A new version of the article has been edited and added to the October 19th posting “How to Let Him Go.”
The simple question you asked me …”how do I let him [or her] go…” is one that is full of contradictions. Holding on to the memories, letting go of the pain; holding on to your self esteem, letting go of the sense of loss. Letting go of someone you have great attraction, passion, love, like or even history with is difficult under clear circumstances, harder when there is unfinished business between the two of you. Still, dear one, I am asked this question nearly every day at THM. Let’s see if we can shine some light in that dark place that has hold of your heart.
First know that you’re not alone on this day or any other. You have a bright and shining life to lead once this storm cloud passes. How do I know? Once upon a time, in a different life, as a different girl, I once loved someone with every cell of my person. Like star crossed lovers, we were not meant to last. He left me…not just once, but left, came back, left, came back….you get the picture. I will be honest with you…I would have changed my whole life for him, given up things that I adore, just to be with him every moment of every day. I loved his soul, his smile, every thing about him. I loved his mind, his brokenness….everything. Just as he was. And then there was a great open, gaping wound when he simply vanished for the final time, shooting one last arrow my way in favor of someone that enables his disease. So it was me,once upon a time, I was asking “how do I let him go?” I was shattered beyond surviving.
I survived. So will you. It gets better in time. Hold on. Don’t let go.
This is what I learned in the intervening time.
1. Your story is about you….and you alone. I have a saying that I live by…what is buried alive will never die. Allow yourself to feel the grief, and let the pain flow freely out of you. Letting go is a self discovery journey, not an action that you take. The person that you have parted with is not the real problem; the way you perceive yourself and your life without them is the thing that makes you ache. I know this side of the cliff very well, and have been there several times in my life. Letting go requires that you come to a place where you allow the grief to come out. Yes, I lay for days on the floor crying for all I was worth. The pain inside of me was from being betrayed, being left like an unwanted rag doll along an expanse of open highway without dignity or honor. But that was not the truth either; life is life. We separate for a million different reasons, and the heartache comes.
In the tears I began to recall that I was here before there was him; I once was a beautiful, carefree person that loved being alive, was learning new things and had all the hope in the world. I was a person worth falling in love with. The tears still fell, but the image of him began to fade from all that I wanted in my life to a more realistic picture of a man. More importantly, I began to see myself without him in the picture; I could see things that I know I am destined to do, adventures to experience, love to give. I developed faith in myself through faith in the Divine nature of life. I used meditation, candles, massage, therapy and lots of great coffee with friends that stand by me no matter what. Today, when I have a bout with clinical depression, those same people are here for me, and we have history together. That kind of love makes all the difference in the world. Think about cultivating those deep friendships with the right people.
2. Be honest with yourself. Many people who write in tell me that this was their “soul mate.” That link can take you to my article about soulmates, but in short – no, he/she isn’t. By definition, a soul mate communicates at a deeper, honest level. A soul mate encourages you to grow. I call it “wish vision” how we look back at that ex-love that has left us. We bestow on them qualities that they haven’t earned, honor that they cannot possess. To this day, if you ask me about my ex I will tell you all the wonderful things that he is capable of, but in the back of my mind I see his suffering, his unhappiness. We think that the moon and the stars and the sun are all part of their greater plan and that without that “him” [or her], we are in a barren and empty emotional universe. The truth, hard as it may be, is that the only love you cannot live without is self love. Dr. Phil has a pretty upfront statement about endowing our former flames with superhuman qualities.
“There are times when you break up with somebody and you start missing them and you start thinking about all the good things. And then you’re back with them for about 10 minutes and you go ‘Oh yeah! Now I remember why I hate you!’” Don’t kid yourself about what it was really like or glorify the past. You can read more from Dr. Phil here.
3. Start living your life. Yes, you are still holding on to the hope of love. Okay. Can you set it to the side, there with you on the front seat of the car of life, but not blocking your view of the dashboard in front of you? Can you focus out of the window? Don’t put the life that you have on hold, but do take time to examine your choices. What brought the two of you together? What is it that you’re looking for in a relationship? What is it that you don’t want? What do you need to change to not wind up in the same relationship with the same type of guy all over again?
You need to be really clear on this if you want to be in a romance, marriage or even a deep friendship. Early in our courtship, Brian and I sat down and really talked about what we felt was imperative to our life; what dreams and goals we each needed to accomplish to feel fully satisfied. The key is: get out there and live life. Don’t hang around waiting for this guy to “come to his senses.” The best predictor of what he will do is his own past behavior; what we’ve done before, we will do again without major intervention. You’re not going to change him, no matter what love exists.
