When you understand why letting go of someone you love feels impossible and more painful than anything you ever imagined, you’ll find yourself moving towards acceptance and freedom.
Here you’ll find four of the most common reasons women hold on to the past, ranging from unrealistic expectations to fear of the future. If you recognize yourself, take heart! Your insight and self-awareness will bring you one step closer to healing and letting go of someone you love.
The most important thing to remember is that you dig yourself deeper every time you tell yourself it’s impossible to let go. Your thoughts have power! Your thoughts can keep you stuck in the past or move you forward into a new season of life. Your thoughts can make what feels impossible possible…and they can make the possible feel impossible. Letting go of someone you love IS possible — unless you believe the lie that you can’t live without him.
Here’s what a reader said about letting go:
“My heart is broken into a million pieces,” says Briana on my article How to Emotionally Detach From Someone You Care About. “No matter how much I tell myself that I deserve better and remember that he cheated on me, lied to me and made me feel bad about myself, I still feel a horrible ache from missing him. I try to tell myself that one day I will meet someone who is right for me…but my thoughts constantly go back to him. It feels impossible to let go of him because I love him so much. At first I still talked to him and hoped that he would want me back, but now it’s strictly no contact. I have had loss in my life before (my father died and my husband left me six months later) but I never felt as devastated as I do now. Why can’t I let go?”
There are many reasons we can’t let go of people we love, such as fear, low self-esteem, shame, guilt, regret, desperation, neediness. To heal, you need to find your reason for not letting go. The sooner you learn what holds you back, the easier it’ll be to move forward.
Why Letting Go Feels Impossible
The biggest reason is that we’re created for relationship. God wired us to need each other, love each other, and stay connected. Healthy, supportive relationships are the most important things in our lives.
When a relationship ends, it feels impossible to let go. Losing someone you love is painful because we were created to get and stick together. So, you’re normal if you feel devastated because of your breakup, separation, or divorce.
You will get through this, my friend. It may feel impossible to let go of someone you love after a breakup, but it’s not. With God, all things are possible…even healing after one of the most painful experiences of your life.
“At the beginning of a relationship, potential partners show us their best,” says personal strategist Charly Emery, author of Thank Goodness You Dumped Him: Use Those Mr. Wrongs to Lead You Straight to Mr. Right. “The romance, excitement and blossoming interest and love we feel creates an imprint in our minds as well as our hearts. It dictates how we perceive that person and our relationship. We often (and sometimes unknowingly) create unrealistic expectations for the future.”
When we have unrealistic expectations of relationships or men, we hold on to them — even after we realize they aren’t capable of living up to our expectations. Those expectations are hard to let go of, which is why it feels impossible to move on after a breakup.
“Many of us choose to hold onto our original belief and assessment of the partner, rather than see what’s right in front of us,” says Emery. “We believe we can have what we wanted. This begins a chase that can last decades — and it holds us back from healing when a relationship ends.”
“People with low self-confidence may equate a failed relationship with a personal failure,” says Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., author of the bestselling book A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness. “In addition, they associate their worth with how others view them. Being ‘dumped’ and alone leads to more feelings of worthlessness. In contrast, someone with higher self-confidence might feel happy to be free of an unhealthy relationship.”
If you feel stuck in the past and can’t let go of your ex-boyfriend or ex-husband, you may be struggling with feelings of low-self worth. Instead of accepting that he simply isn’t right for you, you see the breakup as proof that you’re not right (or good enough) for him — or anybody else. You don’t feel like you’re worthy of love. If you see the breakup as a direct reflection on your self-image and self-worth, then it’ll feel impossible to let go of someone you love.
Feeling Like This Was Your Last Chance
I had a really hard time letting go of an ex-boyfriend because I thought he was my last chance for happiness. And he wasn’t even a nice guy! He was critical, antisocial, and unsupportive. I knew I deserved better, but I’d invested so much time in our relationship. I felt like I had to stay with him because I didn’t think I’d find anyone else. I felt old; I was 32 years old and had never been married.
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The belief that I’d never find anyone new was holding me back from letting go of the past, healing, and moving on. I didn’t want to go through the time and trouble of meeting someone new, dating, and establishing another relationship. It felt impossible to let go of my boyfriend — even after we broke up — because it was easier to stay where I was. So, I kept myself stuck in the past, yearning for what was, for over a year. I let my fear, insecurity, self-doubt, and guilt hold me back from moving forward and healing.
Are you dwelling on your breakup because you’re comparing yourself to other people in your life?
Maybe your sister is happily married, your boss just celebrated her 20th wedding anniversary, or your yoga instructor just got pregnant. When you’re single, it can feel like you’re surrounded by happy couples blissfully expecting their first child or buying their first home together. Since you can’t avoid women who are in good relationships, you need to stop comparing your life to theirs.
“Happy people largely ignore social comparison information,” writes Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, Ph.D. in Women Who Think Too Much: How to Break Free of Overthinking and Reclaim Your Life. “Instead, their views of themselves are based on more stable internal standards.”
She says that when happy, secure, confident women don’t meet their own internal standards they take action to make themselves feel better or to improve their future. Different women find strength and healing in different ways: spirituality, creativity, therapy, friends, family members, their children, work, hobbies, travel, a support group, a whole new identity. Your job is to experiment with different ways and types of healing, and find what works for you.
How to Make the Impossible Possible
Are you ready to do the work of letting go of someone you love? Be honest with yourself. Start by admitting what you don’t want to face. You know things about yourself and your relationships that you’re not eager to admit to yourself. For example, did you stay in this relationship too long because you’re scared to be alone? Were you allowing problems to continue because you didn’t want to face them?
One of the healthiest ways to let go of someone you love is to learn more about yourself by being honest and authentic. The more you know about who you are, the stronger you’ll be.
If you find yourself coping with depression, read How to Overcome Depressed Feelings After a Breakup.
Help Letting Go of Someone You Love
I wrote How to Let Go of Someone You Love: Powerful Secrets and Practical for Healing Your Heart to help women cope when it feels impossible to let go of a relationship.
Letting go is painful – even if you’re not “in love” anymore. The grief of breaking up affects every part of your life: your daily routine, work, family relationships, friends, hopes and dreams for your future, and even your financial plans.
The first version of this ebook was called How to Let Go of Someone You Love: 3 Powerful Secrets (and 75 Tips!) for Healing Your Heart. I wrote it several years ago, and have learned a lot about loving, losing, and letting go since then. So, I rewrote the ebook. My prayer is that it helps heal your heart, and gives you comfort and guidance.
Here’s what a reader recently said about this ebook: “I gobbled the book down. Great help putting things in perspective and in taking positive thoughtful action. Many thanks for sharing your wisdom and experiences.”
How are you feeling? I welcome your comments below. Does it still feel impossible to let go of someone you love, or are you feeling like you can do this?
May you find healing, strength, and power as you move forward in your life. May you raise your eyes upward to God, outward to other people who love you, and inward to your own wisdom and truth. May you be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the saving grace of Jesus.
Your thoughts are welcome below! I don't give advice, but you can get free relationship help from marriage coach Mort Fertel.