Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Letting go. How do you know?

Relationships (both romantic as well as platonic and even familial) take an immense amount of time, energy, emotion, and even money.  Our connections with those in our lives can be sources of immense joy, satisfaction, growth and love, as well as sources of toxic stress, disheartenment and negativity.  Depending on whom we choose to be close to and have in our lives.  And yes, its always a choice.  Even with family.  We cannot choose to whom we are related, but we do choose with whom we are close.

How do you know when its time to let go of someone in your life?  Sometimes, the answer is clear cut.  The person is blatantly horrible, has done something truly abhorrent or awful to you, is an obviously toxic energy, etc.  In these cases, making the cut tends to be easier, not necessarily emotionally but because you know the right course of action.  The answer is obvious.  And while initiating the ending is often deeply painful, dramatic and difficult, in the months following, relief and confirmation that the right choice was made tends to permeate your being.

However, sometimes it isn't so easy to know whether or not to let someone go.  Relationships are complex.  We often love people who are sometimes quite wonderful to us, as well as who have moments of having hurt us deeply or not treating us so well.  We might feel quite happy with this person at times, thankful and joyful to have them in our lives, and at other times feel distressed, crushed, angered or upset by things they do or ways they have treated us. 
So, in these cases, how do we know?  When sometimes its really good, but sometimes its really crappy, how do you make such a choice?

While there is no clear cut answer to such a question, there are some potential questions and thoughts to consider in weighing such a choice.  Here are some of the indications that it might be time to let go.

1. The goodness is generally gone.  Occasional goodness isn't enough.  A relationship should be at least 80% good to be considered worthy of keeping in ones life.  Less than that isn't enough.  Goodness is what holds relationships together.  The kindness, goodwill towards one another, warmth, genuine liking, the willingness to forgive flaws and mistakes, to overlook annoying quirks, the support, admiration, these are all things that exist in truly good relationships.  Again, romantic, platonic or familial.  If these feelings and actions aren't present in major ways, strongly consider an ending, or at the very least, pulling way back. 

Behaviors that indicate the goodness is dwindling can include: criticism, lying, put downs, contempt, bitterness, resentment, unwilling to put in effort or time any longer, emotional distance, irritability, all showing a lack of concern and respect for the other person.  And unfortunately, once the goodness in a relationship fades, its very hard to regain.  Signaling that there has been so much hurt, this is generally too hard to come back from such.  A few good moments or occasionally sporadic happy times are not enough for which to stay.  You can absolutely find relationships that will be far happier and more consistently so with many others.  However, its often too difficult to see or consider such a possibility within the intensely clouding emotions that come with still being within the relationship which you are considering letting go of.  

2. Disrespect.  As paramount as trust really.  Because when someone disrespects you repeatedly, this reveals the true nature of their inner feelings for you.  Much of which ties into the point above, regarding goodness.  You know when someone disrespects you, though it may not always be overly obvious, you feel it.  Like a kick in the gut.  If, after talking with the person about your feeling of being disrespected, nothing changes?  You have your answer.  If their behavior changes significantly and remains changed over the long term (not just for a little while and then reverting back to being crappy towards you again), then this shows care might still be present.

3.  You are trying too hard.  Yes, in all relationships, there can and may be times of imbalance.  Maybe one person is going through a challenging life phase, either emotionally or their career taking a major priority at the moment.  However, these should be temporary phases.  If you feel as though perpetually chasing after someone for attention and as though you are the one putting in all the effort, continually being the person coming towards them?  This is an indication that maybe the relationship, in the other persons eyes, is expiring.  Relationships should, generally, be a pretty two way street.  Both people feeling enthusiastic about and wanting to be in it most all of the time.  If you are continually the chaser, it might be time to let them keep walking.

4.  The person continually breaks your trust.  We are all human, and we all fuck up.  It doesn't necessarily mean a relationship should end just because someone makes a major mistake (though, sometimes it does mean just that too).  But, when someone continually breaks your trust, that's a different beast.  If you cannot trust, believe in and rely on someone, there isn't much of a relationship there.

5.  You change (in a not so great way) when around that person.  You'll know what I am talking about, because you will feel it.  Around a particular person in your life, maybe you feel more insecure and uneasy.  Or gossipy and catty.  Or, angry and embittered.  These are important sensations to pay attention to and examine why.  If they are an issue within you, and you have established that the other person is truly a great influence on and energy to have around you, fair enough.  Work on and address that issue within yourself, hopefully leading to some personal growth.  However, often times when we change around someone and feel less than our best selves routinely when in the company of a certain someone, this is an indicator that they may not be the best presence to have in our lives.

