Letting go of someone you love – family edition

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There seems to be no end of wise quotes and pithy memes out there for helping someone discern if it’s time to let go of a partner. There’s an abundance of solid advice to confirm what one’s gut is telling them is true – that it is time to move on from a relationship that is no longer healthy for you.

When looking around at advice columns for how to know when it is time to let go, a cursory search gave me pretty consistent ideas from Tiny Buddha to Medium to The Advocate.

  1. When you stop communicating.
  2. When you need to plan and strategize how to present yourself
    2b You don’t feel comfortable being yourself.
  3. When the relationship drains more energy than it gives
  4. When you’re the only one making the effort
    4b You’ve been “working on” your relationship for more than a year
  5. You don’t feel respected.
    5b You are constantly criticized and barely appreciated.

6 You’re scared to ask for more from your partner (your family member)

  1. You keep on finding excuses and justifications for their behavior.
  2. You’re in it hoping things will change.
  3. The relationship is holding you back.
  4. When your relationship goals are not shared.

Good advice for couples and even friends.

But rarely do we read in quippy one liners or sassy advice blogs about process of letting go of family.

Interestingly enough, if you go back and read the list above again, you just might find those nuggets, when looked at through the lens of family, also apply to kin who are diminishing our own sense of sacred worth and personal promise.

There are so many reasons why an adult might need to let of a family member or even the whole dang crowd, even if just for a while.

Sometimes we have no choice because we’ve been cast aside, sometimes we must create hard and fast boundaries due to abuse and layers of trauma. Sometimes, and it seems so much more now, we just can’t stay safe and sane in the presence of the world views of one another.

And yet, we keep hoping and trying and believing that because they are blood we are bound to make it work. Yes, all relationships take real work and none are more important to make work than family. But, the truth is, just because we were born to ’em doesn’t mean we have to keep making space in our lives for people who bring us heartbreak and stress over and over again. Yes, it’s important to recognize that there is NO SUCH thing as the perfect family as promised by movies and neat outcomes within TVs modern families.

But letting go of family might just be the thing that frees us to live our most authentic life.

So what does letting go of family really look like? In letting go, I am not talking about having a come-to-Jesus falling out. I am not really talking about having any kind of confrontation at all. Letting go is an internal process that is never fully complete, but can by degrees create more peace and space for you to flourish in the life YOU were born to live. It is an act of compassion for yourself, of setting boundaries and living life on your own terms. By gently but firmly disentangling yourself from the constant cycle of toxicity, resentment and disappointment, you may very well be setting others free as well.

Family can be the most important element of a person’s life. I believe that at the core of a thriving community is family. I am convinced that family is the cornerstone of a healthy society. A loving, mutually respectful, nourishing and compassionate family life is and ideal I wish for everyone, everyone, everyone. It is an ideal worth working for and holding on to – but not at all costs, not at the cost of your own healthy and happy life.

Sometimes we have to let go.

We can start – day by day, hour by hour – living fully into our families of choice, as long as those families are where we are allowed to flourish and bring our best selves to the table. I can, you can, she can and they can each do the next good thing for ourselves by not engaging in that text battle, not rocking up on the social feed with more information they are never going to read, pause before picking up the phone to share good news that we KNOW they don’t understand is good. Go ahead and forgive them and ourselves as a safe distance and begin to fill our time and hearts with the people who see us and who love us. Our people.

It takes practice though, to let go of habit, duty and even guilt that keeps us in the loop of hope and resentment.

We can …

take our indefatigable spirits for a long walk with a lovely and loving view.

stop by the independent book store for a new zine or hobby-starting book.

invite a friend over for a marathon of nicest competition show ever – Great British Bake. Go ahead and wreck the kitchen and try a bake to two together.

pick up some wacky postcards and send actual mail to people we like.

plan silly, surprise dates for lovers.

ask a couple of colleague out for a working mama’s boozy lunch 😉

gift ourselves every moment of Ted Lasso and Schitt’s Creek, or if we’ve been there and done those, make a list of go-to, uplifting shows and post for others who need the boost of a binge watch.

buy all the legos at local thrift shops and dump them out with our own `kiddos to let imaginations run wild for hours.

learn more about the food bank nearby and show up with our full, compassionate attention.

talk often to a life coach, therapist or trusted clergy person.

look around to find an open and affirming church, synagogue, mosque or dojo.

ask for help.

Please, please share your thoughts, advice and helpful links in the comments below.

(see sources here, here and here)

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Robin Schuster

    For some of us, the shared one on one experience of a partnered life is at or near the top of what we hold most dear. It is so difficult to face bravely that the time for letting go of that partnered life has come. But it happens. Whether it is taken from us, or something we are forced to choose because of circumstances that can no longer be tolerated, that transition can be tormenting if we focus solely on the loss. Transitions are so tough. Self care is immensely important.

    For me, an evening bike ride with a sport bottle of wine rather than water was a wonderful and simple exercise I could look forward to each day. A wave to or conversation with neighbors were simple connections that were wonderful snippets of light in otherwise dark days. From there, big decisions remained on the road ahead, and it was about following my gut – my inner voice. A big contributor to that inner voice was my child who I truly hold most dear and who has always been an amazing resource with whom I could work through challenging situations. Find and lean into that person, if you can.

    Once re-settled, it became about tapping back into what really makes me, me. Being active and making sure social interaction was taking place was key for me. That won’t be the case for everyone, but whatever makes you really you – find it. Do it. Make no apologies for it. Giving back, volunteering, investing in little people or the less fortunate is also a critical way to find gratitude, and focus on healing and becoming whole again.

    I’m sorry for whatever is happening in your world that prompted this writing. Life is tough on us for some reason, but I do believe our true calling, at the end of the day, is not what we receive but what we give. Give yourself permission to go, if that is what needs to happen. And then be you again. And probably a better you at that. Love from CO, RKS

  2. seekingsophia

    Thank you for your lovely reflection and kind words. My post was inspired by some things I am witnessing in the lives of a few people close to me. I pray that everyone has the strength and resilience to honor their own journey and gently let go of family members who are not adding love and light to their lives.

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