Recently I have been working with two individual clients who are having a hard time letting go of their exes. In both cases, the ex-partners are done with the relationship, but my clients do not want to let go.
To make matters worse, they are in pain over not wanting to let go and keep trying to hold on. One of the clients constantly contacts her ex-partner, wanting to connect with him. His responses range from anger at her for reaching out, to compassion and asking her to be strong and move on with her life.
The other client does not contact his ex, but responds when she reaches out to him. She never reaches out to revive the relationship, just to touch base on the phone, by text or email. They haven’t seen each other in many months.
These clients are stuck. They are holding onto the fantasy that their relationship can still be revived somehow, although they have received no indication that this is possible.
What do I mean by this? If a person is considering getting back together with you, or trying again, they will let you know. They will call and say, “I have been thinking about you,” or, “I miss you.” They will schedule a time to see you and talk to you. They will try to sort through the issues that led to the breakup. There will be clear indications that they want to try to reconcile.
This is not the case in the situations my clients are in. There are no indications at all that their partners want reconciliation.
I have been thinking about how to help my clients and others in the same “I don’t want to let go” situation. I asked my clients a series of questions to try to discover where the stuck point is for each of them. Answering the questions helped them unhook. I will share the questions here, hoping that if you are in a similar situation, they will help you unhook as well:
- What good parts about the relationship do you want back?
- What bad parts about the relationship do you never want to experience again?
- Are you aware that you have to take the bad with the good, that your ex is a package deal, with both of these?
- Do you know that if you and your ex are together again, you will experience the worst of the bad, and the best of the good, over and over?
- Do you think you can get the relationship and your ex back?
- What specific, concrete evidence do you have that you can get your ex back?
- If your ex is contacting you, instead of trying to reconcile, could he or she just want to stay in touch with you in order to feel good about him or herself?
- Given that reconciliation is unlikely, is there anything that your ex could say to you that would make letting go easier?
Answered in this order, these questions helped unhook my clients.
The last question in particular unearthed the desire for an apology for the pain caused by the ex-partner during the relationships and the breakups. Each client also found they needed to know that they had been truly loved in their relationship.
In neither case could the ex give an apology, or acknowledge the love. Using a variety of coaching techniques, I worked with both clients (without their exes) to help fulfill their needs for these.
Both feel better, are fixated less on the past and focused more on the future, and the possibility of creating relationships they really want.
If you are having a hard time letting go of a relationship, work with the questions above. Write down your answers, as answering in your head will not have the same impact as typing or writing your thoughts and feelings. Also be sure to answer the questions in the order given. There’s a reason for the order; it’s a specific way of unhooking you from a stuck emotional place.