In my own life I have struggled to let go of people and relationships. I found it incredibly hard to let go of my wife and our family life when my marriage failed. I have learnt a great deal about the nature of love from these experiences. I will therefore focus in this article on the reasons letting-go can be so difficult and the things we can do to make it easier and allow us to live our lives fully again.
The main reason we struggle to let go in a romantic situation, is that we still believe that our ex-partner is there to meet our needs. During the relationship they probably did meet those needs (although those same needs were probably what destroyed the relationship too!) and when it finished, we were left feeling empty and lost. Often we choose to end a relationship and then later regret our decision because we have forgotten that that person was meeting some of our needs. In essence, we fail to let go when there is unfinished emotional business in a relationship.
We can feel the loss in two key ways. We may miss all the lovely things about our ex and long to have them back (conveniently forgetting all the things we hated or that drove us mad). Alternatively we may continue to resent them or fight with them, long after the relationship has needed. In my relationship counselling work I am often amazed that ex-partners can still be fighting decades after a divorce. One couple I knew were still arguing about who should keep a cutlery set which had been a wedding present, fourteen years after their Decree Nisi had come through! This resentment and anger is also an inability to let somebody go from our life. Needless to say, holding on to anybody in a positive or a negative way is not healthy because unless we have let somebody go we are not fully available for a new partner. Our life energy is being wasted by dwelling on the past, rather than living in the present.
So here are some ideas about how you can finally let go of somebody from your past. I will look at letting-go from both angles – the longing for somebody and the resentment angle.
If you have not let somebody go from your past, you can identify what need that you still want them to fulfil. Alternatively, what aspect of relationship is not currently present in your current relationship or life that they provided. You may be in a new relationship and still hanker after somebody or you may be obsessed with getting your old partner back into your life. Perhaps you miss their tenderness, their beauty, their strength or their sexuality. Whatever things are, they are your needs and you are probably trying to find somebody else to meet them today. The trick is to understand that if you can see these gifts in somebody else, then you must have them in yourself – as the saying goes, it takes one to know one! At some point in your life you turned away from these gifts and felt you had to find the same qualities in a partner, so that you could feel whole. If that person then departed from your life, you would have felt very lacking in that area.
Once you have identified the need you are trying to meet with an ex, or even with a new partner, try to see that gift in yourself. You may have to work on your self-esteem and any heartbreaks and traumas from your past that have lead to you having any negative self-beliefs. As you recognize these gifts in yourself you will not feel so dependent on your ex. Typically you will need to work at letting-go over a period of time as our needs and hurt can come in many layers, which need healing one at a time.
If you are still feeling angry or resentful about an ex, the way to move on is the same as I have just described, but you will also need to forgive them for having let you down. Any bad behavior would have been coming from their own emotional and spiritual pain. Realize that they were almost certainly looking for the same gifts in you that you were looking for in them. In truth both of you had them, but had lost sight of this. If you have a spiritual or religious belief, then you can ask for strength and guidance in your letting-go and for the truth to be revealed for you all.
In both cases of letting-go we must move to a place where we love our ex- enough to let them go. Love never takes prisoners – true love holds on to no attachments and no needs. If we truly love somebody, then we would not cage them and seek to stop them moving forward in their life. Send your love and blessings to them for a good life. Trust them to lead their own life and allow them to make their own mistakes, so that they can learn and grow.
If you are in a situation where you wonder if it was right to have split up from your partner, by completing the letting-go process and reaching a place of ‘no attachment’ to the outcome, that person will naturally come back to you if this is true for you both.
Our whole lives can be seen as ongoing, letting-go opportunities – we are letting-go of our need for somebody else to make us happy and instead, finding it within or through our spirituality.
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