When to Let Go of Someone
Many years ago, I had a friend who was nice, devoted, beautiful… and in a bad, abusive relationship. Shouted at, verbally abused, hit, slapped… and still she hung on. Every time he would apologize, cry, buy flowers, and each time, she would take him back. Nothing anyone of us could do or say made a bit of difference. I lost track of her for a few years, when I saw her again, I was surprised to learn they were no longer together. Naturally I asked her what happened? Her reply?
“He broke my jaw.”
I want to talk about something that is a hard topic to write about, and maybe for some of you, read, but it has to be said because I see so many good people in bad relationships and it’s sad and painful.
When do you let go of someone in a relationship?
Now relationships can be work, business, friends. But the relationships that affect us the most are significant others, so that’s what I’ll focus on.
Watch the video here:
First, Why This Topic?
AA35 is about living the best life you can. Relationships are a foundation of that, and because they have such an impact on our Lives, toxic ones will drain that Life. Someone in a toxic relationship is like the walking dead. Bleeding spirit, will, and essence slowly until all that’s left is an empty, barely functional husk. And compared to the Life that you could have, with all its potential to be happy and contribute, it’s a tragedy.
The most intelligent, successful people can be brought down by bad relationships. That’s the frightening thing. A good relationship lifts you up, but a bad one can destroy you. And sadly, if you happen to be a good, kind, considerate person, when you love someone, you tend to accept more and more. And without knowing it, it eventually becomes your reality. Then, inertia will trap you there, until maybe something too dramatic to ignore wakes you up. Like aybe, a broken jaw.
Sometimes, you do know it’s bad. But when you’ve held on for so long, hoping so much, when is it time to say you’ve done enough, tried enough? It’s like you’ve been put on hold for so long, you keep thinking that any time now you’ll be connected so you’re scared to hang up, you know? I’m going to give you 5 reasons to hang up on them anyway..
This one is BIG. The other 4 may have SOME leeway, but abuse is something you CANNOT allow any gray areas for.
First, there’s physical abuse. This one’s obvious. You know when a man pushes you, slaps you, hits you. A girl might scratch you or pinch you. But even violence by proxy, where they may not actually touch you (yet!) but then they hit the wall, break a glass table… all that’s indicative of a potential to visit violence on you.
Then, there’s mental/ emotional abuse. I’m talking about mind games like the dread game, shit testing, manipulation, up-down drama, putting you down, creating self-doubt. All these things are abuse, wear you down and completely change you into someone who lives and fluctuates based on what that other person’s doing and saying.
If someone does any of these things, they do not love you and they don’t deserve you. As soon as you recognize any of it, get the hell out.
2. There’s No Respect
Respect is one of the cornerstones of relationship success. It’s a willingness and desire to accept, understand, support and learn to love each other and make them feel all of that!
With respect, almost all the things people that cause relationship dissatisfaction won’t exist, or at least be minimized. Why? Because respect means honesty, active listening, willingness to talk about things that bother you, speaking with kindness and sensitivity, not lying, being loyal, making choices that protect the relationship from 3rd parties, making time, wanting to work things out together, compromising (sometimes satisficing), supporting and cheering, honouring values and boundaries.
A commitment to do all these things willingly is a manifestation of how much you respect other. Disrespect is not doing and being unwilling to do all these without resentment!
With so many shades of disrespect, when do you actually get out? When things degenerate all the way to contempt. Contempt reminds me of what the Judge Potter Steward said of hardcore pornography, along the lines of I can’t define it, but I know it when SEE it.
Well, contempt is hard to define, but you know it, when you FEEL it. They are signs that show a sense of superiority over you, such as rolling the eyes, sarcasm, mockery, showing overtly being embarrassed by you in public, laughing at you, and speaking badly about you to someone else, either to a best friend, or to one of those JAFs (Just-A-Friends lol) always orbiting. Yup, you know where that’s going!
If you’ve done your very best, and given your all, and you get that, GET OUT.
3. Cheating/ Non-Commitment to Cheat-Proofing
There are many thoughts on what should happen after infidelity. Everyone and his dog has an idea about it. Some experts suggest considerations, mitigations, and other kinds of –ations that may justify trying to save the relationship. My personal guideline is simpler:
If, in your conscience, you did the very best you could, and gave the most you could, and yet you still got cheated on, let go and move on.
You see, trust is one of the building blocks of a relationship. It can build a really strong foundation, but it’s also like a glass mirror. Once it’s broken, you can put it back together, but the cracks are always there to see every single time you look at yourself in that mirror. And cheating is one of the most egregious forms of betrayal of that trust, and forms the biggest splinters.
