Teaspoon of HappyDetaching with LoveSarah May Bates

Often we find ourselves stuck in relationships that hurt us on a continuous loop, forever making us feel sick inside with worry: when will this hurt come around again and why can’t I escape it?  No matter how hard you try to talk someone out of their misery and heal them with your kindness, it will never quench the void that lives inside.  And like a dance, you are actually continuing to complete this misery by accommodating its bottomless yearning – by giving something that it does not deserve. What I mean by deserve is not what a person deserves – I mean what that dysfunction deserves.  You are rewarding a negative behavior – a negative habit, and not truly benefitting a person when you fulfill the other end of a negative relationship. In short, the pain is there until that person decides to gut it for themselves, and until they do, you will forever be a casualty of it: trapped in a cycle, slowly getting pulled downward by its effects.

This may sound harsh, especially when you really care about someone and feel good about giving yourself to them.  When you make their problems fade, it’s a feeling similar to cloud nine: to help and heal gives one a fullness of heart that makes you feel you could fly.  And the other side of this is that you like to help: you yearn to, and you’re good at it.  This type of relationship does not reward this in your life, though it feels like it at the time, what happens is you discount your own needs in favor of someone else’s while enabling the issues within them to go unchecked: as long as you act as a partner in this dance, you sustain it and allow it to continue.

What many of us never learn, is you are allowed to be loving by deciding to protect yourself and not allowing the negativity of a relationship to affect your life.  It is not your job or your responsibility to take care of someone else, especially if that person is not reciprocating that gift.  Despite the fact that they mean you no harm, they will continue to inflict the pain inside of them onto you.  The way you are treated is only a product of what they see and feel inside.  And you, by proximity, are taking in the pain they feel inside.  A good relationship should be mutually beneficial.  You should bring out the best in one another, inspire confidence, happiness and growth in one another, and if that is not happening and you are in a relationship that costs you more than it does them, then there’s a good chance that you’re stuck in a dance that is slowing your growth and siphoning your energy and goodness to a hidden void.

Even though it doesn’t feel like it, in order to truly help a person change for the better, you must break the cycle you’re in and detach with love.  You must stop completing the circles you’re in and step away.  You are allowed to state your feelings for someone, wish them well, and protect yourself from harm they might inflict.  To love yourself is to be loving to others, for without taking good care of yourself, you have nothing to give.  The happier you feel, the more you can give, and the more clarity you have.  I know that it’s hard, but if you feel you’re trapped in a relationship that is hurting you, you must protect yourself first and foremost and not allow a person to mistreat you by bringing you into their unhappiness and pain.  If you are ready to do so, all you have to express in some way is, “I love you but I don’t want to be around this.” That person will have to confront their own voids and where they come from – for you do not cause anyone to feel anything. They can decide how they feel and how they want to react to things.  If you find that you’re getting an extreme reaction from a person, this is because your detachment has hit a chord inside them – one attached to a greater pain, and they are attributing it to you.  It is not about you.  You are just the mirror to the pain inside.

What you will often discover is that if you decide to stop participating in an unhealthy relationship, the void you leave will force a confrontation in that person.  Your change for the better will initiate their change, which is truly what you wanted to begin with.  Because you stopped dancing, the unhealthy pattern is broken and what is left in its void is one bright shiny mirror. There’s no longer a Band-Aid to soothe the pain, and there’s nothing left to do but confront it or build a bigger distraction around the loss.

Because so many of the unhealthy relationships we grow into are people that we would consider family, it’s extremely painful and confusing to get out of one.  You will find yourself tortured with guilt, or questioning your own motives.  You might find yourself saying things like “But I have to!” a lot.  You don’t have to do anything, ever. You decide what you do, and you decide it for yourself based on what’s best for you.  Regardless of your actions, the other person gets to decide how they want to feel about them.  You don’t cause anyone to feel anything they feel.  You don’t create their feelings or reactions, and in a relationship that has been causing you hurt, their reaction is not about you.  Your job is only to be loving to yourself and to others.  Detach with love and when you begin to question yourself and where your heart lies, take comfort in that truth: you are allowed to take care of yourself and still be a good person, who is kind and loving. Know where your heart lies. Taking care of yourself can not coexist with allowing a relationship to hurt you.  This is almost like poisoning yourself: you are doing it to yourself, which is a betrayal of your belief in your own self-worth. No matter how resilient you think you are or what you can in reality handle, this is not helpful to you and it’s not helpful to that person: you are acting against your own true goal, which is to be a good person who is loving.

If you find that you get sucked back into drama again and again, it’s because we feel immense guilt and fear around potentially hurting this other person. Usually when we end up in relationships that ask more of us than we receive, it’s because deep down we are natural givers and it makes us feel wonderful to soothe another over ourselves.  Though this trait is wonderful, it can get us into seriously harmful relationships.  We end up finding the yin to our yang – those with a void of what we have in abundance.  And overtime, this stops us from healthy growth.  This person who feeds off of our gift clings to their supply of medicine, for to let it go means acknowledging the inner pain they feel, and without us, it really stings.