4. Have goals and dreams. Goals and dreams come from a mixture of your faith and your personal needs. They are not dependent upon someone else. Realize that your dreams and life destiny are more important than he is, to your faith, your family, your future. He is not the beginning and the ending of the world. He’s not even important in the overarching picture. As I examined this great love of mine, I had to face the reality of his actions, words, broken promises. I chose not to see the reality of him at the expense of my own self esteem. I accept full responsibility for my part in dragging “us” out for so long. Even with the love that we had, the truth of it is he acted cruelly toward me; I acted stupidly for loving him as I did ~ and still do. I acted cruelly toward myself for holding on so long when he will never be able to be the man that I need to fulfill those dreams of mine….and so, I let him go. Once I remembered the destiny I was made to live out, I could see things in a different light. I just let go. How do you do that? I wrote the article “Breaking the Habit” just days after losing a close friend that I loved deeply. You will know when you have successfully “let go” when you are no longer his option. Take yourself from playing board, remove your chips from the game. Be unavailable for his life, for good. That’s right, love, you must be willing to walk away even if he started it by leaving you. You need that closure and control. Back in the day of my heartbreak, I considered in prayer these things
He was no longer the charming, beautiful man that I adored;In the real light of day, he was much, much less than what I deserve out of life, unwilling to give that 110% in truth and honesty; I let go.
I am beautiful, unique and cherished by God. I am worthwhile and worth loving; I let him go.
This union isn’t the one that “completes” me; I am completed in faith. I don’t need someone who is unstable in all of his ways. I need a love that is consistent and true, that doesn’t falter or wander. That is what I need in a person….is that what I had? No. I let him go in peace.
I am not a victim of life or circumstance. These were my choices, this is my result. I can validate that we were here, together, that there were moments of great beauty and tenderness. None of those cancel out the outcome; it’s over. I let him go with grace, as a lady, with her dignity intact.
If your person has been cruel to you, broken your heart and left you high and dry, you might consider that they to are less than you deserve. The posting “She” might also help you.
5. Time changes things. Instead of focusing on your loss, give yourself permission to move on. I’ve grown so much as a person and a woman that my ex would never fit with my psyche now. I saw him not to long ago – he was smaller than I remembered, less put together, no where near as mesmerizing. The flame in him is gone for me. He was a shadow of his former self.
I’m even more passionate and intense ~ all that would be wasted on his self absorbed existence. Engage with your time and raise the bar. Don’t set your expectations low in matters of love, but hold out for that person that really fires with you on all cylinders. Be the best of friends in a non-codependent way, encourage each other, laugh together, talk through life. There are so many lonely quality people out there who are looking for that person to actually share life with. That is the key; relationships are about sharing the heart, the mind, the soul, trust, honor, self. Take a good look at the person you are missing. Would you trust him/her with all of that an expect that they’d give 110% in return? You cannot love someone without the most basic element of relationship….trust.
6. Get ready. Learn new things. Learn a new language, change your look, engage with relationship materials. I took up studying the Karma Sutra (I truly doubt I would ever have enough trust with my ex that I could show him such things.) Go to the gym, get a punching bag, go for long walks and think about possibilities. When the loss invades your mind, focus on your current goal or dream….on getting yourself into 150% of what you know you can be. Leave them behind you, in the back seat. Take down anything and everything that reminds you of them. I have successfully rearranged every room in my house as a declaration of my own self expression after graduate school; I am a new creature, born of faith and grace. Change things up, give yourself a fresh start. If you’re haunted by his ghost and images of the two of you, change your habits and hangouts. Give yourself space to start over.
7. Confront reality. Can you look yourself in the eye and say “it’s over. I love myself. Go in peace.” One day in the near future, it will be okay that he/she is gone. Don’t let your grief overwhelm you and send that text or email. Don’t interact, just go forward with your life. My ex could have fallen from the face of the earth and I would not know. Any time that I have lowered myself to groveling, it’s turned out badly. As I have said, the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior. It will be okay that your world continues forward, and that there is life to be lived. Parts of you will always remember with fondness those few moments that you keep. Let them be part of your memory box, but not part of your active life. One foot in front of the other, one day at a time.
Most importantly, wrap your arms around yourself and begin with a big hug and an I love you. Go out today and leave the broken relationship apart from your for a while. Let his/her name pass from your active conversations and talk of other things. Remember: Where your focus goes, your energy flows. So make yourself feel like a million bucks and go see a movie, drive a race car, climb a rock wall, play miniature golf, shop…something with friends, just as yourself. Reinvent the you that is dying to come outside. I want to meet her and have some great java, talk about getting on with life and see that the light has returned to your eyes. Until then, breathe, and be kind to yourself.
Letting go is a journey of self discovery. Fall in love with you….what you are, who you are, what you have to give, what you deserve. Accept no half ass substitutions. Yes, there are compromises in life….your self esteem isn’t one of them.
When you understand that it is really about you and how you feel, you’ll find the sun again.