How To End An Unhealthy Relationship

Marriage and Family Therapist By Shelly Bullard, MFT
Marriage and Family Therapist
Shelly Bullard, MFT, is a marriage and family therapist with a holistic and spiritual approach to relationships. She has worked with thousands of clients on improving their relationships with others and themselves.

Part of life includes being in contact with people who don't feel good to us. If a lot of pain transpires with one person in particular, it's likely you'll eventually come to a crossroads: a place where you must decide if the relationship is just too painful to continue.

This may be a relationship with a partner, family member, friend or coworker. Any type of relationship has the potential to fall apart, and it's painful every single time.

But sometimes it's for the best. When a relationship brings more strife than love, you have to wonder how it's serving your desire (and right) to a happy, loving life.

In this article, I'm going to outline four steps to saying goodbye to relationships that bring you down. Hopefully they'll serve as a guide to setting yourself free.

1. Get clear that it's time for the relationship to end. 

Before you're able to walk away from a relationship that feels harmful to you, you have to be clear that you're ready to say goodbye. So how do you know it's time?

It's time when the majority of interactions feel hurtful, and little or no change seems to be in sight.

Struggle in relationships is part of the package…to a point. And there's also a point where you have to draw the line and choose well-being instead.

If you dread being around someone, if you feel like your well-being sinks in her presence, if your body starts to revolt when he's near, listen to those messages! They're trying to tell you something. They're saying, "This isn't working for you."

Kris Carr has said, "Habitually attempting to fix the unfixable is crazy-making." She's right. Staying in relationships that constantly feel bad is insanity. And you don't have to do it anymore. You can choose to walk away.

You are the advocate for your own well-being. You have a choice to say goodbye when your health and sanity are on the line.

2. Grieve the loss. 

Grieving is the natural emotional process that occurs when something comes to an end. It's a crucial step to letting go of harmful relationships, one that can't be skipped.

What does grieving entail? Feeling all the nasty feelings that exist for the person, and sadness for the things you'll miss, too.

Many people stop short of real grief. They feel their feelings to a point, then turn to numbing, over-thinking, or blocking out the experience before it gets too painful. I understand why — it's not enjoyable to dive into your own pain. But trust me when I say that feeling your feelings is how you make them go away.

Really feel them! The more you allow yourself to go into your darkness, the more you feel refreshed, renewed, and able to start again on the other side.

Grief is what brings a sense of closure to relationships. Feel your feelings so you can move on.

3. Clean up your side of the street.

Taking responsibility for the ways you've caused harm can be difficult to do. If a lot of active, raw feelings are still present (hurt, rage, pain, anger, sadness), they're likely to come to the surface if you engage with the person you're trying to end things with. This is why you must grieve before you approach.

Once you feel like you've moved through the majority of your feelings (this can take some time — be patient) and you've re-centered, then you're ready to take responsibility for your part.

Personal responsibility requires humility! Remember, the truth about your relationship is that you participated in it! There isn't one good guy and one bad guy. Chances are, if someone has hurt you, it's likely you've hurt him, too.

By taking responsibility for your part, you're cleaning up the leftover damage that's been done. No more guilt. No more shame. Nothing hanging over your head. You get to walk out the door with grace and dignity.

This is big. When done correctly, it feels really good. Take the high road and clean up your mess so you don't have to come back for more.

4. Bless the person as you walk out the door. 

Once you've let go of your painful feelings and you have cleared the energy, hopefully you can bless the person as you part ways.

Saying goodbye is really about letting go of the resentments you feel for that person. It means wishing her well, or at the very least, wishing her a neutral existence.

The easiest way to do this is by tapping into your compassion for the human race. Honestly.

We all have wounds, some deeper than others. And we're all just trying to make it in the world the best we can.

People who hurt us are hurting. They may not be aware of it, but it's true. You don't have to take someone's s#*t, but you also don't have to wish them ill will.

If you can open your heart, even just a little, and recognize that we're all trying to do the best we can, you may be able to bless this person as you go. If you're able to do so, you know that you have truly completed the process of saying goodbye. You're officially free to move on.

Saying goodbye to people and relationships that no longer serve us is a challenging process. Get support (a good therapist, friends, loved ones) as you embark on this painful — but necessary — journey.

Remember that letting go of what no longer serves you is what allows you to have more space for what you really want. Clean out what's unhealthy so you can live your life in peace and harmony.

In the comments below, I would like to know what you've gained from letting go of unhealthy relationships. I look forward to hearing from you.

Shelly Bullard, MFT
Shelly Bullard, MFT
Shelly Bullard, MFT, is a marriage and family therapist with a holistic and spiritual approach to...
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Shelly Bullard, MFT
Shelly Bullard, MFT
Shelly Bullard, MFT, is a marriage and family therapist with a...
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