Letting Go Of Relationships

Why is it so hard to let go of some relationships? Do we feel like we won’t be whole without the other person in our lives? Perhaps we are concerned about what others will think of us if we walk away? Maybe we think we are not capable without the other person and we need them to function? Could the idea of being alone so frightening, that we would rather experience a constant low level (or high level!) of misery instead?

Many of us feel that we need a very strong justification to walk away from certain relationships. One woman feels that she can’t leave an abusive relationship unless her partner is also being abusive to the children. An older retired man still provides his drug-addicted adult son all his basic needs, so he doesn’t look like a thoughtless and uncaring father. A young girl feels anger and resentment every time she interacts with her parents, but when faced with a chance to leave home, stays put. A young man feels hurt and hopeless every time his boss criticizes him, yet his work ‘ethic’ makes him stay.

What if we didn’t need a strong justification? What if simply feeling bad in a relationship is enough to decide to let go? Some of us stick around hoping that the other person will change, just enough, to make it worth it. And those of us that work to get the other person to change keep thinking, maybe this time it will work. What if we can’t change them, no matter hard we try? What if we can only change what works for us? When we remember that we are our best own source of what we need, we have a new place to choose from.

Not too long ago, I had a high drama experience with my mother that triggered many years of old anger and disappointment that I had hidden from myself unable to face the pain. As the old hidden pain rose towards the surface and I allowed myself to feel it and express it, I realized that this is a person I never felt good in relationship with as a child or as an adult. As I recalled both past and recent experiences of feeling unsafe, used, betrayed, criticized, controlled, unimportant, manipulated and dumped on, a large part of me was ready to just stop being engaged in her life – once and for all. Yet, I found myself struggling to let go of how things have been between us. As I looked deeper, I noticed I was afraid of losing something if I let go. One thing I was afraid of losing was the respect of my friends and husband – what would they think of me if I stopped being a ‘good daughter’? I allowed that fear to flow up and out and then the deeper fear became clearer. My deepest fear was that I would never get to experience the ‘mothering’ that I felt so deprived of. Mothering meant being gently cared for and tended to, feeling safe, being supported, encouraged, nurtured, loved and appreciated – without needing to be different than I already am. If I let go of the relationship with this woman I have called ‘mother’, would I ever get to experience those feelings in my life?

Letting go of looking outside for what I most desire has led me back to me. It is so nice to realize that the one person that can do the best job of ‘mothering’ me is me.

I took some time then to look at how I already am providing those experiences for myself. I found at least one way I’m currently providing those experiences for myself in each area of mothering (feeling cared for/tended to, supported, encouraged, safe, nurtured, loved and appreciated), and can now begin to actively pay attention to doing more of that in my life. I also have a few friends who offer these priceless jewels of love to me unconditionally. I am so grateful. I remembered that everything I need is inside of me, not outside in some other person. I also remembered that from this place of knowing I can provide what I need for me. I feel free to ask for what I want and say no to what I don’t want, clearly and lovingly without being attached to the outcome. As a child, I couldn’t provide those ‘mothering’ experiences for myself and then spent my entire adult life hoping and wishing that I could get them from my own mother. Letting go of looking outside for what I most desire has led me back to me. It is so nice to realize that the one person that can do the best job of ‘mothering’ me is me.

Now that I no longer need to get my needs met in the old way, I can let go of my old relationship with my mother and let her be exactly as she is, without me needing her to be different. I can drop all of my past ‘expectations’ and allow her to just be herself, and respond to her the same way I would anyone else in my life. I can be present with her and engage with her as she is, instead of seeing her through my old eyes of unmet expectations. Now I can take good care of myself regardless of how she feels, what she wants, or what she does. What a relief!

What relationships are you willing to ‘let go of’ today?


Wendy Watson-Hallowell | The Belief Coach
Wendy Watson-Hallowell | The Belief Coach
WENDY is passionate about enabling individuals, organizations and communities to value themselves and each other in the ongoing process of change. Wendy has guided hundreds of individuals and over 750+ public and private sector organizations to achieve tangible increases in impact and performance. Her successful practice in mentoring and coaching has led to authorship of the book, ‘Live a Life You Love and Make a Living Doing It’. Over the last 30 years, Wendy’s skills have been honed in leadership roles at MTV Networks, The Rensselaerville Institute, and a variety of community based projects in her town. In 2015 she launched BeliefWorks and offers Belief Coaching as a way to address the root cause of what limits the results we can achieve both personally and professionally. This is an 'upstream' solution to change. Instead of changing limiting behavior, she focuses on changing the limiting beliefs that drive that behavior. In all cases, her clients and partners speak to the specific increases in achievement that her consulting, coaching and partnership roles make possible.

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  1. Thank you for a very insightful post Wendy – it is indeed a very sensitive subject and one which all of us will face one time or the other in our lives. It may not necessarily be about a relationship, it can also be a 101 different things.

    Life is all about continuous growth. It isn’t designed to be static and unmovable. Instead, it’s dynamic and continuously confronts us with change. Whether we like it or not, change cannot be avoided.

    When dealing with relationships, we must recognize that the most important factor in any relationship is not communication, but respect and respect goes hand-in-hand with trust.

    We can work through anything as long as we are not destroying ourselves or each other. That means emotionally, physically, financially, or spiritually.

    “Your heart’s strength is measured by how hard it holds on. Your self-worth and faith is measured by finally letting go. However, your peace is measured by how long you don’t look back.” Shannon L. Alder

    “The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.”
    Steve Maraboli

  2. I love this. While my parents we loving and understanding I knew at an early age who I wanted to be and do. I had to leave home at 16 to be able to love my parents and to be able to pursue my own life. In the end I took care of them in the twilight year and it was only then that understood who I was.