out.
This is why it is important to think about why that relationship ended. While there were probably some good points to the relationship, it is imperative to also acknowledge the not-so-good ones. Nobody acts perfectly within a relationship, but it is often only something we recognize in hindsight when we start separating fact from fantasy about our loved one.
Learning to Embrace the Past
Once you have a good understanding of the reality of the relationship and why it ended, it is time to think about how you can learn from this situation. This is absolutely pivotal in learning how to let go of someone you love.
Realistic reflection is a huge part of CBT but is also something you can do at any time, whether you decide to pursue counseling or not. Embracing the past means looking back, recognizing the lessons that were there for us to learn, and realizing that we are better off for having learned them.
Loving Them While Loving Yourself
Here, for many people, is the tough part when trying to figure out how to let go of someone you love. We tend to base some of our self-concepts on how others see us. This is natural for us humans to do. We feel better about ourselves when we know that we are loved and accepted by others. So, what can we do when that love and acceptance is no longer reciprocated?
Start looking inward. It’s totally acceptable to do this! Self-love and respect are not narcissistic when it is realistic and helpful to you achieving your goals. Recognize the positives. What were some of the good things you did during that relationship? What are some of the good things that you have done since it ended? Even if you have to write these things down and tack the list up on your wall, these acts of self-recognition and self-love can help you on your path to learning how to let go of someone you love.
Accepting Outside Help
Are you struggling with the process of figuring out how to let go of someone you love? Remember it’s okay to reach out for help. Let your friends and family know how you are feeling. Also, there is absolutely no shame in finding a counselor to help guide your way. Counselors trained in CBT tend to have a lot of additional insights and tools for getting you through the grieving process and learning to truly love yourself.
The biggest thing to remember when learning how to let go of someone you love is that you are not a bad person for doing this. We all – you too – deserve to be happy and feel the love of others as well as to love ourselves. By embracing the past, you can find more hope for the future.