14 Tips for Letting Go

Letting go can refer to different actions – letting go of anger or resentment, guilt, worry, controlling behavior, or letting go of a relationship. Letting go of someone we love is not easy. Of course, grieving the death of someone is a natural process that takes time. Letting go allows us more freedom in our life and helps us stop controlling behavior. It may feel unloving, but it actually allows us love with compassion instead of manipulation.

Fundamentally, we’re powerless over someone else. Knowing this intellectually and knowing it emotionally are different, but practicing these tips will gradually change your thinking, feeling, and actions. There are many situations where we need to let go, and not all of these tips will apply to yours. Still, they’ve worked for me and countless others:

  1. Mind your own business & don’t give advice.
  2. Focus on yourself. Do things that make you happy and further your goals.
  3. Practice compassion for the other person. Try to see his or her motivation. This doesn’t mean you accept unacceptable behavior, but understanding can help you to not react and to see him or her as separate from you.
  4. Remind Mantras:
  •     “Let Go, Let God”
  •     “Live & Let Live”
  1. Remember the three C’s:
  •       You didn’t cause the other person’s problem or addiction.
  •       You can’t control it.
  •       You can’t fix it.
  1. Remember the Four Don’ts:
  • Don’t watch
  • Don’t expect
  • Don’t judge
  • Don’t obsess
  1. Q.T.I.P. Quit Taking It Personally. Other people’s actions don’t reflect on you. Practice listening without reacting.
  2. Meditation and Mindfulness. This helps you think before you speak and respond instead of react.
  3. Journal your feelings. Instead of acting on them, write and reflect on them. You can share them with a friend.
  4. Act as if. Visualize how you’d like to act and respond. Practice doing it even if you feel like strangling the person instead!
  5. Check in with your body. Are you in your head? Obsession is fed by anxiety in an attempt to control pain or the future. Allow any pent-up feelings to flow. Ask your body what it needs. Are in the present? If action is necessary now, take it; if not, enjoy the present.
  6. Have a “Plan B.” This is especially important when the other person is unreliable. Instead of feeling like a victim of his or her moods or addiction, make alternate plans, even if it’s to stay at home and finish a novel. Don’t allow your happiness and serenity to be controlled by someone else.
  7. Practice accepting reality. Are your expectations realistic? Unreasonable expectations feed resentment, disappointment, and futile attempts to control. Expecting an addict not to practice his or her addiction is unreasonable.
  8. Prayer. Praying for someone you care about, whom you can’t control or change is a positive action. See him or her surrounded in light and send the person blessings.The Serenity Prayer can also be helpful:

“God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, “The Courage to change the things I can, “And the Wisdom to know the difference.”

To “Let go” sounds like an action verb, but it’s actually a process. It’s the result of practicing these steps – sometimes painful, but they hold the promise of contentment and renewed vitality. For six more tips, read my blog “Letting Go.”

Copyright Darlene Lancer 2014

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Yara P.
Yara P.
2 months ago

Thanks for the tips. I’ll keep them in mind

Hassim Adnan
Hassim Adnan
3 years ago

Wow, this is so informative, thanks for these tips its really helpful.

Jennifer
Jennifer
3 years ago

very good tips

Kate
Kate
6 years ago

Thank you!
This article has really helped me calm down and think. I feel stuck in a bad, unhappy and abusive marriag, along with family issues. I will start working on bettering myself, and making changes.
Thank you again!

Bethany
Bethany
6 years ago

Thank you for writing this article and sharing your knowledge. I have been in a treatment program for codependency and am working through these feelings still a year later. Sometimes I feel exhausted. I have just recently begun a relationship.

I’m just not sure about it all. He treats me well and is nice but… there is a lingering “but” there. I am not sure if it’s my gut reaction to the situation or if I’m being overly cautious due to my past relationships. I’m really torn, which probably is telling me I need to end the relationship. Guess I just needed to “think” it out loud.

Thank you once again for your supportive articles.

Carey Harvison
Carey Harvison
6 years ago

Darlene,
Your tips are great. The best thing I ever did was get away from a severe codependent and learn to love myself again after an emotionally abusive marriage of 14 years. I recognized some codependency that I had with not thinking I could make it on my own. A great counselor for 2 & 1/2 years, an Associates degree later, and learning that I do not need someone else for my happiness has given me the freedom to choose and feel what makes me smile. Looking forward to reading more of your resources. I know now I will never allow my feelings and happiness to be set aside for someone else. This has empowered my girls as well!