For all of you trapped in a relationship that hurts you, decide to make your happiness a priority.  Make a commitment to yourself to take care of yourself and demand mutually loving treatment from others. To begin a change and help yourself grow out of this habit, simply to walk toward the good.  Focus on the positive influences in your life and do not dwell on the negative. Seek out new friends and hobbies that reward your strengths and inspire you.  Surround yourself with people who feed your soul and inspire you.  That’s all you have to do: grow yourself.  Detachment with love will come when you are ready and strong enough, don’t worry.  Just continue to repeat your truth to yourself: I am kind and I am loving, and I am allowed to take care of myself.

Wishing you my love and a very happy Sunday, xoxo Sarah

Featured image via andy_pallister on Flickr

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  1. I missed it when it came out, apparently, but on the up side, this exact moment that I read it was the exact moment that I had to read it. The timing could not be better.
    I agree with the importance of taking care of ourselves first. And when you really care about someone, it is so difficult to let go. So difficult.
    Let me just say that it always helps me to see that I’m not the only one who’s like that, who thinks this way. This is why it’s good to share experiences and I’m overly thankful for that :)
    Thank you Sarah! Much love xx

  2. This is the first time in 2 years that I have felt any type of closure after divorcing my husband and father my two children. Thank you so much for alleviating so much of the guilt and pain left behind from deciding to end things with him. I am happy to say that he is now a year sober and I am beginning to look for love again. Even so, the residual guilt and second guessing of myself has been haunting me. This article has truly allowed me to move forward and let go of those feelings. I ended the cycle and it was the best decision that I could have made.

    • Wow, Amanda, I am humbled and grateful that I could in any way contribute to something so important in your life. This might sound grandiose, but I mean it: you have fed my soul, and I thank you for your heartfelt thank you. Xoxox Sarah

  3. As someone who had to leave several destructive friendships, this advice really hit home. Thank you for writing this.

  4. It’s great to know I’m not the only one! I have recently walked away from a relationship like this and this has helped me to see where we all went wrong. Thank you!

  5. Wonderful, thank you for this…I really needed to hear these things today.

  6. While I absolutely appreciate the positivity of this blog. I hope the author and fellow readers understand that a trained therapist is needed for each specific situation. Individual, family, or couples counseling is a brave and wise step to filling the void or assisting a loved one who deflects upon you.
    Obviously if someone is physically aggressive towards you, it is best to remove yourself and seek help. However, if it is not, I can’t help but think about my own loved ones who saw through my defenses, heard my inner plea as I screamed and hurt them emotionally. Sometimes I think we all have a void at one or more times in our lives and it’s those amazing people that don’t leave us, who push on our walls, who show us a mirror; who have a backbone, courage, and love to call it like it is. For me, before I had the chance to lash out in defiance and defense this one specific occasion I was given the tightest embrace and told, “but I love you unconditionally, I will stand by you through counseling, and you will never be alone”. That person who I emotionally hurt again and again changed my life by being strong enough to pull me out of the deep water I was treading in for so long with no clue what had triggered Me to do this to myself and others.
    Counseling and that one person who had every reason to walk away saved me from myself and I thank the universe for placing me in that moment with that person who defied what appeared to be sensible logic by leaving. The old saying “turn the other cheek” denies the recognition of humanity within another person as a shared oneness. A truth I, like so many others learned the hard way through my own stupidity before I began the path of self-awareness that leads to inner happiness.
    The point I hope you understand by my personal story is that appearances are almost never what they seem and people can do amazing things with love in the face of despair disguised as heartlessness. If only more of us were all a little more intuitive, compassionate, self-aware, and brave enough to stand each other up and speak from the heart.
    If you are like me, but nobody has done that for you; you are important and you are capable and worthy of so much more than you think you are in your honest of hearts. Therapy isn’t weakness, and you will move past this if you just make yourself go. Therapist’s can be like dates, you most likely won’t find the match for you on the first try, but it’s your happiness, so keep looking for the one that challenges you and inspires you. It’s frightening, but a relief eventually; then that relief turns to self reflection and awareness that will fill the void you carried so needlessly. It’s hard, but it’s great my friend. From this moment of vulnerability right now you are going to change. This is the wake up call so you don’t have to drag someone who loves you through your own issues while they cry and unselfishly love your stubborn ass. It sucks!
    Yes! You are worth loving, why not try being lovable on for size? Sitting there being a cliche jerk compensating for something you wish you had is like marinating in a pool of poison talking about what you’re going to do when you retire and life slows down. You won’t make it, and you’ll be all alone. Scream for help, and if by some miracle that simple gesture will save you, just don’t forget to say thanks and pay your therapist.

    • Thanks Lauren, I am in total agreement with you and I can thank my own therapist for having changed my life to what it is today. I should have probably disclaimed this article to be specific to relationships that are not your lot in life to change or fix – specifically when you yourself are not capable of fixing them without befalling harm, and AFTER you’ve gone through enough harm to see it is not getting better with your efforting. Again, I appreciate your wise words and thanks for reading!! xoxox

  7. This is a million shades of brilliant.

  8. A much needed read. Great timing…

  9. This hits home! Thanks for an amazing article.

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