The Value Of Letting Go Of Someone You Love

Calling a breakup valuable is often something that makes people’s eyes roll, especially when dealing with emotional fallout in the present. It really does sound like the kind of well-meaning, but ultimately hollow phrase friends and family regurgitate in order to make you feel better. Pack up your troubles, chalk up lessons learned and career off into a rosy new dawn without a backwards glance. That’s the ticket!

Objectively speaking this is all well and good, but subjectively speaking it is as far-fetched and unattainable an idea as they come because it is all but impossible to dissociate our expectations from our feelings. Feelings can, and often are, the antithesis of logic.

Ironically then, given the title of this article, attempting to let go of the past sounds self-defeating. If we can’t override trauma objectively, then what’s the point? The thing is, what I’d like to argue is that the real value of letting go isn’t feeling better, or controlling our emotions. If anything, the value and lessons lie in doing it anyway, despite deep-seated distress. Here’s why…

You Protect What You Have Left

Many traumatic breakups leave gaping holes that swallow whatever it is of value we have left.

  • You might want to avoid painful triggers from the “outside” and find yourself spending weeks and months secluded at home (damaging social circles).
  • You might be easily distracted and have difficulty concentrating (potentially impacting your job, hobbies and social circles).
  • You might pick up some damaging habits in order to dilute the pain (damaging your health).
  • e.t.c

There is no right way to navigate a breakup because every behavioral rivulet eventually leads to the same source. And once that happens you’ll want these aspects of your life back in order.

While trauma is entirely natural, so is the accompanying suspension of normality. The value in letting go, if not emotionally then physically, is that the ensuing exercise in discipline will protect these important aspects of your happiness while you deal with trauma.

This doesn’t mean you should go out and socialize if you don’t want to. Nor does it mean staying home and wallowing in misery if you want to go out. What it does mean is simply, objectively, assessing how the breakup is influencing these aspects of your life. In the present you might not care about these things because raw emotional trauma has a tendency to eclipse everything else, but it isn’t permanent.  And again, there will come a  time when the scales will shift and these aspects of your life will become vastly more important than your past.

You Can Redefine Who You Are

While letting go usually involves a cold-turkey approach when it comes to communication, it will — ironically — usually lead to an increase in desire to talk to an ex, rather than hasten healing. This is simply a case of emotional supply and demand. However, this is usually only a short-term hiccup.

Another important value of letting go is that despite the increase in longing, you start to forcibly dissociate yourself from the past. This isn’t a consequence of logic, it is an inescapable part of passively programming your brain to accept a new reality.

If you are surrounded by relics from the past such as photos, messages, locations and other physical triggers (we can’t objectively do much to control the intangible ones), it goes without saying that breakup pain becomes more intense, but it also continues to influence how we define ourselves today.

Physically dissociating yourself from the past isn’t just a great thing with healing in mind, it is also a fantastic way to refuse to let the present, and all the fresh new opportunities it may carry, slip by unnoticed.

While I previously discussed protecting the present, this is about protecting the future.

But how does this all translate into something you can actually apply?

  • It might mean exploring new hobbies.
  • It might mean making new friends.
  • It might mean starting a blog (well hello there).
  • It might even mean jumping ship entirely and living abroad.
  • The possibilities are endless.

Whatever it is you do, and really it is the doing that is important, regardless of what it actually is, it is all fresh experience. It will coat the past with a new reality, a new you, and slowly begin to piece together a new life that you can redefine in any way you want. No matter where you land, it won’t be here, and that in of itself is one of the greatest experiences trauma can offer. A chance to start from scratch like a snake shedding its old skin. A chance to live a little more fully.

It Is A Win-Win Scenario In Any Case

No matter the expectation or desire for the future is, whether it be peace or reconciliation, letting go is your best bet. Not only is distancing yourself from the past a way to force change, it is also a way to become objective about the past. If reconciliation does occur, it will only ever work if the focal point (of what brings you together again) is not grief.

If you do end up reconciling in such a scenario, what happens once the pain evaporates and you begin to take the relationship for granted once more? That’s right, it will all be a case of history repeating.

The distance, therefore, benefits not only you, but also your ex. If they truly want to move on, they will respect your decision to honor their wish without much fanfare. If they begin to have second thoughts your act of letting go will only ever work in your favor, and in favor of a better future relationship, borne out of the steel of objectivity, not the fires of insecurity.

About the author

James Nelmondo

James "the Unknown" Nelmondo is a self-styled relationship enthusiast, former infant, part-time dumper and full-time dumpee.


