Reduce Your Attachment

in Order to Let Go of a Relationship

Dear Neil:  I have recently been dumped by my partner of two years.   The worst thing seems to be that I am finding it very hard to let go. Can you recommend anything that will help?

Lost In New Zealand

Dear Neil:  My husband and I split up six years ago after 29 years of marriage.  He is still with the woman he left me for, but I am finding it impossible to let go of the relationship and move on.  I guess I am still hoping we will reconcile.  Any suggestions?   

Still Hoping In Sydney, Australia

Dear Lost and Still Hoping:  You have to drop your attachment—to the person and to the relationship—in order to let go, heal and move on.

Typically, however, people think that if they let go of their attachment to a person, then the relationship really will be over.  So often people mentally and emotionally hang on to a relationship that has ended—in the hope that they might still be able to reconcile and get back together.  Their refusal to emotionally let go is the only thing keeping the relationship from dying, and they clearly don’t want the relationship to die, even if, in reality, the relationship has been dead for years.

You may not want to let go of a relationship for several different reasons:  because you miss the lifestyle you once had, because you’re afraid to be single and dating again, or because you have children together or work with each other, which means your ex could still be a large part of your present.

So the first step is to ask yourself: “If I allow myself to completely detach from the relationship, what do I fear will happen?  Is there something I’m holding out for (or holding on to) because I fear the relationship will end if I let go?”

Here’s how you can reduce your level of attachment: on a scale from 100 to zero, how attached are you—to the person or the relationship?  (100 = you couldn’t be more attached; 0 = you just don’t care anymore.)  If you answer this question honestly, you might be surprised to discover that you never cut the rope and decided that you wanted the relationship to be over.

Your task—if you want to get over the relationship and move on—is to reduce your attachment to zero.   You do so by talking yourself out of the relationship—and down the attachment scale—by telling yourself such things as “He ignored me for so long and treated  me badly.  Why would I want that in my life?  I’m going to reduce my level of attachment on the scale 5 points, because I’m worth more than that.”

Once you reduce on the scale, keep it off.  Do not permit yourself to get nostalgic or sentimental about the person, or you’ll risk backsliding and you’ll sabotage your efforts.

Detaching is a conscious process.  You have to get off your inertia, choose to detach, and stay with this process until you reach zero on the attachment scale.  Once you reach zero, you can begin to heal.

One comment on “Reduce Your Attachment

  1. Hi Neil,

    Good Day.

    I just wanted to seek a suggestion on what I should do to save our relationship. I wanted to be detailed on our story.

    My boyfriend and I are now on our 5th year. We started as classmates that was developed into lovers. Ever since we started we are very attached; we are always together in school then constantly testing as in every minute. I’m 24 y/o now and He’s 26. Both of us stopped studying last 2011 and decided to work instead. I did not went back to school and He did. On the 3rd year of our relationship (2013), I cheated on him and he knew it all because one of my office mate told him all about it. But yet he still accepted me and he’s the one who made a way for us to be okay. We’ve been okay after what happened. Then I started to be too possessive that I get jealous even with his classmates/friends whom I also know of but not my friends. Since then, I started to be clingy and too possessive. To the point that I look like an investigator or a spy. Me and his friends got to the point that we had an argument because of the story that I’ve been making about them having something fishy going on. I’ve been too moody. I easily get jealous even on little things. I feel like all of his time should be focused on me same as what he is when we were still students, because I’m used to it. I met him as a friendly guy and most of his friends are girls. I know that the mistake is on me. From our 3rd year up until know the issue is still there that I am jealous of his friends. He even told me that He’s not my prison and we both have our own life. Every time we are having a fight, after a day or 2 He’s always the one that will find a way for us to be okay. I’m really confused what should I do to prevent Him on falling out of love.
    Please help me.


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