These six tips on how to emotionally detach from someone you care about will show you how a healthy detachment can help you retain a sense of yourself in a relationship.
Being detached from someone you care for doesn’t mean you’re closed off, aloof, or emotionally unavailable for love. It simply means that you love him, without expecting anything in return. You are freely able to give and receive love. And – perhaps more importantly if you’re dealing with a breakup – you are free able to let go of someone you love in a healthy way.
These tips for healthy detachment from someone you care about are inspired by several comments on Emotional Disconnection in Marriage – How to Feel Less Alone. I originally wrote this article for people who are healing after a breakup, but then realized that detaching emotionally is important for people who are in relationships. So I updated these tips to reflect a healthy detachment (or interdependence) in both existing and broken relationships. If you have any thoughts, please do share below…
“Let there be spaces in your togetherness,” said Khalil Gibran. “And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.”
That’s a wonderful suggestion for getting on with your life: take a step back and let time and space flow between you and your lost love. Below, I describe what it means to “let there be spaces in your togetherness.”
Here are a few tips for healthy detachment…
6 Ways to Detach From Someone You Care About
Emotional over-involvement happens when thoughts become focused on the other person in ways that are unhealthy for both the individual and the relationship. Over-involvement can lead to feelings of anxiety, agitation, helplessness, depression, anger, and even resentment.
“Disentangling” or detachment’ is about creating enough emotional space between yourself and another person so you can see the realities of your relationship and make healthier choices.
These tips revolve around detaching from an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend, but can be applied to any type of friendship or relationship. I had to learn how to detach from my sister, who I can’re about deeply.
1. Focus on healing yourself – not reuniting with your ex
For others to love and respect you, you have to love and respect yourself. To love and respect yourself, you may need to make practical changes in your life. Maybe that means losing a few pounds, going back to school, or spending more time with people you respect. Maybe it means getting up early to exercise or finding out about student loans.
To detach from an ex-boyfriend or ex-husband, you need to find a sense of self-identity. Who were you before your relationship ended – or before it began? Who do you want to become? Write down your intentions and goals, and take specific action steps towards achieving them.
2. Give yourself – and your ex – space to heal and breathe
One of the most important tips on how to detach from someone you care about is to take a step back — though your instincts may be telling you to move closer.
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Instead of turning towards your ex, listen to the still small voice inside of you. Figure out who you are apart from your love relationship, marriage, kids, and family members. Give yourself (and him) room to breathe by developing your own interests and life. This is difficult when you’re emotionally over-involved or even obsessed with the other person, but it’s so important.
Rebuilding: When Your Relationship Ends by Bruce Fisher is a wonderful book on detaching from someone you care about. The intention of this book is to make the recovery after a breakup or divorce less traumatic and healthier.
3. Look at your relationship objectively – practice detaching yourself
You may have been invested in this love relationship or marriage for years; now, you need to look at it objectively, with your mind and gut (not your heart). Is this the love relationship you wanted for yourself, before you met him? Would you want your daughter, sister, or best friend to be in this relationship? Did your ex willingly meet your needs and respect your wishes? Do you do the same for him or her?
If you had to do it all over again, ask yourself if you’d choose the same person again as your partner. These questions may help you detach from someone you care about and get on with your life.
4. Figure out what’s keeping you attached
Why are you finding it so difficult to let go, to detach, to become healthy?
Maybe you’re still in a relationship with the person you want to detach from. Maybe you’re wondering if you should break up — because sometimes you need to start detaching from someone you care about while you’re still together. Before you can think about how to detach emotionally, you need to decide what is keeping you attached and if you really want to be with this person.
Can you accept your partner exactly the way he or she is right now? This is part of healthy detachment from someone you care about. Are you both willing to do what it takes to work on your relationship (eg, marriage counseling, support groups, or reading books or taking communication classes together)? A healthy relationship can’t happen when only one partner cares enough to try to rebuild it.
7. Learn from others who have let go of someone they loved
I wrote 75 How to Let Go of Someone You Love: 3 Powerful Secrets (and 75 Tips!) for Healing Your Heart because I needed to learn how to let go of my sister. Letting her go was the most painful and difficult thing I ever did, but I had no choice.
To write this ebook, I interviewed life coaches, counselors, and grief coaches on letting go. I know how shocking, confusing, and heart-wrenching it is when you’re letting go of a loved one. It’s devastating – and it changes how you see yourself. Learning how to let go of someone you love is about rediscovering your passion and identity.
Here’s what a reader recently emailed me about Letting Go of Someone You Love: “I gobbled the book down. Great help in putting things in perspective and in taking positive thoughtful action. Many thanks for sharing your wisdom and experiences.”
6. Remember that the pain of detachment is temporary
The initial pain of detaching from someone you care about is usually the worst part of it. I know how heartbreaking it is; it may feel like you’ll never love again, never trust again, never laugh again…but trust me, you will get over your lost love. It’ll take time, it’ll take support from your friends, patience, and maybe even 40 days and nights of wailing and gnashing your teeth – but you will be happy again.
The pain is temporary, but the process takes time.
The Journey from Abandonment to Healing: Turn the End of a Relationship into the Beginning of a New Life by Susan Anderson defines the phases of grieving over a lost relationship and detaching from the person no longer in your life. This book is designed to help all victims of emotional breakups – whether it’s a recent loss or breakup or a lingering wound from the past. This is your chance to start fresh, in a new stage of life.
Do think you’ll never learn how to detach from someone you care about? Keep moving forward, keep reading about ways to regain your sense of identity.
If you have any thoughts about emotional detachment from someone you care about, please comment below. I can’t offer advice, but I can listen. Sometimes sharing your feelings helps you gain clarity and insight.
May you find ways to emotionally detach in healthy ways, and start healing.
Laurie's "She Blossoms" Books
Growing Forward When You Can't Go Back offers hope, encouragement, and strength for women walking through loss. My Blossom Tips are fresh and practical - they stem from my own experiences with a schizophrenic mother, foster homes, a devastating family estrangement, and infertility.
How to Let Go of Someone You Love: Powerful Secrets (and Practical Tips!) for Healing Your Heart is filled with comforting and healthy breakup advice. The Blossom Tips will help you loosen unhealthy attachments to the past, seal your heart with peace, and move forward with joy.
When You Miss Him Like Crazy: 25 Lessons to Move You From Broken to Blossoming After a Breakup will help you refocus your life, re-create yourself, and start living fully again! Your spirit will rise and you'll blossom into who you were created to be.