Any kind of relationship – with a family member, friend, colleague, or romantic partner – can become irretrievably broken and fall apart.  But because letting go of relationships (even challenging or unhealthy ones) can be extremely painful, we often create countless rational excuses that keep us “comfortable” (i.e., stuck).  Some of the most common excuses?  “I’m too busy,” “I’m too tired,” “I’m too broke,” “I’m too needy,” or “I’m too not-enough.”

But, there’s another side to this story—the one that takes your well-being into account.  Is it ever a good time to stuff your feelings and soldier on?  To exhaust yourself mentally and physically?  To continually repeat the same behavior that created the problems with this person in the first place?  After all, crazy has been defined as doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result.

So if ending a relationship is in your best interest, how do you do it with grace and peace of mind?  Follow these steps to set yourself free.

  1. Get clear that it’s time for the relationship to end. 

Before you’re able to walk away from a relationship that feels unhealthy to you, you have to be clear that you’re ready to say goodbye.  So ask yourself:

  • Does this relationship take more energy than it gives?
  • Do I dread being around this person?
  • Am I the only one willing to compromise?
  • Am I completely fatigued when I’m with the person and energized when they’re gone?
  • Is every conversation with this person consumed with blaming and/or complaining?

Struggle in relationships is part of the package…to a point.  But there’s also a point where you have to draw the line and prioritize your well-being.  You are the strongest advocate for your own well-being.  You have a choice to say goodbye when your health and sanity are on the line. It starts with making a decision to do so.

2. Grieve the loss.

Grieving is the natural emotional process that occurs when something comes to an end.  It’s a crucial step of letting go of unhealthy relationships.  What does grieving entail?  Feeling all the nasty feelings that exist for the person, and sadness for the things you’ll miss, too.

Many people stop short of real grief.  They feel their feelings to a point, then turn to numbing, over-thinking, or blocking out the experience before it gets too painful.  And I understand why – it’s not enjoyable to dive into your own pain.  But trust me when I say: Feeling your uncomfortable feelings is the very thing that makes them fade away.  So let yourself really feel them!

Grief is what brings a sense of closure to relationships.  The more you allow yourself to go into your darkness, the more you will emerge refreshed, renewed, and able to start again on the other side.  Feel your feelings, so you can move on.

3. Clean up your side of the street. 

If a lot of active, raw feelings are still present (hurt, rage, pain, anger, sadness), then they’re likely to come to the surface if you engage with the person you are trying to end things with. This is why you must grieve before you approach.

Once you feel like you’ve moved through the majority of your feelings (this can take some time so be patient) and you’ve re-centered, then you are ready to take responsibility for your part.

Personal responsibility requires humility!  Remember, the truth about your relationship is that you participated in it!  Chances are, if the other person hurt you, it’s likely you’ve hurt them, too.  By taking responsibility for your part, you are cleaning up the leftover damage that’s been done.  No more guilt.  No more shame.  Nothing hanging over your head.  You get to walk out the door with grace and dignity.

4. Bless them as you walk out the door.

Once you have let go of your painful feelings and you have cleared the energy, hopefully you can bless the person as you part ways.  Saying goodbye is really about letting go of the resentments you feel for that person, and wishing him/her well.  You don’t have to take someone’s s#*t, but you also don’t have to wish them harm, either.  The easiest way to do this is by tapping into your compassion for others.  If you can open your heart and recognize that people who hurt us are hurting, it will be easier to accept that we’re all just doing our best to make it through this journey of life.

Remember that letting go of what no longer serves you is what creates more space for the healthy and loving relationships that your heart truly desires.

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