If They Want to Leave, Let Them Go

Crystal Jackson


Let it not be said that I am insensitive or have never been in love. Quite the opposite is true. But when someone wants to leave us, we don’t need to just let them go; we need to help them pack.

Bye, Felicia. Boy, bye. There’s the door.

I think when we’re wrapped up in strong feelings of love and loss we forget our own worth. All we can see is that the person we want is leaving us, and the grief of that experience is terrible. I am the veritable queen of holding on, and yet even I can acknowledge that holding on to someone who wants to go is futile.

Worse, it puts us in the position of begging someone to stay who has made it clear that they want to be somewhere else. When we can see ourselves in that position, it’s probably time to get up and go help them pack.

I don’t know why exactly so many of us lose ourselves in relationships to the point that the other person matters more than we do. Perhaps it’s co-dependence or some form of identity foreclosure, but there are some warning signs that this is happening.

If we find ourselves valuing their feelings above our own, we might be at risk of losing ourselves. It’s not that other people’s feelings don’t matter. They do. They shouldn’t always count more than our own to the point that we sacrifice our own happiness again and again so that someone else can have theirs. That can be a sign that something is out of balance.

If we find ourselves becoming more involved in the other person’s interests at the expense of our own, this is a red flag. We deserve to engage in our own interests as much as anyone else. If our interests fall by the wayside and yet our partner keeps all of theirs, this could be a real issue.

When the relationship is clearly unequal, this is a warning sign. Now I could spend the rest of the day and far into the night talking about gender equity and the uneven distribution of work in the home. I’d love to climb up on my soapbox about how women shoulder most of the burden of childcare and housework, but I’m actually talking about a different kind of imbalance. When one person invests all of the time and effort into a relationship to make it work while the other one gets to coast, this is a problem.

I can tell you that these are red flags because I’ve been there. I’ve been in the relationship where the other person’s thoughts, feelings, and interests always seemed to outweigh my own. I spent years inside of a relationship where I was keeping it afloat without help from my partner. I arranged the date nights- and mostly paid for them. I made all of the concessions.

I did all the work, silencing myself, to make the relationship last. In every relationship where these signs were present, there were serious problems that led to the termination of those relationships.

That’s why I say that when someone wants to go we need to send them on their way. We can have our feelings about it. We can be devastated or angry. That’s perfectly natural. But we need to let them go. We need to help them pack or at the very least clear the path to releasing them, whether that’s signing divorce papers or simply not begging someone to stay who wants to go.

I get that we want to feel like we tried everything. Ask, if you need to. Go to counseling together. Make the effort that you feel like you need to make for some measure of personal peace. But when we’ve exhausted all of our options and they still don’t want to stay and aren’t invested in the relationship, we need to stop begging for something that isn’t going to happen.

Do we really want someone to stay in a relationship that they aren’t invested in? Can we truly be happy with someone who sees their happiness without us?

It’s a grueling experience, one I wouldn’t recommend. But when we’re there in it, and we find ourselves pleading with someone else to consider us, that’s when we need to pause. To take a deep breath. To remember our own value. To think to ourselves,

I am worthy. I deserve better than this. I deserve to be loved and cherished. I deserve to be considered. I am enough. I have value.

Because when we remember that we, too, deserve love and joy, it’s so much harder to plead with someone for crumbs. It’s so much harder to stay in situations and relationships where we have to convince the other person to see our value.

We begin to long for connections where we don’t have to explain that we’re worth it. We begin to see that our lives could be so much richer if we weren’t stuck so much in the idea of what we want that we forget that we’re not getting what we need.

It doesn’t matter how much we love them. Or how wonderful we think they are. Or how much we love the future that we’ve been dreaming of with them. None of that matters if we have to keep hustling and pleading for them to acknowledge our worthiness. Because we matter, too.

We’ve gotten so caught up in considering what we’re losing that we forget that they’re going to lose us, which is a pretty big damn deal. That’s not an insignificant loss, whether they acknowledge it or not.

So we can deal with our anger and our grief alone. But if they want to go, I say help them pack. Or hold open the door so that they can walk out of it. We need to take that deep breath, adjust our crowns, and let them see that we aren’t going to hold on to anyone who doesn’t want to stay.

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Crystal Jackson is a former therapist turned writer. She is the author of the Heart of Madison series and a volume of poetry entitled My Words Are Whiskey. Her work has been featured on Medium, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, The Good Men Project, and Elephant Journal. When she's not writing, you can find her traveling, paddle boarding, cycling, throwing axes badly but with terrifying enthusiasm, hiking, or curled up with her nose in a book in Madison, Georgia, where she lives with one puppy and two wild and wonderful children. Crystal writes about relationships, mental health, parenting, social justice, and more. Never miss an update. Subscribe to emails: https://crystaljacksonwriter.substack.com/

Madison, GA

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