Learning how to detach from someone you care about – or love with all your heart – is a process. These tips for detaching will help you retain a sense of yourself in your relationship.
“Let there be spaces in your togetherness,” said Khalil Gibran. “And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.” That’s a wonderful suggestion for getting on with your life: take a step back and let time and space flow between you and your lost love. Below, I describe what it means to “let there be spaces in your togetherness.”
If you felt enmeshed or overly involved with the person you want to detach from, read Codependence and the Power of Detachment: How to Set Boundaries and Make Your Life Your Own by Karen Casey. Emotional over-involvement in a relationship can throw even a healthy, well-functioning person off balance. Learning how to detach from someone you care deeply about – even if you’re still in a relationship – can help you keep your healthy sense of self.
Disentangle: When You’ve Lost Your Self in Someone Else is another great book on detaching from someone you care about. It provides a detailed description of ways to turn this self-destructive cycle around. This book includes self-assessments and exercises that can improve your self-awareness and help you detach or disentangle from someone you care about.
And here are a few tips for healthy detachment…
How to Detach From Someone You Care About
Emotional over-involvement happens when thoughts become focused on the other person in ways that are unhealthy for both the individual and the relationship. Over-involvement can lead to feelings of anxiety, agitation, helplessness, depression, anger, and even resentment. “Disentangling” or detachment’ is about creating enough emotional space between yourself and another person so you can see the realities of your relationship and make healthier choices.
These tips revolve around detaching from an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend, but can be applied to any type of friendship or relationship. I had to learn how to detach from my sister, who I can’re about deeply.
1. Focus on yourself – not your ex-boyfriend, ex-girlfriend, or partner. For others to love and respect you, you have to love and respect yourself. To love and respect yourself, you may need to make practical changes in your life. Maybe that means losing a few pounds, going back to school, or spending more time with people you respect. Maybe it means getting up early to exercise or finding out about student loans. To detach from an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend, write down your goals and take specific action steps towards achieving them.
2. Give yourself – and your ex - space to heal and breathe. One of the most important tips on how to detach from someone you care about is to take a step back — though your instinct might be to move closer! Instead of crowding your ex, find your self-identity. Figure out who you are apart from your love relationship, marriage, kids, and family members. Give yourself (and him) room to breathe by developing your own interests and life. This is difficult when you’re emotionally over-involved or even obsessed with the other person, but it’s so important.
3. Look at your relationship objectively – practice detaching yourself! You may have been invested in this love relationship or marriage for years; now, you need to look at it objectively, with your mind and gut (not your heart). Is this the love relationship you wanted for yourself, before you met him? Would you want your daughter, sister, or best friend to be in this relationship? Did your ex willingly meet your needs and respect your wishes? Do you do the same for him or her? If you had to do it all over again, ask yourself if you’d choose the same person again as your partner. These questions may help you detach from someone you care about and get on with your life.
4. Decide if you want to stay in this relationship. This tip is for couples who are still together, but wonder if they should break up — because sometimes you need to start detaching from someone you care about while you’re still together. Before you can think about overcoming lost love, you need to decide if you should stay together — because many couples do stay in unhealthy relationships. So, can you accept your partner exactly the way he or she is right now and not complain? Or, are you both willing to do what it takes to work on your relationship (eg, marriage counseling, support groups, or reading books or taking communication classes together)? A healthy relationship can’t happen when only one partner cares enough to try to rebuild it.
5. Focus on the fact that the pain of detachment is temporary. The initial pain of detaching from someone you care about is usually the worst part of it. I know how heartbreaking it is; it may feel like you’ll never love again, never trust again, never laugh again…but trust me, you will get over your lost love. It’ll take time, it’ll take support from your friends, patience, and maybe even 40 days and nights of wailing and gnashing your teeth – but you will be happy again.
Do think you’ll never learn how to detach from someone you care about? Keep reading about ways to move on and heal. I recently wrote How to Get Over a Bad Breakup - maybe it contains the right tips for detaching from someone you love.
If you have any thoughts about detaching from someone you care about, please comment below. I can’t offer advice, but I can listen. Sometimes sharing your feelings helps you gain clarity and insight.
I'm glad you're here! My name is Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen; my husband Bruce and I live in Vancouver, BC with our critters. We can't have kids, and are learning to accept whatever life brings - both good and bad. I have an MSW (Master of Social Work) from UBC, and degrees in Education and Psychology. I hope you say hello below - I can't give relationship advice, but writing can bring you clarity and insight.