Knowing When to Let Go of An Important Relationship
Knowing when to let go of a friendship is not always easy, especially if it’s been a longterm one, but it is necessary if we are to create our lives with intention and clarity. This is part 3 of the “Important Relationships” series. click here to read part one and two. There are many qualities that support the deepening of relationships, and communication is probably the most important. Mutual respect, shared desires, common interests, kindness, and support, will go a long way but in the end it’s all about communicating; and healthy communication includes voicing and listening.
One of my “Art of Listening Within” practices is to reflect on my important relationships and notice “how I feel” as I hold each person in awareness. A simple, yet profound practice, that helps gain clarity about my relationships. Allowing emotions to surface, and then just being with them, offers great insight to the action I will take.
Working with my feelings, I classify the relationships into one of 3 categories: Inspiring Keepers (I feel warm and fuzzy); In Need of Attention Keepers (I feel warm but things are not flowing smoothly); and Non-Keepers (I feel bad, and overtime I have reached out and expressed my desire and made efforts to recapture the good feelings and it has not been reciprocated). This exercise helps me know if things are on tract, if a relationship is in need of attention, or if its time to release a friendship. It has been helpful knowing that when I am feeling uninspired, the other party probably feels the same, so it does us both justice by getting clear.
Intending to write this follow up to the series several weeks ago, each time I sat to write, I felt confused and unable to express the process. I came to learn that I couldn’t write about letting go because the closure was still in process. Although I had released the relationship, I had not yet let go. Letting go is a process, and although we make the decision and take the action to release the relationship, the actual letting go is a process, not an action. It takes time to morn the loss. There is a grieving process when we lose something that has been important in our lives, and even though it has been my decision to let go, I did not have a choice about where this relationship was going. I worked toward improving the relationship for a long time before coming to the conclusion that I needed to let it go.
When making important decisions and changes, allowing time to process and accept our knowing, is cathartic. Although, I knew it was time to let go, and physically and emotionally, I had, I needed time before closing the book. I needed to BE with this new awareness. I have come to know things in my body long before my mind catches on. However; there was a time when I was disconnected from the power of my emotions, and it wasn’t because my emotions weren’t at work, it was because I wasn’t paying attention. Like many of us, I learned to live in my head disconnected from my body, until life events woke me to this awareness. This knowing is a beautiful and a very empowering experience, and with practice, it becomes even more powerful. Today, I hear what my body knows without asking because I practiced listening to it.
I began to notice little by little that I felt less drawn to spend time with my friend. I realized that although there was a certain comfort between us that comes from a long history, I felt defensive during our talks, and exhaustion following our talks. I realized I was holding back expressing myself with her because each time I tried to communicate my feelings, she changed the subject or met me with silence. My feelings evolved into confusion, frustration, anger, and finally peace with having let go. I finally reached the knowing that our ways of building a deep friendship are at odds. I need to communicate, feel heard, and have the other do the same. I am curious about how we affect one another in relationships, and curious when my body tells me “ouch”, or it feels constricted. I need to explore that with the other, so that things don’t build up.
Often, it’s just a misunderstanding that is quickly set straight, but when it’s something bigger, staying with it until it is resolved is crucial if the relationship is to deepen. This process strengthens relationships by building a solid foundation of trust in knowing that we can share our feelings and they will be met with understanding and interest, and that when things are out of balance, we can work through them.
Author and communication specialist, Barbara Benedict Bunker, writes about the importance of resolving misunderstandings. “When an important relationship is strained, both persons feel discomfort. An exploration of the cause of the tension may increase feelings of vulnerability, and yet it is only through such an exploration that new understandings develop and the relationship deepens.”
So how do you know when it’s time to release? You sit with it and listen to your body. You journal. You wait, and then one day, you notice when you hold this person in your awareness there are no more feelings of anger or judgment. You know in your heart-and your body, you are ready to let go. We are all in each other’s lives for a reason, and sometimes it is forever, and sometimes it’s not.
I could not completely release this friendship until I understood the many lessons it held for me, such as: letting go is not a bad thing; I am willing to work diligently at my relationships and if it is to deepen, the other person must hold that same intention; remembering, that with time, all things make sense; and ALWAYS listen within and honor the wisdom of my emotions.
Our emotions speak to us through our bodies. They carry important messages, and until we listen, our emotions will escalate. While they may go under the surface; they don’t go away. They keep trying to get our attention and when we close them off they sit and fester until one day they blow up; either outwardly in anger or inwardly through depression and illness. To stay in a relationship where we cannot explore and process our emotions, not only feels bad, it is unhealthy, so take a few minutes and practice the awareness exercise below to help you clarify the state of your relationships.
Take some time to evaluate the important relationships in your life. Start by jotting down 5 names, and then checking in with your “feelings” as you bring, one by one, these people into your awareness. Notice your “feeling”, not your thoughts, about the person. Write down the feeling using words such as, warm, love, happy, joy, inspiration, appreciation, excitement, sadness, anger, jealousy, hurtful, passivity, frustration, unappreciated, or distant. And, remember, it is process, not an action.
Then make three columns with the titles, Inspiring Keepers, In Need of Attention Keepers, and Need to Release Non-Keepers, and enter the names. Then begin to honor your knowing, yourSelf, and those in your life by taking the appropriate action that will lead your process. Your life will be healthier, happier, and more inspiring.