Kimberly
Kimberly
6 years ago

Hello Darlene, Thank you so much for your insightfulness and guidance. It’s invaluable! I need to pick up your books ASAP. I am struggling with a man who is co-dependent and in incredibly dysfunctional relationship with his ex. Two and a half years ago she wanted a divorce and moved out. Two years ago he met me. We have a wonderful relationship but the two of them haven’t moved on in getting a divorce. He feels obligated to give her everything (financially and by bending to her needs with schedules etc). He feels stuck & now I’m feeling hopeless we can have a future. Is there a way I can help him break free, gain his voice, and move forward?

Darlene Lancer, MFT
6 years ago
Reply to  Kimberly

The first step in overcoming codependency is accepting we’re powerless over others. See Chapter 9 of my book and practice these tips.

Ruth
Ruth
6 years ago

Hi Darlene,

I don’t even know where to begin, but here it goes. I am not happy with my Husband, and haven’t been for the entire six years we’ve been married. I felt that once I was married that was it, that I needed to stick it out. I’ve prayed and hoped that things would change one day, and now I understand that he isn’t going to change unless he wants to. He can be a real good Man at times, but he’s unpredictable. I walk on egg shells because his behavior changes in an instant. I am always caught off guard. I am tired of being treated this way, and now am feeling like I’m becoming like him. I want to leave him. Please advise.

Darlene Lancer, MFT
6 years ago
Reply to  Ruth

No partner should have to feel that he or she is walking on eggshells. I suggest you read my blogs on abuse, addiction, and personality disorders that you relate to. Codependency for Dummies and How to Speak Your Mind will help you understand your problem and give you tools to address it. Go to a CoDA meeting, too, and get counseling, and you’ll know what to do.

Anne
Anne
6 years ago

I amsingle woman of 63. My mother, age 90, lives with me. We have had a co-dependent relationship for 14 years. I moved to be near my brother who lives with a traumatic brain injury in my mother’s home. To enable his funding, my mother is not allowed to live with him.

I chose to let her live with me because I have a chronic illness, was lonely, and appreciated what had been a friendly, supportive relationship. She was 75 when she moved in with me, saying she’d provide rent and pay for her share of the utilities, etc. As she became more disabled with age, she has required caregiving. She pays for caregiving during the day but expects me to do it voluntarily for her at night.

Currently, she either doesn’t speak to me (she is very hard of hearing) or is abusive (“You are ugly and useless”).

I have been working hard at getting well. I am taking an experimental treatment at a university hospital, getting infusions at our local hospital and just beginning to be able to handle three sessions of therapeutic yoga per week. After 15 years of social isolation, after coda meetings and treatment groups at our local hospital, I feel ready to choose happier, more supportive relationships. I am also aware of my potential traps. It has been several years since I did all the coda training. I have purchased your book(s) to read. Thanks so much!

Robert
Robert
6 years ago

Hi Darlene,
My (ex) girlfriend had grown up with an abusive chemical and alcohol dependent father. She had been in two previous relationships which were abusive. She realized she was codependent and as part of her process to heal, her first act was to break up with me (at least to me). As I started to read up on codependency, one of the things I found out was codependent people tend to be attracted to other codependent people, codependency has degrees, and I now realize I’m codependent as well. I’m completely devastated by this (and I’m sure it’s related to my own issues). I’m still trying to understand this process. I need to get assistance for my own issues. Wondering if CoDA would be able to help?

Darlene Lancer, MFT
6 years ago
Reply to  Robert

Try CoDA and see if it helps. Go to a few different meetings before you decide. You can also find some online, and benefit from the self-help materials in my books.

John Doe
John Doe
6 years ago

My wife and I are living in different countries overseas. Until a month ago things were great. Now she says her feelings towards me have changed. She has no desire for me, but I do for her. I’ve invested so much in this relationship and I want to see it succeed. I only two weeks ago realized my codependency was affecting us. I told her I’d not let it slip again and have been working on it every day for the last two weeks. But she says things that hurt. Not intentionally, but she basically doesn’t want to be intimate with me anymore. It’s really difficult because I don’t want to control her into being intimate, I understand that it’s her right to feel that closeness or not. But I still need that level of intimacy. I don’t know how long I can wait until I decide to end the relationship for being neglected. Can you help?

Darlene Lancer, MFT
6 years ago
Reply to  John Doe

I suggest getting couples counseling. You seem to love your wife and want it to work, so perhaps you can get to the bottom of the problem through marital counseling. I sometimes do that by phone for couples who don’t live in the same city and can’t meet for counseling.

