One of the hardest lessons life teaches us is that sometimes, relationships we have with those around us must come to an end. Whether it’s a friend who has betrayed confidences, a spouse for whom fidelity seems impossible, or a relative who constantly creates toxic levels of stress, there are times when we have to say “no more” and walk away. That can be remarkably painful.
No matter how difficult a relationship has been, ending it can seem to be even harder, even when we recognize we have to do that to protect our own well-being. That applies to all types of relationships, including romances, friendships, and even family members.The first step is admitting the relationship is flawed and can’t be repaired, and allowing ourselves to grieve. A failed relationship creates a sense of loss, especially if the person was someone who shared much of our time. Grieving is even normal with people we really don’t like (such as that relative), because it represents a significant change to our lives. Don’t blame yourself for the demise of the relationship. You’ve probably reached this stage after trying to salvage it, and you need to accept that it’s time to be done.
It’s important to separate ourselves from the person. It’s harder to end a relationship when you still see the person on a regular basis. Sometimes (particularly in romantic relationships), people will continue to have contact in an effort to “let the person down gently,” but that’s rarely constructive. It creates additional anxiety for you and false expectations on the part of the person, who may assume the contact means you really don’t want to end things. Separating ourselves also means eliminating reminders. Take down photographs of the two of you and put mementos away. You don’t have to throw them out, but it helps to keep them out of view.
As you move away from the relationship, start to focus on rediscovering who you are and what you want from life. Often, when we’re in relationships, we put our wants and needs behind what the other person needs us to be. Have there been things you’ve dreamed about doing? Classes you’ve wanted to take? Travel? We need to take care of ourselves and do the things that bring us joy. Instead of agonizing over the past relationship, it’s time to live in the moment and make the most of every day.
Finally, if the task of moving ahead seems overwhelming, it may help to sit down with a counselor. That can give you the opportunity of explaining your feelings, validating that you made the right choice, and helping you focus on today and what’s ahead instead of what’s in your rear-view mirror. There’s no shame in seeking support … and it’s as easy as contacting us.
Brittany Gipson is Clinical Manager of Care to Change, and helps children, adolescents, and adults cope with and overcome mental health and addiction-related issues.