Whether you’ve known someone for six months or six years, it’s always hard letting go of someone you love and try to move on with your life. When you’re in a relationship with someone, they become a big part of your world. Even if you have your ups and downs and your relationship has become increasingly toxic or unfulfilling, it’s still tricky breaking ties with someone you deeply care about.
Research shows that, on average, a woman will experience heartbreak twice in her life before she meets the one. So try not to look at this as another “failed” relationship, but as another step closer toward the right relationship. Keep in mind that a strong, supportive, nourishing relationship will help you grow, while the wrong relationship will slowly make you shrink and stop you from living your most authentic, vibrant life.
When should you let go of someone you love?
Here are some helpful questions to ask yourself if you’re not sure whether this relationship is right for you:
- Are we good for each other?
- Are we making each other’s lives better?
- Is this person right for me and the life I want to live?
- Is our relationship worth investing time and energy into?
If the answer is a resounding no, it’s probably time to let go and move on.
Why is it so hard to let go of someone you love?
Letting go is hard because, as human beings, we crave certainty—it’s comforting, and it’s one of the six human needs that drive all our decisions. Breaking up with someone who has been a constant in our life and moving on will equal a lot of change and uncertainty. Even if we know for sure this relationship has run its course and isn’t suitable for us; there’s still a great deal of certainty that we gain from remaining with that person.
The only problem is that life is full of uncertainty. Who knows what will happen today, tomorrow, or a month from now. We don’t know. And if you live your whole life clinging to certainty, you will miss the true beauty and infinite possibility available to you.
17 proven steps to letting go of someone you love
For this article, I’m going to assume you’ve realized things weren’t working, you’ve taken the hard steps to end the relationship (or he did), and now you want to know where to go from here.
1. First, think about getting back together
Okay, I know this article is dedicated to letting go of someone you love, but stick with me for a minute here.
Although this might sound counter-intuitive, I want you to consider getting back together.
Because sometimes, all couples need is a bit of space and a new perspective to realize what a great thing they had and resolve all the things that weren’t initially working in their relationship the first time around.
There are occasions when getting back with your ex might be a good idea. For example, if you’re still highly compatible, and the relationship didn’t end because of toxicity, violence, or incompatibility on the big things (i.e., marriage, kids, religion, etc.).
If you still can’t stop thinking about your ex and wondering whether you made a TERRIBLE mistake ending it, you owe it to yourself to consider rekindling that flame. But I want you to ask yourself a question. Does this man meet your love vision (this is what I call Little Love Step #2)? If not, that means it’s probably not going to work out long-term, so you’re better off making peace with your decision and channeling your energy into moving forward.
2. When you know it’s time to let go, don’t ignore it
If you broke things off and are here reading an article on letting go of someone you love, there’s a strong chance your relationship had begun to cause you more pain and suffering than joy and pleasure. If you sit and tune in to your heart and listen, you can probably feel the remnants of that ache. You know that this was the right decision for you and your future self, so don’t ignore that feeling. Keep it with you as you learn to let go of this person and release them from your life.
3. Face your fears
Having to let go of someone you love can be terrifying. Thoughts about loneliness and never finding another partner again might plague your mind.
You may also feel some shame around the fact that your relationship didn’t work and being single again. How will I face telling everyone we broke up? What will everyone think and say?
This is a game our minds like to play with us ALL the time. But the reality is that most of our fears in life are completely irrational. We let our minds run away with themselves and entertain the most haunting, worst-case scenario. But when has this ever played out in your life?
So if you’ve noticed you’re moving from a place of fear right now, it’s time to face those fears head-on. Realize that you are not your fears, and fears are not your truth.
4. End all contact with them
Whether you’re letting go of someone you love for their happiness or your own (or both), it’s critical that you commit to ending contact with them. Tie up any loose ends like bills, bank accounts, and personal belongings, and as soon as that’s done, delete their number from your phone and unfollow them on social media. You’re bound to experience moments of weakness where you’re feeling lonely or nostalgic, and you want to call them, so not having their number will help a lot.
Of course, this won’t be possible if you have kids, but the same principles apply. Don’t stalk each other on social media, and set rigid rules around contacting each other.
It’s impossible to let go of someone and for either of you to move on if you’re not cutting that cord.
5. Rebuild your self-worth
Sometimes letting go of someone you love dents your self-worth.
Because humans typically view breakups as a bad thing (even though they’re not). What’s really tough is that you’re not just losing someone you loved; you’re simultaneously losing the person you thought you were.
That’s a lot to deal with.
So during this time, it’s essential to work on the most important relationship you’ll ever have: the one you have with yourself. And this also happens to be Little Love Step #1.
6. Lean on people who care about you
There will be good days and bad days in the process of letting go of someone you love. You’ll need kind, supportive, badass people around you during this time who will be there and remind you you’re not crazy for feeling the way you do. And if you ended up losing touch with friends while in your relationship, there’s no better time than now to reach out and work on those connections.
7. Let yourself be sad
You’re normal for wanting to hit fast-forward through those days where you don’t want to get out of bed, and you’re crying into your pillow because every damn thing reminds you of your ex, and he would usually be the one to console you and gently wipe the tears away from your face, but he’s not here.
This is what grief looks like, and unless you fully feel your grief and allow it to move through you, you won’t be able to reach a place of acceptance and healing.
The loss you will feel may be overwhelming, and it might also trigger other memories of loss from your past. Let yourself feel all the feelings. Let yourself cry, be sad, be angry, and everything in between. Take your time.
