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 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 be 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 of 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.

Recently, 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?

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 (cared for/tended to, supported, encouraged, safe, nurtured, loved and appreciated), and can now begin to actively pay attention to them 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 actually 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 wasn’t able to 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. 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 this 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. What a relief!

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

Learn more at Belief Works.


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. Wendy, I can’t tell you how this article affected me, it did greatly. I have not been able to experience a relationship with my daughter and I’ve lost the opportunity to be with my grandchildren as a result. I was a loving mother supportive,caring, tender and for some reason my daughter is not feeling that I was there for her as she was going up. Granted I was a single mom and I worked so hard, two jobs, school, maybe that’s where I failed. But the bottom line for this comment on your article is that in the end of the article I wish that she would do as you did to finally accept your mom for her. I miss my daughter so much and my grandchildren. I will pray someday she will read your article. God bless

    • Lynn, until your daughter realizes that it is the old limiting story she is telling herself about what happened that keeps her disconnected from you, she will continue to blame you. What you CAN do is to acknowledge how it is for her without asking her to change in any way. You can simply acknowledge that you understand this is how it was for her and those feelings keep her from wanting to spend time with you. Then you can acknowledge how it is for you – that you miss her presence and you feel sad missing being a grandmother with her child. Lastly, you can tell her what you are doing to take care of yourself in light of how things are. This is the part you have to decide before you talk to her. One way to take care of yourself may be to continue to send cards/love/gifts on holiday’s and at other times you are inspired because you want to share your love – even if she is unable to receive it right now. See how that feels and if it resonates for you, go for it.

      I can tell you that it works.

      My dad spent 2 years calling me every 2 weeks to say hello and that he was thinking of me, without asking for anything back (that was rare!) even though I didn’t call him back. I finally softened towards the end of the second year and started to call him back. He had left my mother when I was very young, didn’t pay the child support and didn’t spend any time/attention on me. I was very angry and he new it. Yet, he was committed to moving forward in a relationship of some sort even though we didn’t have one when I was growing up.

      You will find the best way to keep sharing your love, even if she can’t receive it right now. No need to make either of you wrong for the past. It doesn’t matter anymore. Only this moment and how you use it going forward matters.

      Feel free to connect directly if you would like to talk more about it.
      Much love,

    • From the very beginning I have done the above. Now I pray that her heart will know my heart. Thank you

  2. I agree with Ken. We own how we engage life and how we personally greet the day. Being married 20 years I am fortunate in that I am still able to be who I am and that’s what my wife likes about me. You can still give of yourself while still pursuing your life’s passions and being who you are. I also embrace who my wife is and support her in any way I can. Great article that you for sharing

    • Thanksl Larry. So glad to know more marriages are working on these terms. My husband and I are working on doing the same for ourselves while supporting each other.