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The Art of Relationships

with Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

There is an art to maintaining the intimate relationships in our lives. Read on to explore our experts' perspectives, and learn new techniques to improve your own relationship skills.

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

How to Stop Loving Someone

You can’t stop thinking about him. She doesn’t return your phone calls or texts or is outright mean to you – but you still love her. The relationship is bad for you, but you can’t quite let go.

There are all kinds of reasons that people stay in bad relationships, but feeling ‘in love’ is a common one. While I’m all for enjoying that ‘in love’ feeling, you need to question holding onto a relationship when your love is not being returned.

You might reason that your partner is acting a particular way because of his or her struggles. Or, that relationships sometimes mean sacrificing in order to help your partner. This is true, but it’s also true that everyone deserves to be respected and treated well. So, if your partner is habitually verbally, physically or emotionally abusive (or even just disrespectful), the relationship is not healthy for you. The same is true if your partner regularly ignores you. Choosing to remain in the relationship is also choosing to do something harmful to you.

Another problem you might have is trying to hold onto a relationship when your partner has given you every sign that he is moving on. You might be doing this because you still feel ‘in love,’ fear rejection, or fear being alone. Unfortunately, your partner’s rejection only makes you try harder, leading you to be rejected again and again.

If these situations describe you, what are you to do?

Even though you know the situation is unhealthy, you still must decide whether you are willing to choose to let go. Clearly you are in conflict about the situation. But, is there enough of you that’s willing to do something different?

If your answer is no, you would do well to truly understand and be compassionate toward what motivates you to want to stay. Then consider what makes you think it would be a good idea to walk away. Spend a lot of time with this. Think of how staying would benefit you, and how it would be a problem. Enlist friends to listen and support you in thinking through this problem (not to tell you to leave, which will likely make you want to defend staying).  Hopefully, with time and support, you will feel more ready to do something to take better care of yourself.

If you do want to end the relationship – but are not quite ready to do it – here are some tips that you might find helpful:

  • Remind yourself of what you can gain by leaving.
  • Acknowledge your feelings and be compassionate toward them – much as you would do for a friend who was going through the same thing.
  • Enlist the help of friends to support your decision; people you can rely on when you are feeling weak.
  • Find ways to fill your time with supportive friends and meaningful activities.
  • Give it time. With time and nurturing you will heal and move on (hopefully to a healthier relationship).

This all sounds straight forward, but matters of the heart never are. It always takes time, effort and a willingness to work through the complications of your particular situation.

If you have struggled with a broken heart and have tried even just parts of this approach, how have they worked for you? Have other things helped you let go? What would you tell a friend going through your very same dilemma?

If you would like to join a general discussion about this topic on the Relationships and Coping Community, click here.

Posted by: Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD at 11:30 pm

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