6.  Typing in with the point above, you don't feel positive, uplifted or happy after seeing the person.  Again, there will be times when our loved ones will be downtrodden, heartbroken, sad, not their best selves and will be in need or support or understanding.  This is when you will need to stretch yourself emotionally for a bit and be an understanding, loving person towards them.  And yes, you may not always feel happy or uplifted after spending time with one of your loved ones when they are going through such a phase.  But.  That's the key word: phase.  If you find that quite often, you are feeling down, stressed, exhausted or just generally not good after hanging out with someone particular, this might be a significant sign that its time to stop continuing to do so.

7.  They don't actively listen to you.  Briefly before delving into this point, its worth noting that no human being can be a great listener 100% of the time.  Its impossible.  Active, truly focused, intent listening takes a lot of energy and work.  So no person can be completely "on" with regards to this all the time.  However, good people in your life will actively listen to you much of the time.  Especially when its over something important. You will generally, more often than not, feel heard, valued, listened to, by the really good relationships and people in your life.  If very often, you don't feel this way with a particular person in your life, that's worth considering.  And especially if, after mentioning such to them (that you don't feel very heard or listened to by them), nothing changes.  That's even more worthy of careful examination.

Pay careful attention to the people whom you choose to have in your life and be close to.  How they treat you, how you feel emotionally around them, how they treat others, their character traits and actions within their own lives.  Relationships aren't static, they tend to wax, wane, shift and grow.  Sometimes, a person will be the right match for you, and then, they no longer will be.  That's ok, totally natural and a part of human life and relationships. 

Therefore, its an important thing to give some thought to routinely.  Each of the people to whom you are close, and if these relationships are still healthy, positive, growth inducing, and good for you.  And if not so much anymore, what this might mean for you and that person going forward.  When finding yourself justifying reasons for staying, when in your heart knowing that you shouldn't, that's when its probably time to let go. 

(Note: this can also apply to things like, your career, where you work, a particular habit or behavior in your life, etc.  Considering routinely if each of these things is still truly benefitting you, adding to your life and is a positive thing within it.  Because, like with relationships, something can be great for you for a phase or time, and then become something worth possibly changing or moving on from).

Letting go of someone you love can be one of the most heart wrenching experiences in life.  Many people hold on to relationships and people they should have long since let go of.  Some of their reasons potentially including, believing that because you love someone, this means "you should stay."  (Not so, not even close.  For an article on this very topic, "Can you love someone and still leave?"  Here is my entry on such). 

Other reasons for staying long past when one should can include: laziness, fear of letting go and fear of the unknown, just not being able to shoulder through the pain that comes with endings so preferring to avoid it and stay (even when knowing they aren't so happy).  Some people stay out of guilt and not wanting to hurt someone they care about.  Others stay because they are fearful of dealing with the anger and fallout that will surely follow with their loved ones reaction upon their eliciting said ending.  The list of reasons we stay goes on long.

But, staying in a relationship that is no longer good or very healthy is a recipe for wasting precious years of ones in life in which you could be finding and building connections with other people that will bring you far greater happiness, joy, growth and satisfaction.  Its a recipe for stunted growth and regret.  

Its very hard to see this, from behind the wall of fear and impending loss that remains in front of you prior to letting someone go.  Its easier to stay with what you know, what's safe, and with someone you care for, even if they aren't the best for you.  Its easier to give in to the worry about "what if I don't find anything better," and remain complacent.  But I can tell you, both from personal experience and watching many others throughout my life, letting go is more often than not, the right course.  Its the far harder one, the scarier one and often, the more initially painful one.  But, its frequently the decision that will invite in far more growth and joy over the long term.

Personally, in several of my relationships thus far (both romantic and platonic), I have struggled with these very fears.  What if I don't find anything better?  What if I regret letting go?  (Even though my heart is telling my strongly that its time to do so).  What if it hurts too much and I cant handle it?  What if I make a grave mistake?

And each time, after letting go, and moving through the pain (sometimes greater pain than other, depending on the relationship), its been the right thing.  I have never once regretted my letting go, each one thought through carefully and decisively.  (That's not to say I will never experience regretting a future "letting go."  That very well may happen someday.  But to date, I haven't). 

Its such an important thing in life that we find the courage to listen to our intuition and let things go that are meant to be left, in order to make room for the better things to come.  When we hold on to things that have expired or weigh us down, that's occupying a space in our life that cannot be filled by something far more fulfilling.  Learning to let go when the time is right, this is what leads to the richest possible life.  The greatest possible growth.  The fullness of our journey to be all that it can be.   

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