in Order to Let Go of a Relationship

Dear Neil:  I have recently been dumped by my partner of two years.   The worst thing seems to be that I am finding it very hard to let go. Can you recommend anything that will help?

Lost In New Zealand


Dear Neil:  My husband and I split up six years ago after 29 years of marriage.  He is still with the woman he left me for, but I am finding it impossible to let go of the relationship and move on.  I guess I am still hoping we will reconcile.  Any suggestions?   

Still Hoping In Sydney, Australia


Dear Lost and Still Hoping:  You have to drop your attachment—to the person and to the relationship—in order to let go, heal and move on.

Typically, however, people think that if they let go of their attachment to a person, then the relationship really will be over.  So often people mentally and emotionally hang on to a relationship that has ended—in the hope that they might still be able to reconcile and get back together.  Their refusal to emotionally let go is the only thing keeping the relationship from dying, and they clearly don’t want the relationship to die, even if, in reality, the relationship has been dead for years.

You may not want to let go of a relationship for several different reasons:  because you miss the lifestyle you once had, because you’re afraid to be single and dating again, or because you have children together or work with each other, which means your ex could still be a large part of your present.

So the first step is to ask yourself: “If I allow myself to completely detach from the relationship, what do I fear will happen?  Is there something I’m holding out for (or holding on to) because I fear the relationship will end if I let go?”

Here’s how you can reduce your level of attachment: on a scale from 100 to zero, how attached are you—to the person or the relationship?  (100 = you couldn’t be more attached; 0 = you just don’t care anymore.)  If you answer this question honestly, you might be surprised to discover that you never cut the rope and decided that you wanted the relationship to be over.

Your task—if you want to get over the relationship and move on—is to reduce your attachment to zero.   You do so by talking yourself out of the relationship—and down the attachment scale—by telling yourself such things as “He ignored me for so long and treated  me badly.  Why would I want that in my life?  I’m going to reduce my level of attachment on the scale 5 points, because I’m worth more than that.”

Once you reduce on the scale, keep it off.  Do not permit yourself to get nostalgic or sentimental about the person, or you’ll risk backsliding and you’ll sabotage your efforts.

Detaching is a conscious process.  You have to get off your inertia, choose to detach, and stay with this process until you reach zero on the attachment scale.  Once you reach zero, you can begin to heal.

Has your relationship turned cold and distant? Neil’s book Love, Sex, and Staying Warm can help you rekindle your passion.

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