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How do we learn to let go?

Updated: Jul 13, 2020

There are certain instances in life that truly define whom we are and how our journey unfolds. And often times, they’re the result of a singular encounter. Be it through a movie-worthy meet-cute or your everyday dating app, every once in a while, you experience what I call “a comet.” It may be a story that lasts just a couple dates, or perhaps several months. It's not necessarily a relationship that's meant to endure, yet it changes the course of our lives. But at some point, there may come a time for this trailblazing adventure to end - whether because we know the person isn’t good for us in the long-run, because they choose to end it, or some other valid reason that not a single one of us wants to accept. And when that moment arrives, suddenly, we’re faced with the harsh reality: how can we ever truly let go of someone that left such a profound imprint on us?

A few days ago, my dear friend called me up to discuss the endless emotional rollercoaster of a relationship she was in, in which the guy she was dating would consistently push her away and pull her back in. After what finally felt like the final straw, she announced to me that she was beyond infuriated with him and knew she had to end it. The next time she saw him would be the last.

I was proud of her for recognizing the significant toll the situation was taking on her, but I also knew how deeply she felt for this man, and how irresistibly intoxicating it was in his presence… so I wasn’t entirely shocked when she called me the next day to say their rendezvous had taken an alternate course. (*But let’s be real – how much would I like to confront this jerk and channel Charlotte in SATC where she screams at Big, “I curse the day you were born!”???)

Anyway, as she announced this to me, she could sense I clearly wasn’t thrilled. “I know, I know, I was supposed to end it,” she began, “But remember how hard it was for you to walk away from (insert name I clearly can’t mention here)?” When she uttered his name, I knew I couldn’t blame her. When you love someone that intensely… HOW ON EARTH do you find the courage and will-power to walk away when you know you ought to?

I sighed. She was right. It wasn’t a decision that could easily be made in a single swoop. It was a process. Like grief, it would require slow, painful stages that would eventually lead to a complete release. The important thing was, she had already started taking the first steps. By acknowledging that this relationship was detrimental to her overall well-being, her awareness was allowing her to shift towards a new, healthier direction.

And so, I told her: “As your friend, you know I will always be honest and upfront with you. And I have to tell you that I’m worried. I see the way he makes you feel, with the excessive peaks and falls, and it pains me to see what he puts you through. That being said, I understand how you feel. I know how much you love him. I know how all-consuming it feels and how excruciating it is to walk away from something that is still available to you and that you never want to lose.

But I think, deep down, you know that he isn’t good for you. And though you’ll always have the tiniest hope for it to work out, you know that even if it did, you’d suffer your entire life with someone as difficult as he. That being said, you may not be ready yet. And you have to make this decision on your own terms, in your own time. But I’m sure that when the day comes, you’ll know it in your gut.

It may take something to help ease the transition. It may be that this man – like a drug – is so potent that you first need to wean yourself off with something softer. Meaning it may require meeting someone else before you feel the willingness to move on. And that’s ok. But I’m proud of you for at least recognizing the effect he has on you and acknowledging that eventually, you’ll have to let go. And I have faith in you that you’ll follow through.”

The thing is, walking away from something we love so deeply, yet that we know we can no longer hold onto, may be one of the most challenging things we can ever do. As it was in my own case, it may take months to ever fully embrace. But whether you choose to slowly let go with the help of therapy, self-talk, a rebound, a real boyfriend, moving to a new country or simply choosing to cut it off entirely in the blink of an eye, that person will always hold a special place in your heart. That love will never completely disappear. Because no matter the outcome, this person left an indelible imprint on your journey and soul. And you have every right to feel grateful for the lessons and ways that it helped you grow.

But one day, you’ll suddenly realize there comes a moment when the thought of this person no longer leaves you with a twinge of pain or longing… You’ll simply feel free. And you’ll smile upon the memories and take reassurance in the fact that without realizing it, you’ve moved on. And you are stronger, wiser and more resilient because of it.


I’d love to hear your thoughts and personal stories. If you enjoyed this post, share it with friends! You can also sign up for our newsletter to know when our next article comes out. Bisous, Sabrina

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