8. Use writing as a tool for healing
Journaling is a powerful tool for when you’re feeling… well… anything. It’s a brilliant way to vent emotions without taking up hours and hours of your friend’s time and share private, intimate thoughts in a safe space where you won’t be judged—similar to therapy.
If you’re feeling lost or confused or just sad, write it all down. Leave nothing unsaid. In time, you will make unexpected connections, break through problems, and witness your growth within these pages.
9. Get some help
If you’re struggling with how to let go of someone you still love, that’s okay. Some relationships are harder to leave than others—especially if you were together for a long time. Consider working with a licensed therapist who specializes in relationships. Therapy can help you make sense of your thoughts, gain clarity, and help you get unstuck and move forward with your life. It can also help dig up any thoughts, memories, or emotions you’re clinging onto or have buried deep down, which are causing you significant amounts of internal stress and anxiety—even if you don’t realize it.
10. Quit playing the blame game
One of the most important lessons in acceptance and letting go of a relationship is to release any blame you’re placing on your ex for why things ended or the pain you’re experiencing right now. Feelings of anger and resentment are normal. Your ex might be a total a**hole; I don’t know. But if you cling to negative emotions and energy, it will only harm you. Accept that there was probably blame to be found on both sides because none of us are perfect. Commit to moving forward with your life and leaving the past in the past.
A tool that can be effective here is to write your ex a letter that you never send. Vent all your feelings of frustration and anger. What is still hurting you? What are you struggling to let go of? Why are you still angry at him?
11. Letting go of someone you love means forgiving your ex
After letting go of any blame you’re holding onto, the natural next step is to forgive your ex for anything they did to hurt you during your relationship. It doesn’t matter if you’ve received an apology from them or not. It doesn’t matter if they are still behaving like a total jack*ss. Forgiveness is not for him; it’s for you. It’s a gift that you give yourself so that you can completely cut the tie that still exists between the two of you and embrace the new chapter of your life that’s about to start.
It can be helpful to try and empathize with him and his point of view. Unless your ex acted out of malice toward you, he didn’t intentionally mean to hurt you or make you miserable.
12. Look for the lessons learned
The breakdown of a relationship only becomes a failure if we don’t learn anything from it. The end of a breakup is an opportunity to reflect on what happened.
What were the highlights and the lowlights? Are there any patterns occurring in most of your relationships? Were there red flags or warning signs or intuitions that you ignored? What are you grateful for? Is there anything you need to or want to do differently next time?
It’s not always easy to admit we made mistakes, but this accountability will help you form healthier partnerships in the future.
13. Throw it back to your single days
Depending on how long your relationship lasted, it may be difficult to remember how it felt when you were last single. But acquainting yourself with your independence is a crucial step to letting go of someone you love and moving on.
There was a time when you were single, independent, happy, and carefree. Reminisce on those times. Remember all the things you loved about being single. Doing what you want whenever you want to, stretching out across the whole of your bed, and going out and meeting lots of amazing people. There is so much to love about being single.
14. Make self-care a priority
How do you let go of someone you love deeply? You channel that love toward yourself. The weeks and months following a breakup are tough and can significantly impact your mental health. Self-care will help you nourish yourself back to full health. This can be as small as cooking yourself a healthy dinner from scratch, going for a walk in the park, or booking an after-work massage as a treat. Do things that make you feel good and uplifted and taken care of. Commit to one small act of self-care each day. Even if it doesn’t feel like it’s making a difference, I promise you it is.
15. Get out of bed!
When you’re still healing from a break up your motivation and zest for life may reach an all-time low. Nothing will feel worth doing. Things you used to love will feel like too much effort. Even getting out of bed each morning and facing the day can become a struggle. But staying in bed and hiding from the world will only keep you trapped in limbo and stop you from moving on.
So whatever you do, make sure you get out of bed every day, no matter how bad you feel. Do positive, empowering things for yourself first thing in the morning, like writing a gratitude list, working out, or meditating. Push yourself to be social, meet new people, go out with friends, and try new things. The busier you are, the less time you’ll have to feel sorry for yourself or think about your ex.
16. Take it one day at a time
Letting go of someone you love will not happen overnight. It’s a process. And truth be told, I don’t know how long it will take for you to heal fully—that timeline looks different for us all. But what I do know is that focusing on one day at a time will help you take small steps forward. In time, you will look back and realize you’ve climbed a mountain, but that journey always begins at the bottom. You will inevitably have setbacks and bad days, but keep going. Keep looking forward.
17. Think about the new life you want to create
The final step in letting go of someone you love is to get intentional about the new life you want to live. There’s a good chance you’re a different person now than the one you were with your ex. This is your opportunity for a fresh start.
What are your personal goals and dreams?
What new experiences do you want to have?
What kind of man and relationship do you want to attract?
I usually tell my clients not to start dating again until they’ve worked on reconnecting with themselves and have fully healed from their breakup. However, if it has been six months or more since you broke up, consider dating again, even if it feels too soon. Sometimes you may never feel fully ready, and it can be a real confidence boost to get back out there.
Can you still love someone and let them go?
Yes. Often when couples break up, there is still a lot of love there. That’s natural. But what’s key is thinking about what you want and what’s good for you in the long run. Loving each other is not enough to make your relationship work if you’re not compatible on life values.
Letting go of someone you love will always be a painful process. But trust that you are strong enough to make it through to the other side, where joy, happiness, and love await you.