In life, we sometimes end up needing to let go of a person we love. We could have exited the relationship because it was no longer right for us (such as in the case of abuse, misaligned values, and so on), or the other party could have initiated a breakup for reasons known or unknown to us. Either way, dealing with the loss of someone you loved is not easy. This article explores what “love”, “letting go”, and “moving on” could mean, and covers 10 ways to letting go of someone you loved and move on.
Defining What the Terms Mean to You
Before we delve into the ways to let go of someone we loved, it is important to define some of the key terms for ourselves, as they may differ for each of us.
People have been discussing what love means for centuries, and yet, it is worth a revisit. Sometimes we use the word “love” easily without really pausing to ask ourselves what we mean by it.
There is, for instance, the stereotypical example we are familiar with: the individual who is not really in love with the person they are in a relationship with, but is instead in love with the idea of being in love. This person could have been influenced by blockbuster movies where the hero swoops in to save the person in distress following a hard-fought battle in which they narrowly missed death but ultimately made it out alive (and having found love, of course). Or perhaps, upon seeing friends and acquaintances get married one after another, there is a fear of remaining single in the future, and being in any relationship is viewed as better than none. The possibilities are endless, but you get the drift.
And then there is also the crucial distinction between “love” and being “in love”, with the latter being more romanticised (think screaming fans at an airport). In contrast, the former might include relatively more mundane but perhaps necessary acts such as taking out the trash, washing the dishes, or going out of your way to walk a person home. So when you say that you love (or loved) someone, what exactly do you mean?
How about “letting go”; what does that refer to? Does it mean that you will have no further contact at all with the other person, in real life as well as on social media? If cutting off contact completely is not possible, for instance, if you are colleagues or if you have mutual close friends, what might letting go look like for you?
For instance, some people may have no qualms about cutting off friendships with mutual friends and seeking out new social support networks, while others may prefer to maintain contact with a few overlapping close friends, with boundaries in place with regards to the person they loved. Examples of these boundaries include limiting what kinds of personal updates are shared with the person they once loved via mutual friends, or choosing not to meet up with mutual friends when the person they once loved is present.
Letting go may also mean accepting how things have eventually turned out and leaving the past in its place. It could involve grieving the loss of the relationship, releasing the emotional baggage and attachments that have been weighing you down, and perhaps forgiving the other party and yourself. These are definitely not easy to accomplish, but with time and intention, it becomes possible.
Forgetting someone entirely is rarely a practical or realistic option, especially if the person has been a part of our lives for a long time and in a meaningful way. There are also likely to be cues all around you – places, people, and events – that remind you of the person. Given that, how might you define “moving on” for yourself? For some people, moving on means still being able to notice reminders of the person or to think about them every now and then, but with less pain as time goes by. There are also others who might view moving on as a process, rather than a destination. If you imagine yourself as having moved on, what would your life look like? What might you be doing differently then?
Ways to Letting Go of Someone You Loved
There are many ways to let go of someone you loved. It may take some trial and error before you find out what combination works best for you. This section lists some options that you may wish to experiment with. Feel free to mix and match or create your own renditions.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
When unpleasant feelings arise, we might instinctively try to avoid them, push them away, or ignore them. That does not make them disappear, though. They just remain buried within us, waiting to surface again at the next relevant reminder. Experiencing a range of feelings at different times is normal. Therefore, instead of pretending that they do not exist, try to name the feeling, and allow it to run its course. We may sometimes believe that certain emotions are intolerable, but that is not true; we might be giving ourselves less credit than we deserve.
Be Honest with Yourself
On top of acknowledging your feelings, being honest with yourself can also include asking yourself some tough questions. Here are some examples:
- If you are initiating a breakup, what are your reasons for wanting a breakup?
- If the other person is initiating a breakup, what makes it difficult for you to let go of the relationship?
- Were there any red flags that were ignored or downplayed by focusing more on the good times?
- What issues remained unresolved, until the very end?
- What are some of your needs right now? Other than not letting go of the person, that is.
- What can you do that might help you to feel better?
Take Ownership of Your Own Emotional Regulation
Our emotions are ours and ours alone. While there may have been events that contributed to us feeling a certain way, how we respond to those emotions is up to us. Instead of blaming the other person for our feelings, how about looking back to see what coping strategies have worked for us in the past? Some common coping techniques include exercising, confiding in friends and family, being close to nature, and engaging in hobbies. Some people find it helpful to keep their favourite quotes accessible, such as on the back of their phone cover, on the fridge, or on the home screen wallpaper of their mobile phone or laptop. Do you have a favourite quote?
Accept That You Cannot Control What the Other Person Says or Does
Similarly, the only behaviour that we can control is our own. What another person says or does (or does not), is completely up to them. This means that no matter how hard we try, we cannot force another person to do something that they do not wish to do – it is simply out of our control. In the same vein, the other person’s feelings are just that – theirs. It is not your responsibility to manage their feelings.
Do Not Make Assumptions About the Other Person
Sometimes, we struggle to make sense of what we do not know. This may include, for instance, trying to figure out exactly why the other person decided to end the relationship, which they may or may not have shared with us. Either way, it would be prudent to refrain from making assumptions about what someone else is thinking or feeling; the only person who would know that is them.
Remember That Progress Is Not Always Linear
After a period of improvement where we see ourselves slowly moving on, it can be frustrating to experience a setback, such as being emotionally affected when reminded once again of the person we loved. At times like these, it can be helpful to keep in mind that progress is not always linear. We will have some better days and some not-so-good days, and that is perfectly normal.