Dina
Dina
6 years ago
Reply to  John Doe

Don’t waste time on false hope. Why prolong the inevitable? She has made herself clear. When someone shows you who they are, believe them – the first time.

Anonymous
Anonymous
7 years ago

Hi Darlene, so I am in a relationship with a functioning alcoholic (meaning he still goes to work every day and usually only drinks at night and weekends) and I realized that I have been enabling him by paying off debt, helping with the rent etc. when he was short of money.
I have talked to him about his addiction several times and tried to help but realized that I can’t fix him. I am trying to incorporate your advice and try to “mind my own business and not give advice”. But I struggle regarding how I am supposed to do that when interacting with him? Does that mean not addressing his addiction at all? Thank you for your feedback.

Darlene Lancer, MFT
7 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Chapter 9 of my book Codependency for Dummies goes into depth about the meaning of nonattachment. Certainly advice shouldn’t be given. I suggest joining an Al-Anon meeting to get support and wisdom from other members in your situation. There should be some online, also. Mentioning the drinking must be done in a specific way that is a bit too complex to explain here, but it would never be in a judgmental way – more referencing your experience.

Mimi
Mimi
7 years ago

Hi
My name is Mimi, I am from Syria.
My mother died when I was 7. She was a primary school teacher and used corporal punishment with me.
I had a younger sister whom I bullied. I moved to live with my grandparents after my father remarried. I was brought up by my paternal uncles and aunts.
I grew up with a lot of responsibilities at home and school. But I wanted to achieve a lot. I got a scholarship and had my MA from the UK in 2008 in teaching. I do not like my job very much though. It contributes to my anxiety and depression.
I met someone in 2011 while I was working outside my city. But he had to leave because of the Syrian crisis. Before he left I invited him couple of times for walks and foods and few get- togethers with friends. I was in love with this very special, ideal man in my opinion.
He began emailing me asking how I was and making sure I was ok. We exchanged emails and I made my feelings known to him after a while. He said he admired me as well but did not promise anything.
In the summer of 2013, my younger sister got married and I am now alone in the family house (after returning to my home city). My grandparents had passed. My aunts are all married and away. My dad is married and also away. I want someone to fill this forced-on-me loneliness. I had lived independently before, and had a community of friends. But this time it was different.
I let my friend who is now in America know about this. It felt like he stepped a bit back, or did he??! I became more and more anxious and depressed as the winter advanced in 2013 and I let my friend know this. I had uncontrollable bursts of weeping and imagined scenarios about the loss of my loved ones: dad and sister. I let the man know as well.
Whenever he writes to me (though he doesn’t write often), he always says: “I am thinking of you, praying for you, wondering what are you up to” I avoid asking him what does he exactly mean for fear of embarrassing him or because i like to pretend that I do not care. On Christmas 2013 and new year, he came to the middle east and I asked to meet him in Lebanon, he apologized and gave excuses (I do not know real or fake excuses). then since that time(early 2014 till May) he only wrote once. (it was SO tough time for me living with no contact at all from him). A month or two later I updated him about me and got a reply, I replied back, and that’s it!! I live everyday waiting for an email or a message from him though I know he won’t send any. I shared a month ago that my aunt passed and he did not approach my post on FB at all!! he did not say any word of encouragement!! Does this mean that this is the end?? we are still friends on FB though.
I read your tips on letting go. My mind wants to do it but my heart refuses. Even in a small area of my mind, my logic tells me that he is mine. He will be mine. I am afraid of this (could be false) affirmation.
He is apparently still single and that gives me hope. I cry a lot because I am lonely and in need of love. I try to teach myself how to love myself. It is not easy!! I still want to fall in love and get married. It will help more if he tells me literally to leave or if he gets married or at least if we have a meeting for a proper closure.
I know I am codependent on him and I did the quiz on attachment style, and it turned out that I have an anxious attachment style. I tend to deal with my romantic partner the way I deal with my mother. I love someone who is unavailable and cannot move on. Or is it my circumstances? I am from a Christian minority here and the situation is making it worse for living a full life and socializing. But I have always sucked with my relationship with men and did not have any proper serious relationship. One man even told me that I tend to suck the life out of my partner. Maybe my neediness scares guys away!! Please tell me how to change?? I know my problem and its root but do not know how to act upon it??!!
Please tell me: is there hope?? what can I do to heal??
Thanks a lot in advance

Darlene Lancer, MFT
7 years ago
Reply to  Mimi

I’m so sorry for what you and your country are going through. If you’d like a personal information, please see the Services section of my website. People can change. People tell me they do change from doing the exercises in my books.

