How to Let Go When You Want to Hold On

man and woman sitting by fire

Manuel Meurisse on Unsplash

Disclosure: (This article is not condoning divorce or hitting a few bumps and throwing the towel in and quitting. This is for those who have tried with exhaustion every means possible to sustain and restore a relationship. It takes both parties fully committed to making a relationship work well.)

Velcro is incredible. The capacity to connect because both sides do their part. What happens when one side stops participating and you’re left holding both parts?

Frustration and exhaustion happens.

The one giving pleads with the one taking. The one pouring in starts resenting the other person and the relationship deteriorates.

The Giver’s well is becoming drier. 

The taker sees nothing wrong. Perfect and content, being poured into with nothing lacking. Makes perfect sense.

You give, I take, makes my world sweet. No complaints from the receiver.

Best case scenario is, you get the help you need and start making progress.

Worst case: Keep doing the same thing, getting the same results, and your heart gets wounded over and over again. The person who has done most of the giving is spent. Empty. Their well is bone dry.

The unhealthiness of a one-sided relationship begins to take its toll, physically and emotionally.

Holding onto someone who doesn’t hold you back at minimum is rejecting, but after a while, feelings of being degraded, disregarded and damaged surface. 

Resentment starts showing up more frequently.

The Pain I Saw In My Friend

I saw this hurt show up multiple times in my friend. This particular day in the coffee shop, I saw her struggling to get to a place of resolve.

Sitting across the table from my good friend, she stirs her coffee, clanking the spoon louder she says, “I feel like an idiot.” “How could I miss all of the signs?” He doesn’t care.

My reality is, she says, while clanking the spoon louder, I’ve been begging him to choose me, choose us. 

And now.. I have spent all this energy and time on someone who chose me like an afterthought. Truth is: He’s always in my thoughts but I am in few of His. 

Gut punch.

Chasing someone’s back is a slap. I’m running on empty and He’s running to who knows what, but it’s not to me.

Accepting that truth is hard to swallow. It’s agonizing to face and heart wrenching. 

Processing how to sort through all of the emotions is like a tangled ball of yarn.

Denial, anger, grief, bargaining, begging God. Add on top of it, being mad at yourself for tolerating it in a relationship.

Letting go brings the reality of the loss of someone you love. Especially, when you have tried in every possible way to stop the loss from happening.

How do you let go when you want to hold on?

Letting go leads you to let go of what has never been in your control – The other person’s part of the relationship.

Counseling. New approaches. Reading and devouring books. Caring, not caring. Praying harder, not praying at all.

Eating your way through the pain. Drinking your way through the pain. And every day without doubt your lap was full of, “What am I gonna do about this?”

The question begs the answer. I can’t move on by holding on.

Moving forward requires leaving something behind. That’s the dilemma. Holding two spaces requires you to let go of one so you aren’t in limbo.

It sucks. But what sucks more is being stuck in the middle. Stuck in the middle of two spaces. Stuck holding both parts. Navigating the roller coaster of emotions that strike at the worst times.

At work. In the middle of the grocery store. Waiting for the subway. There isn’t a manual on how to process grief and anger.

The assault on your self-worth is brutal. But, what if there is something in you surfacing in this sacred space.

Grieve the loss.

The pain is real. Purpose surpasses it though. Slaughter everything you thought your life would look like by now.

Surrender it. Sacrifice it. Lay that puppy on the altar. Release it so you can make room for what is coming.

Getting filled can only come once we decide to empty by letting go of the residue of everything we held onto.

Every dream. Every hope. Every emotional hurricane that helped you face the truth which led you to an impasse: Saying good-bye.

My girlfriend looks back up after staring at the cold hard concrete and with newfound strength, she wipes her tears, slams her palms on the bistro table, and says, “I’m done.” 

I’m done waiting on someone who not only, can’t find himself but doesn’t know I’m alive unless He needs something.

I swear, it’s like a physical weight came off of her as the words rolled off her lips.

“I’ve got God. I’ve got friends and a great family. My future is blazing bright and this will not define my worth.”

The fire in her eyes started to propel her forward. She tapped into the strength God had given her and in a millisecond she remembered who she was.

Just because this marked a season of her life didn’t mean it carved her identity and self worth by it.

She found the power to let go, to be loosed from the relationship she tried to hold onto. She needed to lose it to be loosed from it.

Looking at it through brokenness makes it impossible to see it accurately. She saw all the sober reminders of why letting go would liberate her devastated heart.

She just needed strength to do it. She prayed agonizing prayers. Liquid prayers of streaming tears.

One by one flashes of reminders of reality would flood her memory bank.

As she was able to accept the reality of what they were, she would be able to release them so her much-needed healing would come.

Healing began. Honoring her heart instead of suppressing what it needed, she invited the help in.

God was her refuge and during those painful times, she counted on His presence to carry her through.

The reality of who her strong tower was would remain: God. He upheld her.

She forgave, but she knew she was finished.

Courage was being imparted for her to look straight ahead. Willing to do what it took to mend her broken heart.

She stood up, straightened her jacket, exhaled, took my hand and said, God’s got me.

He will not drop me because He is the one who has caught me. All this time, falling over my life a million times. He waited for me. 

Like a bird fallen from her nest, He held me in the palm of his hands, cupping me from the harsh elements of life.

Choose Life, Not Death

It’s time. Time to move forward. Time for me to stop begging and to start living. And that day she saw herself. 

She saw her broken self but also her strong self. She saw a resilience she didn’t know existed until she saw the necessity of needing it to make it through.

The Lord reminded her, You will never walk alone. Not only will I carry you, I will go before you and behind you but I will also walk beside you.

I will remind you of my faithfulness on dark days. You will know my faithfulness, it will not just be theory.

As you rest in me restoration will come. You can trust in me. Peace comes from residing and abiding in me. 

Father, I pray for your grace and strength for every person who is at the end of their rope. Nothing catches you by surprise Lord. 

You desire to heal and restore relationships, but even if there is an unwillingness on one part and the relationship dissolves, you are committed to both of them.

Your love doesn’t change or diminish. May your presence surround the brokenhearted. May they sense your nearness and your mercy. Give them hope as they put their trust in you. Amen.

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