What if you love someone and let them go?

You love someone, but for whatever reason, the love cannot develop.

Maybe you cannot give each other what you need, they’ve decided they don’t want to be with you, or perhaps you just feel you’re not good for each other.

You’re not sure what to do now — your emotions stay strong, but there doesn’t seem to be a clear way forward.

You wonder: what if you love them and let them go?

Is it the right decision? Would they possibly come back? Will you be able to move on?

I’ve been in this exact position not too long ago. I’ve given it a lot of thought, and today I would like to share what I learned with the hopes that it can help you come out of the experience stronger and happier, just like I did.

Let’s go ahead and get started.

What does it mean to love someone and let them go?

We’ve all heard the saying “if you love someone let them go,” and about a dozen other variations of it. 

What does this mean? 

Here’s the way I’ve found to look at it.

There’s a similar saying that goes, “If you like a flower, you pluck it. If you love it, you water it.”

Though it’s not exactly about letting someone go, I’m sure you can see the similarity here.

“Having someone”, in the sense of them being your partner, is natural to want when you have feelings and attraction for them.

They bring happiness and positive emotions into your life, and who wouldn’t want that?

But what this saying means is that real love is not about possession — it’s about putting that person’s happiness and needs above your own, even if that means not being with them.

This may happen as a result of diverging values, or needs that one person cannot fulfill for the other. 

For example, let’s say someone dreams of having a big family, and their idea of a fulfilling relationship is one with plenty of children to care for.

Someone falls in love with this person, but they don’t share the same vision. In fact, they may be unable to have children, or strongly not want to have any. 

They could try to convince the person they love to give up on their dream of having a big family — but they know that this would come at a huge cost to them.

If they really wish the best happiness for the person, they may choose to let them go in order to find someone who can give them what they want from life. 

Is it really possible to love someone and let them go?

For some people, it can be impossible to imagine letting go of someone when you love them.

And I can definitely see where they are coming from.

When I was struggling with this a few years ago, I felt in agony over forcing myself to let go of my ex partner.

It felt pretty darn impossible to do. After all, love draws you towards a person, not away from them!

But here’s the conclusion I eventually came to.

If you truly understand the meaning of this concept, and have a real reason you need to let go of them, it is possible to do.

After all, if being together with them is hurting either one of you in a way, then real love would make you put that need above your desire to be with them.

In my case, I was able to let go of my ex only when I fully understood that we had different values. We could not have a happy, fulfilling relationship together, being the people that we were. 

It did take me a long time, but knowing this for a fact made me let go of them because even my heart could see that there was no other option. 

If you’re struggling with trying to let go of someone, I’d recommend you start by taking a close look at your values. 

And I know just the exercise to help you out. This free PDF exercise will take you through the process. You can download it for free here

Why is it so hard to let go of someone?

As we’ve concluded above, it really is possible to love someone and let them go. However, that doesn’t mean it will be easy. 

For me, it certainly wasn’t. I would feel like I finally made some progress, but then even the slightest reminder would bring the feelings rushing back. 

The truth is, it shouldn’t be easy — at least not if you really mean it about the “loving them” part.

Love makes you want to care for a person and be a part of their life. At least, we can add to a person’s life with our love, this is the right thing to do.

So going against this is kind of like going against nature. 

If you can let go of someone easily, I would dare say that you never properly loved that person in the first place. 

After my experience, I’ve learned to accept the difficulty as part of the process. Just because it feels difficult, it doesn’t mean you’re failing.

If you can look at the struggle as part of the process, and perhaps even proof of you letting go, you can stop fighting to try to make it feel easy when it never will.

Should you fight for love or let them go?

marriage and divorce statistics What if you love someone and let them go?

One thing that made my own journey of letting go of my ex pretty difficult was the opposing advice I received from people I talked to about it.

Some friends, worried for my wellbeing, urged me to let my ex go and move on with my life.

Others, with good intentions, encouraged me to fight for love and go after what I want without giving up.

This became a battle in me, even as I worked to try to let go.

I had moments of weakness when I doubted myself and wondered, “and what if I fought for them instead?”

To be honest, there’s no clear right answer here.

There are undoubtedly times when it’s right to fight for someone, and countless examples of couples that had their happily ever after as a result.

But there are also times when letting go really is the right way forward.

I really can’t tell you which one is right for you without knowing the dynamics of your own relationship.

But here are some things to consider:

  • Is the love mutual? Are you both willing to invest equal effort?
  • Is there respect on both sides?
  • Do you feel good around each other?
  • Is there abuse of any kind?
  • Does one of you need to change who you are to make the other happy?
  • Do your values align?

For me, I knew that letting go was the right path because ultimately, being with this person did not lift me up, but became a source of sadness and stress. I felt I needed to become a different person in order to be with them.

As I mentioned above, this ultimately came down to different values.

It took me a while to figure it out, but if you can define your values to yourself early on you’ll make the process a good deal easier on yourself, or at least as easy as it can be. 

As I mentioned above, I have a free resource that can guide you through this. Click here to download the free PDF exercise

What happens when you let go of them?

When I was trying to convince myself to let go of my ex, I’ll admit my intentions weren’t completely pure at the start.