Dina
Dina
6 years ago
Reply to  Mimi

Mimi, his actions are saying what his mouth cannot. Please see the movie “He’s Just Not That Into You”. It helped me a lot.

Carole
Carole
6 years ago
Reply to  Mimi

Hi Mimi, you sound alot like me when I fell in love with a man who just didn’t feel the same way about me that I did for him. The problem is you are obsessed with him because he is rejecting you. The more he rejects you, the more you want him. Thats all it is. He’s not that special. Your making him special because you can’t have him. It is human nature to want want we know we can’t have. Move on. Your are never going to find a man that really will want to be with you if you continuously hang onto a rrelationship that never happened. He’s emailing you because some g uh s lime to have alot of female friends, thats all, but if it hurts you too much to just be friends with him, let him go completely, so you can then be able to open your mind and heart for a man that actually does want to pursue a Real relationship with you. Thats what I finally was able to do with my obsession; let go and 2 years later I met a wonderful man whom loves to be with me, we have alot fun together, we love to do the same things together on our weekends, but I would not have met him if I was still hanging onto a man that never was around. Let go and move on. Why stay in perpetual unhappiness when real fullfillment is waiting around the corner with someone else, but you need to set yourself free to find it.

Mimi
Mimi
7 years ago

Hi
I do not know! Shall I write about my sick familial history or the relationship/ friendship (with an almost unavailable partner) a relationship that is not giving me happiness but still not making me happy??!!

Darlene Lancer, MFT
7 years ago
Reply to  Mimi

Either one will lead to the other!

Andi
Andi
7 years ago

My name is Andi, I am a 37 year old latina woman dating a 50 year old American man. I have 2 young kids, he has a teenager. He is a full time dad and works 60+ hours a week. We met in 2011, we dated for 6 months and we broke up. After 5 month apart we got back together. We dated 3 months and again broke up. After 7 months apart we decided to try again. In this past year he met my kids, I met his son and his family. We spent holidays together. I want more, I want to get engaged and planned to be marry soon. He claims he is not ready, he is a former alcoholic and drug user. He feels he owes 2 years to his son. He doesn’t feel his son would be happy if we all lived together as a family. I can understand that, but then he says we may move in together once his son moves to college,may be. I don’t like to sleep alone, get very needy, try to manipulate situation and force him to spend weekends with me and plan sleep overs. He is very kind, and patient. he is amazing with my children. I am deeply in love with him. But I feel rejected by his lack of desire to moving in promptly. And the uncertainty about the future, I want him to want and confirm that he wants to live with me in 2 years. He states the future is an illusion and that he loves me and most likely the relationship will grow to the next step when everything is in place. For me, I feel “if you love me, why not now?”.
He didn’t call me one night after an argument and I had a panic attack at 3 am, palpitations, I was awake the whole night. I called him 10 times and texted him all night long. He replied the next day stating that my behavior was unacceptable and he would not answer the phone when I am upset. That night he cooked for my sons and I and spent a lovely weekend together. I feel I want to spend all my free time with him, weekends, after work evenings and hopefully every single night soon. He needs space now and time alone with his son. Most of the weekends we see each other and we are spending Friday and Saturday nights together. I feel I know what I want, I want to be married, sleep every night with the same person, have a family. I am not sure he will ever want that. I am certain he is committed to me, and he loves me. How can I know if I am being assertive or codependent?

thanks!

Darlene Lancer, MFT
7 years ago
Reply to  Andi

It’s good that you know what you want, and just as he won’t be able to manipulate you into really changing your mind, neither will you be able to change him into what you want. See my newest blog post on attachment and also Symptoms of Codependency. You broke up twice before and it’s not working out this time. This man won’t give you want you and and need. Your behavior is desperate – far from assertive, which respects the other person’s rights, also. Go to a CoDA meeting and do the exercises in my book, Codependency for Dummies.

Dina
Dina
6 years ago
Reply to  Andi

I agree with Darlene, Andi. It’s already been on / off since you met and when he finally verbalized his boundaries (waiting 2 years before getting more serious), you won’t have it. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all. You don’t want to wait 2 years for someone who thinks the future is an illusion (and he’s right). This statement from him tells me he, like most men, is not thinking about any longterm plans with you and his son is a very convenient (and legitimate) excuse. It sounds like to me (and probably to him) that you just want someone, anyone to play house with and that you’re willing to either walk away or resort to manipulation if you don’t get it. I’m not trying to be mean here ok? I’m also guilty of this codependency behavior in my past and it sucks.