Here’s what you have to understand.
Cheating doesn’t just happen in the instant. It’s a multi-stage process, and each stage of that process, a decision was made to disrespect, disregard, and dishonor your relationship and YOU. If someone had so many changes along that escalation to STOP, but didn’t, why do you still want this relationship? Plus if sex was involved, they risk giving you a disease!
Even if you tried to work things out, the emotional scarring, the psychic torture, would just too draining, and down the road, something will always remind you of this, and eat away at the relationship even when the other person has tried to change. I think you’re better off investing all that into healing, becoming a stronger happier person, and attracting someone who really deserves you.
The only reason you might think to continue is because maybe, you DIDN’T treat them right. You DIDN’T try your best. If that’s the case, working it out with a counsellor, is your decision to make. But if you did everything right, sometimes you just have to accept that the other doesn’t share the same values as you, and let go.
4. The Relationship Drains and Drags You Down
A positive relationship should be uplifting. Sure, arguments will happen, and in any healthy relationship, you always walk away from them with deeper understanding and commitment to become better for each other.
But most times you should feel supported, understood, charged when you’re together. You should meet with the FAITH you’ll be happy, not FEAR that something will explode over the most trivial shit. Quarrels should be the exception, not the norm. If it is, why are you in the relationship? Especially if you were happy BEFORE the relationship. You want to be HAPPIER in it, not WORSE… don’t you?
Two warning signs are one: You sleep badly because of this relationship for whatever reason. Two: you’re losing energy and interest in positive things like exercise, work, hobbies you enjoyed before.
In fact according to researcher John Gottman, the ideal ratio for good interactions to bad ones should be 5:1. If it’s lower, like 1:1 you seriously need help. And if it’s actually negative more than positive, I say it’s time to leave.
5. You’re the One Trying to Make all the Changes
A relationship is TWO people. Two people who love each other work out differences. If issues threaten the happiness and integrity of a relationship, two people commit to work damn hard to resolve it. Simple math right?
But often that’s not the case. Often only ONE person is reading the books, doing the compromises, and even ridiculously, showing up for the counseling alone! Now if the other person doesn’t want to change, why are you continuing to do all the work?
Don’t keep thinking that if ONLY you made more effort, lost some weight, nagged less, became more understanding, a cheater will stop cheating, a gambler will stop gambling, or someone who’s stopped loving you, will start loving you again.
If after you’ve brought up issues, and nothing changes, what are you waiting for?
People continue their bad behaviours because there’s no motivation to change! He’ll still look at girls, she’ll still flirt, he’ll still gamble, she’ll still remain materialistic. This is especially true if you keep tolerating it, and seeing it as something YOU alone have to fix. You’re effectively teaching them hey, it’s ok for you to behave this way. So why would they change? Expect repeated infractions.
You have to assume that nothing will change. Then ask: I accept this for the next 3 years? 5 years? 10? 20? If the answer is yes, then I have nothing to say. If the answer is no, it’s time to go.
Caveat: Throw Away Society
So those are five ideas on when to let go of a relationship.
Let me end by saying that these assume you’ve tried your best. I definitely don’t like the easy throwaway mentality these days where if a relationship requires hard work, or doesn’t conform to fantasy smoothness, or someone better came along, we just dump. Upgrade. It pisses me off when I hear ‘gurus’ or ‘success coaches’ recommend cutting people off so quickly.
Relationships ARE hard work; no one’s perfect. Not even me. Ok I’m joking. I’m FAR from perfect. So you need to have patience and compassion.
But if you’ve been patient, understanding, committed, tried to talk, and nothing changes and you still hang on? You’re depriving yourself of Life. You go about your day-to-day with no real vim or vigour, depressed, chained to something that drags you down.
It really saddens me to see good, loyal, kind people in relationships, where their partner couldn’t didn’t give a damn. Anyone decent would appreciate that and return it with gratitude, respect, and simply, joy, and create a relationship that was fulfilling, uplifting and empowering.
Give YOURSELF a chance: free yourself from a bad relationship. It’s be scary at first, out of your comfort zone, but do it. Don’t hold on so long you become so scarred or embittered that it colours your world view and messes with your sense of reality. There are many good, much beter people out there, but you have to clear the space in your heart and in your mind, to recognize, and let them in.
Meanwhile, keep working on yourself, understand what you want, what you don’t want, clarify your values, focus on your Life Purpose, and live the best, fullest, Life you can. I’ll see you soon!