Have you ever been in a relationship and suddenly realized that it was time to move on because it no longer served you? But it was extremely challenging to let go and move on?
Well, I'll be the first to confess that I’ve experienced several of such relationships, ranging from romantic partners, to friendships, business partnerships, family dynamics, jobs, habits, homes, you name it. I’ve had to say goodbye to many relationships in my short 35 years of life and each time I had to do it, it was not easy.
I’m sure you will agree that all relationships end at some point. It is simply the nature of life. Despite this obvious fact, however, why do we seem to always struggle with letting them go, especially when they no longer support our highest good?
This is the very question I asked myself a couple months ago, as I reflected on a few relationships that no longer served me.
This is what I came up with:
1. Our attachment to people, things and situations.
Over time, while interacting with people, things and situations, we naturally develop a connection, which becomes an integral part of our daily routine and lives.
We grow used to having them, doing them (if it’s an activity) and being with them. This connection can sometimes grow into an attachment. It often happens quite unconsciously, to be honest, where somewhere in our minds, we begin to believe that this person, thing or situation, will exist forever in our experience and it soon becomes an integral part of our identity.
It was profoundly stated by the Dalai Lama that, " Most of our troubles are due to our passionate desire for and attachment to things that we misapprehend as enduring entities."
The reality is, nothing in this realm of form is permanent. Everything has an expiration date. Despite this reality however, where things come and go constantly, where they are born and eventually die right before our very eyes, we unconsciously choose not to accept this truth.
Instead, we habitually hold on to the memory of what was and not to the truth of what is. This of course makes it difficult and challenging for us to let go of situations that may have once served us, but no longer does.
2. Being content in our comfort zone
Most people don’t like change. Most of us are extremely resistant to it and in some instances fear the idea of it. We desire consistency, steadiness and surety and our relationships with people, things and situations, help in satisfying this desire.
For many of us, change makes us uncomfortable and disheartened. We are forced to give up what we know and have grown used to, in exchange for the unknown.
However, it is through change that we get to explore beyond what we already know and have experienced. Changes in situations, things and people facilitates our continuous expansion and evolution as a being.
Therefore, when we resist change and the unknown by staying confined to our comfort zone, we deny ourselves of experiencing further growth.
3. Not wanting to hurt others
This is a huge one but a real one. When we are faced with having to let go of a relationship with someone, this is usually more challenging than letting go of a thing or a situation.
The reason we were drawn to the person in the first place, was as a result of a commonality, generally founded in love, care and appreciation for who they are.
Most of us are not in the business of purposefully hurting people we care about. We think deeply on how our choices may affect them, especially when it involves less than desirable decisions. We think about the possible hurt and pain they may experience as a result of our decision, which causes us to suspend saying goodbye.
However, we often do this at the sacrifice of ourselves. We place the possibility of temporarily affecting the other person over how we feel and what we want. This admittedly often creates more unease and pain in the relationship for us and the other person, simply because we are unhappy.
4. Our fear of confrontation
Some of us are daunted by the thought of sharing with others how we truly feel, especially when we perceive it to be something negative.
Several years ago, I was in a romantic relationship for just about 4 years. After some time, I strongly felt in my heart that we had reached the end of our journey together and it was time to release and let it go. But I struggled to start the conversation.
On several occasions, I found myself rehearsing exactly what I would say and planned the so-called perfect opportunity. The perfect opportunity never came and what I planned to say, was never said. Honestly, I stayed in the relationship for another year, until he decided to end it. Go figure.
Many of us believe that loving and caring for others, excludes placing difficult topics on the table and highlighting behaviors that affect us negatively. Instead, we choose to stay mute, choking on the unsaid words and the toxic emotions that accompany how we feel. It also causes us to stay in situations longer than we need to.
5. The benefits seem to outweigh the detriments
Letting go is usually advanced when our current situation causes immense discomfort and sometimes suffering. However, even when we feel within our hearts and know within our minds that it is time to move on and say goodbye; if our situation provides us with valuable benefits such as a guaranteed roof over our heads, a steady salary or the comfort of not being alone, we will most likely choose to stay in the situation.
The relationship with the boyfriend I mentioned earlier, while unhealthy, provided me with all three benefits.
We were living together in his house and if I ended the relationship, it meant I would have had to find a place to live. I also worked with him and feared if I had broken it off, I would be out of a job and of course steady money. And the nail in the coffin, the fear of being alone.
I’d managed to convince myself that those factors were more important to me than the toxicity I was living in, which of course delayed the inevitable.
I know you are probably thinking, does knowing the why behind our resistance to letting go and saying goodbye make it any easier? I believe it does.
By knowing the why of our actions, we are no longer held prisoner by our unconscious beliefs, thoughts and ideas about letting a person, thing or situation go.
We are now fully in the know and have a better appreciation of the cause of our actions. It is from this conscious, aware space that we can truly make a different choice to release and let go of what no longer serves us.
As selfish as it may seem to some people, we need to always think about ourselves and our highest good. If we are involved in relationships that deny us the opportunity to continuously grow and expand; does not enhance and uplift us; robs us of our joy and peace of mind; jeopardizes our safety and health; does not allow us to be ourselves and is not in alignment with who we choose to be, frankly it is time to say good bye and let it go.
Without a doubt, letting go is a decision you will have to come to on your own and execute with wisdom and discernment. However, in my experience, when we continue to resist the inevitable, the situation usually persists, causing even more hurt and pain in the process to you and the other parties involved.
Letting go is very similar to removing a plaster, the faster it is done, the less pain we experience in a shorter period of time. However, the longer we take to pull it off, the more drawn out and excruciating the experience is.
I can honestly say that each time I was faced with a situation that required me to let go and I surrendered to the wisdom of my heart and released the person, thing or situation, my life changed in a meaningful and positive way.
Letting go created the space I needed to welcome something new that was better aligned with my highest good.
Here are a few thoughts to consider, if you are struggling with letting go:
"Some people believe, holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then to do it." - Ann Landers