Andi
Andi
6 years ago
Reply to  Dina

My boyfriend and I broke up. He had an uncle visit and didnit invite me, he said I was welcome but not my children. So, I walked away- when I called him later that day he didn’t answer and broke up with a text. Since then he started dating a younger woman (he was already 13 years older than I am) we have kept in touch and he has helped me financially with some cash. I have a hard time letting go and I miss him. He was not what I wanted nor needed. I found out at the end of our 3 and a 1/2 years on and off that he was frequenting Stripper clubs when very drank and he kept flirting with women while with me. I still can’t let go.

Darlene Lancer, MFT
6 years ago
Reply to  Andi

Do the suggestions on this list daily, go to Al-Anon, NarAnon or CoDA meetings and read Ch. 12 of Codependency for Dummies, 2nd ed.

Alfred
Alfred
7 years ago

I married a woman very passively and codependently–since she liked me. I realize now I used her emotionally then, and still do (from reading the writings here). Not liking myself, I depended on her constant picking me up, holding or providing conversations. And just like many men spoken about above, I got very angry when she said no more. I used her.
After 3 years of me trying to win her back (sometimes weakly, I know now) she went ahead with the divorce. By itself, it wasn’t hard, as I’d tried.

What hurt is me accepting–a difficult idea–that she’s empty emotionally when I am around. She doesn’t talk, doesn’t share, and my mind is screaming “she hates me!!”. I left her house today due to being ignored.

I am in Al-Anon and Celebrate Recovery, many years now—-and I’m not comfortable with MY pain. I’m running, feeling abandoned, not accepting ME.

Is the “not liking me” codependency?

Where I’m enmeshing myself is I’m trying to “save” our daught

Darlene Lancer, MFT
7 years ago
Reply to  Alfred

Low self-esteem is what you describe. In itself, it’s not codependent, but combined with your dependency, it sounds a lot like codependency on her. Two things we learn are not to keep going back to the empty well for sustenance, and not to take it personally – Q.T.I.P. Her being shutdown may be her way of trying to set a boundary. She was codependent, too, in your relationship. My book on shame will help you recovery your self and self-esteem.

Alfred
Alfred
7 years ago

Ouch. Shame. Again……..
20 years ago I tried reading John Bradshaw’s Healing the Shame That Binds You, and was overwhelmed. A month ago, my sponsor, a very avid reader, picked up copies of this, and I’ve made it through maybe 60 pages. From the little I’ve shared so far here, would you suggest I continue in Bradshaw’s book, or would you think yours is more doable?
Yes, self esteem and shame are the core issues–I’m actively working on forgiving myself in lieu of blaming others for the pain I’m 1. familiar with, and 2. comfortable with.

I’m grateful for the gift of desperation.

Darlene Lancer, MFT
7 years ago
Reply to  Alfred

Hi Alfred,
Bradshaw’s book was a groundbreaking popular book at the time, but personally I don’t think he integrated the analytic literature in a well thought out manner, nor is his writing organized or clear. Also, he doesn’t give clear steps to healing. Mine ties shame to all the symptoms of codependency and is the first book to show how relationships are damaged by it. See what you think.

Gemma Edwards
Gemma Edwards
7 years ago

I have issues with control and in my day to day life it helps we function with a busy family and job but sometimes it gets too much when there’s a stressful situation I can’t control. I make endless lists, I am very bossy with my family and I can’t stand to be alone. It’s driving my husband away because he feels he has no freedom. When he wants to do anything without me, which is rare because I make it very difficult, I become panicky and clingy. I cause huge fights and can’t function properly until he is back. It must be awful for him when he gives me freedom to do whatever I choose. I have tried to relax but as soon as an event he is going to draws closer I become cold with him, distancing myself. When he goes I then cause big arguments if he hasn’t done what I want ie called or text me regularly. I have struggled with depression before but this seems to be separate as it doesn’t matter how depressed or not I am. I had a hard time in a previous relationship and I think this stems from it but I need some advise on how to change before I destroy our relationship completely. Please help.

Darlene Lancer, MFT
7 years ago
Reply to  Gemma Edwards

It sounds like you may be suffering from a past trauma related to loss or emotional and/or physical abandonment. This is something that should be treated in therapy with a licensed professional. Meanwhile, I recommend that you learn all you can about codependency by reading Codependency for Dummies.

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