Why is letting go so hard?
We know it is over. We might have even decided to end things and move on. But why do we struggle so much to let go of someone we love?
It is never easy to end a relationship and no one can tell you when it is the right time to let go. Some may stay too long in an unhappy relationship, holding on in the hope that things change, whilst others leave too early, missing out on the enriching opportunities for healing and growth.
Even when you recognise that you need to let go, you might soon find out that knowing you need to let go with your rational mind and actually being able to let go of someone emotionally are two very different things.
And here are some reasons why:
1. Holding on to the familiar
We humans instinctively like to hold on to what we already have in our lives. A romantic partner brings us this sense of belonging, security, and certainty. Letting them go means a major change and embracing the unknown, which can be extremely scary.
You have built a deep connection with this person and shared your life with them. This is a strong bond. You must understand that taking the decision to close the relationship, is giving up on a primary attachment. Our brains are social organs. They are hardwired to stay connected and therefore letting go of that person you are most attached to is going to challenge you and can trigger the deepest, most painfully held traumas.
It is usually the fearful part of us which prevents us from letting go, idealising what has been, keeping us stuck in the past or grasping on to hope that things can be rekindled in the future. The insecurity and emotional turmoil we feel ends up blocking us from seeing the truth about the ways our former partners weren’t meeting our needs and why closing the relationship is in our best interest.
2. Finding yourself stuck in a negative bond
When someone doesn’t love us in the way we think they should, if they have hurt us or we seek to get back at them in revenge, we might form, and get stuck in, a negative bond. Unfortunately, this can have lasting consequences. We like to believe that love’s opposite is hatred but it’s actually indifference. In the brain’s world, it’s better to have a negative bond than no bond at all. So, deep down we may know that moving on is the right thing to do, that the negativity is causing us pain. The brain, however, still won’t let the relationship go.
Instead, you will be left with anger and resentment. The relationship slides into toxicity where both of you end up feeding each other a poisonous diet of hostility and disdain.
The bonds we form are a continual exchange of energy that keep us interested, invested, and engaged with one another, no matter whether that engagement is positive or negative.
If you don’t actively seek to make peace with what has happened, and if you don’t become conscious of, and end, the negative cycle, your brain is prone to keep you stuck in harmful engagement with your ex forever.
3. The dangers of moving on without healing
Healing emotional pain doesn’t come naturally to most people. We tend to do the opposite of what would help us most. We obsess about what happened and protest against it. We push away our feelings, trying to rationalise or change the unchangeable over and over again in our minds. We don’t allow ourselves to feel and acknowledge that the pain of leaving someone we love behind is part of actively engaging in the healing and grieving process.
Being in denial about it might be easier in the short term but will only end up hurting your emotional and physical state in the long run. It will keep you from moving on fully and enjoying a fulfilling love story with an open heart in the future. In fact, suppressing hurt and keeping your feelings buried inside is like shutting down your heart and can eventually turn into anxiety or even depression.
Both you and your ex need to give yourselves the time to heal. If you move on without doing this you may end up in a rebound relationship with all that suppressed pain causing more harm or prolonging the healing process even more.
Instead, take the time to learn from your experiences and use this as a way to grow so you can create a new healthier relationship with someone else.
The key to letting go of someone you love is facing what has happened, accepting that you can’t change it and then moving on.
Some ways you can begin to let go
Firstly, you need to come to the realisation that refusing to let go will not bring someone you care about back. Once you understand this you can start to do the following:
- Take the time to heal – letting go of someone you love is a process.
- Grieving is normal and you need to allow yourself the necessary amount of time to feel and process your emotions.
- Treat yourself with compassion and don’t allow anyone to guilt you into “just getting over it”.
- Talk to a supportive friend, family member, coach or therapist about your feelings and let them be there for you.
- Let go of your expectations and focus on the gratitude for what you once shared – this will help you realize that breakups happen FOR you, not TO you.
Once you’re able to move on and appreciate what you gained from the relationship, you are ready to embrace new love.
You can love someone and still decide to let them go
It’s possible to want to have someone in your life and know that isn’t possible. It is about accepting that our former partner wasn’t able, willing or capable of showing up for you in ways that met our needs. Releasing them isn’t a declaration that we no longer love or care for them. It means we love ourselves enough to let go even when it hurts.
Also, learning to let go takes time. You will need to do a lot of inner work and this is where, as a relationship coach, I can help you. I can guide you towards healing your heart and your inner world, to reclaim your power.
Once you have done the work with me, you will know how to let go of someone you love, and you can begin to write your new story.
Find out more about my RISE AGAIN course and begin to heal through the art of letting go.