5 Ways To Lovingly Detach + Release Relationships That No Longer Serve You
People come into our lives to help us identify patterns, learn significant lessons, and evolve as humans. That being true, not all relationships are meant to last forever; some are only meant to last a season. And as painful as the experience can be, there are healthy ways to release those relationships that are no longer serving you. Here are a few tools to help you do that in the most loving way possible.
1. Be clear and communicative.
When you know that it's time to end a relationship, it's important to do so with as much calm, clarity, communication, and love as you possibly can. This will mean that you need to get clear with yourself first: Why is the relationship no longer working? How do you want to interact (if at all) moving forward? Where can you acknowledge your part in the relationship's end? What gratitude can you offer to your partner for their part? Breakups are hard for all involved, so the more clear you can be about why it's happening, the easier it will be for you to communicate that in a loving, healthy way—and the better it will be for everyone.
2. Practice forgiveness.
Forgive them and forgive yourself. This is likely not the vision you had for this relationship—very few of us go into a relationship (romantic or otherwise) expecting it to end. There are likely hurts, things you wish hadn't been done or said, or even just a general guilt that you couldn't "make it work." In order to move on from the relationship, it's important to forgive the other person and to forgive yourself. There was a reason you came together and there's a reason you are moving apart; acknowledge the good, the bad, and the beautiful from your time together and know that it all served an important purpose in both of your lives.
3. Allow yourself to grieve.
This is an especially important step in the process, and one that's often skipped—especially by those who actually ended the relationship. There is a sense of loss when a relationship ends; you're not only losing their companionship and presence in your life, you're also losing the yet-to-be-made memories and opportunities you had envisioned in your future. Please allow yourself to grieve this and to grieve the relationship you did share. This is normal and it is healthy, and when it's not expressed, it can become trapped in your body, negatively affecting your health, your happiness, and your ability to move on. Give yourself permission—feel these feelings and know that the grief won't last forever.
4. Reconnect with yourself.
Ending a relationship will understandably free up some time in your life. Take advantage of the opportunity to spend that time with yourself! Reconnect with you. Who are you? How are you feeling? What do you like to do for fun? What are your big dreams for the future? It's likely that the answers to all of these questions were affected, even if only minimally, by your relationship. What are the answers now that you only have to answer to, well, you? Be honest, have fun, and get to know yourself again. It’ll make you that much stronger and more grounded moving into your next relationship.
5. Learn the lesson(s).
Admittedly, this is not always something you can do right away. But if you're willing to be self-aware and exploratory, you will soon begin to see the value that this relationship—and its eventual end—have played in your life. When the time is right, begin to ask yourself what you learned from this relationship: What did you learn about yourself? How have you grown and evolved as a person? What have you learned about the nature of relationships; about how you show up and behave in them?
How will these lessons affect your next relationship, whether with a romantic partner, a friend, a coworker, or otherwise? Of course, there's no need to be "perfect"—to have learned all the right answers and gotten all the good lessons, and feel that you need to apply them perfectly on the next go 'round. Simply recognize what you've learned and how you've grown and how that might be helpful to you in the future. Then offer up gratitude for the relationship you let go of; clearly, it gave you so much.
It's never easy to release a relationship, especially if it played a significant role in your life. But there are always ways to let go that best serve you and the other person, and doing so will help heal your heart and make way for the incredible future relationships to come.
Dr. Danielle Dowling, Psy.D. is a doctor of psychology and life coach, helping ambitious, driven individuals achieve the financial, spiritual, and lifestyle abundance they dream about. She holds a bachelor's in business from American University, and her master's and doctor of psychology degrees from Ryokan College.
Dowling has spent years helping people live richer, more joyful lives. She has seen firsthand the magical pairing of psychology and life coaching, which allows people to access their happiest selves.