Deciding to leave a relationship is one of the most difficult, wrenching things we do as humans. It’s even harder when we are choosing to leave someone we still love.
However, sometimes we realize that no matter how much we love someone, they are not healthy for us. Or maybe we realize that our lives are simply going in different directions.
Either way, sometimes we have to leave even when our hearts want desperately to stay.
Read on for seven things to think about or do as you figure out how to leave someone you love.
1. Be clear on why you want to leave
Take the time to think through your reasons for leaving.
You might even journal about these or make a list. Being clear about your reasons for leaving will not only help you make the decision to leave but will also be a good reminder of why you made that choice if you are having feelings of regret or questioning your decision.
Don’t judge whether your reasons are valid or if things in the relationship were “bad enough” to warrant leaving.
If you heart or head is telling you it’s time to leave, it’s important to pay attention to that.
2. Acknowledge the love
While the media and society give us the impression that we have to stop loving someone if a relationship ends, this isn’t realistic.
As you’re navigating how to leave someone you love, take time to acknowledge the love. Honor both the love you have experienced and the love you still bear your soon-to-be ex.
Be honest with yourself that you still love this person, but that you need to move on for your own good.
3. Expect to feel grief
Grief is part of any loss or break- up, but it can be especially profound when you leave someone that you love.
Honor the feelings of grief that come up. You are mourning not only the life you had with your partner but the life you thought you would have — and all the things that you’ll never experience together. This can be deep and profound, especially if you are exiting a long-term relationship.
Sometimes we’re told that, as the person who initiated a break-up, we shouldn’t grieve. But a loss is a loss.
4. Give yourself and your ex some space
Once you’ve left, or made your intention to leave known, give yourself and your ex some space.
Even if you hope to maintain a friendship with your ex, it’s unfair to both of you to expect to transition to friendly terms immediately.
Take some time to breathe. Go no-contact for a while. You and your ex might agree not to contact each other for a set period of time.
This can be hard if you are used to seeing, talking to, or texting someone every day. But it gives you both time to adjust to the changed reality of your relationship.
5. Be gentle with yourself
You have made an incredibly difficult decision and gone through a significant life change. Be good to yourself.
Make sure to take care of the basics; nourishing food, exercise, caring for your body and mind. Also, know that sometimes that looks like yoga and tofu and sometimes it looks like ice cream and Netflix.
Try not to be too hard on yourself. Seek out counseling if you find yourself beating yourself up. Spend time with friends who uplift you. Engage in spiritual practices that are meaningful and feed your soul.
6. Set some goals
You have a new life opening up in front of you. Set goals and envision what your new life can look like.
It might be helpful to return to your list of reasons for leaving. If your relationship was holding you back from doing things you love or want to try, now is the time to do them!
If you are disentangling from a long-term relationship or marriage, also set practical goals for financial independence. You can set short-term goals, long-term goals, or even bucket-list goals.
7. Allow yourself to feel joy
When we have left someone we love, we sometimes feel as though we’re never allowed to be happy again because we hurt that person.
But you have permission to feel joy. Just as you give yourself space for grief, give yourself permission to feel happiness.
While it is wrenching to leave someone you love, it is not necessary to punish yourself forever. You can acknowledge your part in the relationship and break-up, but work to let go of any guilt.
These are the seven things you can do when figuring out how to leave someone you love.