Stay Connected to Your Social Support Network
Social support is so important. It reminds us that we are connected to others, and that we matter to various people. Staying connected to your social support network does not mean that you have to tell them everything about your process of letting go of someone you loved. It can also mean enjoying meals with one another, engaging in hobbies, doing what you usually do together, and so on.
Reduce Social Media Exposure if Needed
This one is tricky as it depends on how you use social media. If the updates you see mainly consist of other couples hitting traditional milestones (such as getting together, engagements, weddings, baby showers, and so on), it might be best to limit your daily social media usage or take a break from it altogether for the time being. If, however, what you see provides you with helpful information (such as uplifting quotes, trustworthy mental health resources, videos about hobbies, etc), then it might contribute to your coping. Ultimately, monitoring how social media affects your mood can be insightful for your healing process.
Be Patient and Kind with Yourself
Have you ever felt upset, and then became frustrated at the fact that you were upset? Perhaps you might have believed that you should not even have been upset in the first place. By allowing ourselves the time and space to heal and grieve the loss of the relationship – without judging ourselves for having emotions – we can let go of the secondary frustration.
Seek Professional Help When Needed
Conclusion: Letting Go of Someone You Loved and Moving On
Letting go of someone you loved can be a challenging process, and each person’s journey is unique. At the core of it is a process of learning more about yourself – this includes defining the key terms in your own words and making sense of your thoughts and feelings (even the unpleasant ones). As you do so, you will get a better idea of what your needs are in order to move on. This can understandably take time, which highlights the importance of being patient with yourself. Needless to say, the support from your family and friends is invaluable; they remind you of the other meaningful connections in your life. Professional therapy may also be a form of unbiased, non-judgmental support as you navigate this journey of letting go.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you let go of someone you love so much? How do you let go of someone you are attached to?
There are various things that can help with the process of letting go of someone you love. Some examples include acknowledging your feelings, being honest with yourself, taking ownership of your emotional regulation, accepting that you cannot control what the other person says or does, not making assumptions about what the other person is thinking or feeling, reminding yourself that progress is not always linear, staying connected to your social support network, reducing you social media usage if necessary, being patient and kind with yourself, and seeking professional therapy when needed.
When should you let someone go when you love them? How do you know if leaving is the right thing to do? How do you know it's time to let go of a relationship? What are the signs to leave a relationship?
To answer these questions, let’s recall why you decided to be in a relationship in the first place. How relevant are those reasons now? It may also be helpful to explore your ideas and beliefs about relationships in general, and to see how aligned those are with your current relationship situation.
How difficult is it to let go of someone you love?
How difficult it is to let go of someone you love varies across individuals. Everyone’s journey is different, and people will heal and move on at their own pace. There is absolutely no shame in taking as long as you need to heal. However, if you find that the difficulty you face in letting go of someone you love is interfering greatly with your daily activities such as work or school, you may wish to consult a psychologist for further assessment and treatment.
Why is it so difficult to let go of someone you love?
It can be difficult to let go of someone we love because our feelings towards a person generally do not disappear overnight.
If we have been in a relationship with the same person for a long time, they would likely have been a part of our lifestyle and daily routines. Letting go of them may then bring about a wave of uncertainty about what lies ahead – this may be an unwelcome change for those of us who are creatures of habit and who find comfort in familiarity.
We may also have certain ideas or beliefs about being single. For example, in cases where the other person initiated the breakup, the sense of rejection may be accompanied by feelings such as sadness and shame. There may also be a fear of being alone or concerns about remaining single when we notice that others around us tend to be in relationships.
Is it true love if you let someone go? Does letting go of someone means love?
There can be many reasons for letting someone go, of which true love may be one. An example would be if ending the relationship is in the other person’s best interest. Additional reasons for letting go of someone you love include misalignment in values, infidelity, poor communication skills, financial difficulties, abuse or toxic behaviour, unrealistic expectations, or clashes in personalities, to name a few. On the flip side, there are many alternative ways to show love, apart from letting a person go.
How do you accept a relationship is over?
Accepting that a relationship is over takes time and can be tough. One way to move forward is to allow yourself to truly grieve over the loss of the relationship. This may mean allowing yourself to feel any associated emotions such as anger and sadness, for instance. There is also a distinction between acceptance and agreement. We may not have agreed with the other person’s decision to break up, but we might eventually be able to accept that the relationship has ended.
How do you get rid of feelings for someone?
We are human beings with emotions. Thus, instead of aiming to get rid of feelings (is that even possible?), you may want to consider managing your expectations about your feelings. For instance, a more realistic goal would be to be able to have feelings for someone, and yet for it not to affect your daily life in a detrimental way. This could mean liking someone while still being able to focus on one’s studies or work, for example. Over time, the goal could be that as and when you chance upon a reminder of someone you loved, you can remember the person with less emotional pain.
Can you ever stop loving someone you truly loved and move on?
The answer to this question depends on the individual. For instance, different people may have various definitions of what it means to “truly love” someone, as well as to “move on”. Likewise, there could be numerous interpretations of what it would look like for a person to “stop loving someone”.
I would like to know what letting go really means?
Letting go can mean different things to various people. For some, it might mean cutting off all forms of contact, both online and in real life. For others, it may mean no longer being in a relationship, but still having some form of platonic contact, such as during social gatherings or events, or when spending time with mutual friends.
How to let go of someone who hurt you?
How do you leave someone you love without hurting them?
If the person has had any kind of strong connection or bond with you, then the chances are that they might be hurt, sad, or even angry if you leave. This does not mean that you should not leave, though. Instead, be clear about your own thoughts and feelings about why you wish to end the relationship. Thereafter, decide how you might want to communicate that to them in the most caring and respectful way you can. Beyond that, how the other person responds is simply not within your control.