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  • I agree with most parts of the article.I am just going to add that moderne society usually push the idea that people should recover quickly and soon and move to the next one and then to te next one. I am into the people that secluded at home and isolated my self and all my friends or the wannabe friends just look at me weird when i reply that i need some more time to recover (even that its been 3 three months)

    • Absolutely Maria, there is no right way to navigate grief other than to become aware of how it is conditioning us (I think). Also, I do believe it is distinctly unfair to use someone as a way to heal. The focus should be on getting to know them independently of our own stresses and misgivings, not solely as a crutch to get over someone else.

      Obviously, sometimes we simply don’t know how much our new-found attraction is a result of attempting to distance ourselves from the past, but at least in this case the intention, if not the outcome, is legitimate.

    • I am sorry for the mistakes i was typing fast. Yes i agree with you.People common words are that you should use someone to feel better and i think to use someone as a rebound to feel better is something i personally dont accept. I respect people who wants to take time from weeks or years.

      And yes we never know about the new found attraction is.But i dont find it hard that we must heal first,no matter how much time,and then to move on.Obviously if someone isnt heal the new attraction would be used.

      Good to see you back James Me and i am sure others wanted help (with the good way) :)

    • You’re right in saying that if you aren’t ready for a relationship, then you risk losing an opportunity in the future. But then again if we seclude ourselves completely we risk not meeting that new opportunity. It’s a bit of a juggling act for me personally, between focusing on healing, and keeping moving.

      Once again, thank you for your kind words!

  • I’ve been living with my ex post break up for about 2 months due to financial issues but she has now bought somewhere and will be moving out soon.

    The letting go is the only way given how bad things have got but weirdly when I pull away she, the dumper gets more upset.

    People are strange but in the end you need to look after number 1!

  • Another I retesting article James.
    My initial “instinct” after the ambivalent break up I had with my loved one was to just keep it moving. Generally speaking I keep my own counsel. How ever at the time I had a female friend who was in the throes of a recent breakup and was I was seduced into her jolted and blaming mode. Perhaps she had good reason for that, I do not know.
    All I can say is instead of going out to my local haunt to party on New Years Eve that year, I stayed in with this friend and listened to her story. Suddenly I was backpedaling into my own disappointment. Her “blues” were contagious.
    The keep it moving modality is very right thinking in many respects. Grieving is good. Excessive and protracted grieving does steal a lot of the future.
    I have one further comment to add about “making new friends”.
    Some men must end the relationship in the “crash and burn” manner. They will simply alienate you from everyone you know. This was in part what happened to me. It is very childish for 2 adult people to air their dirty laundry in public. If you can’t say it to me directly, please don’t tell any one else at all. If one must be accused of horrible wrongdoing, at least face me head on. Many of my social networks were destroyed by this particular break up. I felt that was a cowardly thing for him to do, especially since the objective “reason” he gave me was based on a lie his buddy told him that made me look very bad. It made it easier for him and tougher for me.
    Keeping it moving is a great idea. However uprooting my life to “get over” a relationship is not a fair fight. Why doesn’t he “uproot” his life? It is not always possible to leave your home, job and community to “get over” someone, unless you are in. Federal witness protection program.
    I remember another guy I split up with telling me he never wanted to see me for the rest of his life. I was so hurt, I wanted to leave my apartment. When I was unable to do that, I took the time to avoid every place I had ever been to with him and try to forget about it. This was a relatively short relationship (about 1 year) but he did end it in a very mean fashion. Believe me it was extra mean.
    After 2 years (yes that long) I was finally feeling in a breezy mood.
    If you can believe it, the man who “never wanted to see me again” moved in right down the street from me with another woman!
    I confronted him and asked him what he was doing there if he never wanted to see me again “for the rest” of bis life (his words). He said “you don’t own the neighborhood”.
    I suggest that a lot of “exes” make it particularly difficult for their partners. It is selfish and mean. There are some times when “walking away” is simply not sufficient for the ex. They want domination and suffering, and say and do things to try and make it so.
    Nice idea to “move to another country”. Not always a practical possibility.

    • Thankfully I can say that even despite fairly messy breakups, I’ve never had to content with spite and other examples of ego-driven fallout. But I think that when we look at it, that’s all it is, ego-driven. If someone can be pushed far enough and become so antagonistic, they are devoting very strong feelings and thus betray that fact that they actually care greatly. If they had stopped caring, they simply would’t bother expending so much energy to vilify their target effigy.

      This realization doesn’t make the process any less painful, of course. Especially if it infects friends and family. But it does shatter their glass shield.