We are going to categorize this blog post as a “Part Two” of a recent one I wrote a few weeks ago…which also gives me the added benefit of shamelessly plugging it right now if you haven’t read it yet. Linked here for your reading pleasure 🙂
In that post, I wrote about how critical it is to let go of a relationship that no longer fulfills you, no matter how scary it may seem. There were a couple reasons I cited for why that relationship may have run its course, followed by specific things that can keep us hanging on, like fear of change or failure. However, there was a common one that I didn’t mention at all and quite frankly deserves its own blog post completely devoted to discussing it. So here it is.
Sometimes we fall in love with someone, and as that relationship progresses, we happen to fall in love with their family too. And when it’s time to let that person go, we often delay that breakup because one impending goodbye just became two…(or four, or six depending on how big the family is). But it’s not always a goodbye we want to say, so we just don’t. We hold onto that relationship so we can keep holding on to all of the people associated with it. His siblings feel like your siblings; her friends have become your friends too; and let’s not forget their dog that totally likes you better than everyone else. You’ve made memories in their house and even have inside jokes together your partner still doesn’t understand. So how can you possibly let go of people that have genuinely become your own family?
I wish I knew how to answer that in a way that would bring you comfort. But I just don’t.
Any way you slice or dice it, it will be freaking hard. But ask yourself: what’s the alternative? Staying in a relationship that doesn’t make you happy anymore? We can’t live this already short life being anything besides happy, and we are only doing ourselves a disservice by playing pretend. Not to mention our partner deserves better too. By continuing the charade, you are depriving both you and your significant other of a chance to build a more fulfilling future with someone else. Everyone deserves an honest shot at true love, and if you don’t think yours is that anymore, you have to be the one to free each other.
I know I know, all of this is so much easier said than done. I held onto a relationship three months longer than I should have because I couldn’t bring myself to let go of his family. But I was really only delaying the inevitable and disrespecting myself (and him) in the meantime by not listening to my heart. And in the end, his family was more gracious and understanding than I could have ever imagined, and I will always appreciate them for that.
What really helped me during the breakup, and I’m not sure people often consider this part, is getting closure not just from my relationship but separately with his mom. When you are that close to someone’s family, sometimes it really does feel like you are breaking up with them too. And just like any breakup, you need genuine closure to fully move on. So I encourage you, if you have the opportunity and if it feels right, to meet with any or all of them separately after you have ended things, and have a proper goodbye in person. Say what you need to say, and cry if you need to cry, but leave everything on the table so that when it’s over you can really start to heal.
And I’ll tell you a secret: just because you’ll no longer be at birthday parties or family reunions doesn’t mean you’ll lose everyone forever. Nowadays the beautiful part about social media is the ability to keep in touch and keep up with people’s lives that you don’t get to see much of anymore. His parents can support you from afar on Facebook, and you can congratulate her brother for whatever he posted about on Instagram. Seven years after my breakup, I still feel the distanced love from my ex’s family on social media and through “Happy birthday” texts. I know they will always be there for me, but respect the life I have built in my new relationship and wish me all the happiness in the world.
So, (I’m seriously resisting the urge to say “in conclusion” here but I know you’ll all judge me), when a relationship feels over, and I mean unsalvagable-ly over, you owe it to yourself and your partner to do what’s best for you, and in the long run, what will be best for them too. And as for their family, the mutual respect and care you have for one another will never go away. You’ll always look back fondly on your time together and the memories you built will stay with all of you forever. So in a way, you’ll never really leave each other, not completely. (Insert: overly cheesy quote about them “always being with you in your heart” that I can’t bring myself to actually write here)