I’d be lying if I said it didn’t cross my mind that maybe letting go of my ex would be the thing that makes them change their mind and come back to me. 

There are entire businesses built on this premise — trying to get your ex back by making them realize what they’ve lost, and pretending to move on.

Don’t misunderstand me here — I’m definitely not encouraging psychological games as a means of manipulating someone into having feelings for you.

But I do believe that when you stop clinging to someone, they can feel this energetic shift. 

It changes your entire approach to them when you talk and interact. And even if you have no contact with them anymore, I believe it makes a difference in your vibrations and what you send out to the universe.

So you might be wondering: did my ex come back to me?

The answer is no.

In fact, I have had no contact with my ex, save for some rather stiff head nods when we attended the same social events, ever since the breakup.

And honestly, I believe it is better this way.

I may not have been able to fully invest in the idea of truly letting go of someone back when I started trying to. But over time, I realized it was the right path.

Does that mean your ex won’t come back to you either? Of course it doesn’t. 

Everybody’s relationship is unique, and exes getting back together is something that’s pretty common. 

Nobody can say for sure what will happen after you let go of the person you love. But what’s for sure is that you will at least have some very useful time and space to gain perspective.

How to let go of someone even though you love them

Now we get to the nitty gritty.

If you think the idea of letting go of someone you love is hard, actually doing it that much harder.

I spent a bit of time deluding myself that talking about letting go of them was actually doing something to bring it about. 

It was only with time and hindsight that I could sort out what actually was helpful, and what was just wishful thinking.

Here are the top 7 tips that have helped me let go of my ex. 

1) Give yourself permission to love them

Wait, what? Aren’t we talking about letting go of someone, in other words, not loving them anymore?

Yes, indeed — but emotions can’t be told what to do.

If you try to force yourself to stop feeling something, it’s a pretty good way to cling that emotion even more.

The purpose of emotions is for them to be felt. If you push them away, they’ll only fight to be felt that much harder.

But when you allow yourself to feel them, and there’s nothing that can nurture them, they will run their course and eventually subside. 

2) Forgive 

detach emotions What if you love someone and let them go?

Forgiveness, I’ve discovered, is one of the most powerful things you can do for your wellbeing. 

It’s also completely free, and terribly underestimated. 

When you need to let go of someone you love, there’s probably some level of pain involved. Maybe it’s the reason you need to let go of them in the first place.

If you want to fully let go of them, and not just kid yourself about it (like I did for a pretty long time at first), you have to let go of any anger, blame, or resentment as well.

This anger might be directed towards them, or also towards you. The hardest person to forgive can be ourselves. 

3) Talk to someone you trust

One thing that definitely helped me let go of my ex was to talk to a good friend about it.

Sometimes I vented, sometimes I cried, and sometimes I had thoughtful discussions about what I learned from the relationship.

This conversation can take any shape or form that you need it to.

The most important thing is that you can be honest with them, and yourself about it.

This helped me a lot because this friend shared some fresh perspectives that I had not considered before, and that helped me look at the situation in new ways.

Remember that every time we recall something in our mind, we change it ever so slightly — so stories can morph into something completely different from reality if they live only in our heads for too long.

Eventually, I also talked to a mental health expert about my experience, which I can also highly recommend as a great tip. 

4) Be grateful for the positive

Letting go of someone you love doesn’t mean killing your feelings for them, or turning them into hate. 

The relationship probably brought a lot of positive things into your life, otherwise you wouldn’t love them in the first place.

So allow yourself to honor these things and have permission to cherish them.

Every phase of our life will eventually come to pass, but we can remember it with fondness. 

5) Learn from the negative

The tip above is very important, but it should ideally go hand in hand with this one. 

To let go of someone you love, you must be able to look at the relationship for what it is, and see things objectively. 

This means not being biased towards either only the positive or the negative, or hiding from one or the other either. 

If you need to let go of the person you love, then there were surely some things that were not working out for you two.

Be honest with yourself about what these things are, and how they affected both of you.

6) Cultivate other relationships

When learning to let go of someone who you love, it’s extremely helpful to have a supportive network of other healthy relationships in your life.

This is so important because it begins to heal the void that the person you love has left behind in you. 

You will find ways to redirect the feelings you have towards them to others in your life who can return the love to you. 

You don’t necessarily have to share your journey with all of them.

Very few people in my life knew the details of my experience, or that I was going through this process at all.

They also don’t know how immensely they helped me just by being in my life, and being by my side during times I felt down.

If one of them is reading this right now, you know who you are — and I’d like to say, thank you for being there for me.

7) Define your values

I’ve said this a few times above already, but it’s so important that it warrants being said again.

Your whole life becomes so much easier if you know your values. These are like the stars you look to for guidance whenever you are at a crossroads.

They can help you make difficult decisions, or find lessons to learn in mistakes you’ve made. 

Of course, all this is only possible if you know your values in the first place.

So if you want to let go of someone you love, and also bring greater clarity about where your life is going, take a moment to seriously consider what your values are.

If I could share only one tip from this entire article to someone who loves a person and wants to let go, it would be this. 

Use this free PDF exercise to help you get started — I’m certain you’ll have much greater mental peace once you define your values clearly to yourself. 

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Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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