Suzie, How do I stop loving someone once I’ve already started? I can’t get her out of my head. I want to move on, but I can’t. I just don’t see how it’s possible to force my heart to stop loving her. I love her totally, and I don’t think I will ever stop. It’s tearing me apart inside whenever something reminds me of her. Any advice?
When it comes to wanting to stop loving someone you no longer wish to be with in a relationship, here’s a big difference between “I can’t” and “I don’t know how to” OR “I don’t want to.” Let me tell you a story my teacher once told me at a point in my life when I felt like I couldn’t do the work he was asking me to do.
He told me the story of a young boy who’s struggling to learn to play baseball. The boy wants to be on a team with his friends, and is frightened by the ball. As the team practices continue, he becomes increasingly discouraged. He tells his coach that he plans to quit because he’s a bad ballplayer. The coach replies, there are no bad ballplayers — there are only people who are not confident in their ability to learn. The coach stands facing the boy and puts the ball in the kid’s glove, and has the boy take it out and hand it back to him. He then takes one step back and gently tosses the ball into the boy’s glove, and had the boy toss it back. Step by step, the coach moves a little further away, until the boy is throwing and catching the ball at a distance with ease. With a sense of confidence that he can learn, the boy returns to practice and eventually becomes the most valuable player on his team.
In terms of wanting to know how to stop loving someone, I believe you’re facing the same confusion in terms. Of course you “can” — we all have the ability to let go, grieve, release attachments, and move on with our lives. Since all relationships are temporary, humans have this capacity. What you’re really saying is that you’re in conflict: A part of you wants to let go, while another part wants to hold on. It’s having these “opposing” desires that’s causing your distress. It’s not that you can’t — you simply don’t want to completely do so (as of yet), or perhaps you don’t know “how to”. One is about motivation, while the other is about “skill”.
There’s a big difference between “wanting to” and “being willing to”. One involves mere desire, while the other implies “action”. In other words, one is passive while the other is active.
Until you get to the place where “want” becomes a “must”, you’ll continue to be in conflict — because a house divided within itself cannot stand.
What you really need is to face and own up to whatever it is in you that’s clinging and why. In other words, there must be something in this affair, in these emotions, that’s satisfying a need in you — and as long as that need is being satisfied by the affair, you’ll want the feelings to continue. Likewise, there must be another part of you that’s outraged about the whole thing, and it’s that part of you that wants the feelings to go away.
Which part you to listen to depends on what your rules for happiness are. If integrity, honor, and self-respect are a part of your personal rules for happiness, then you’ll shift your “want” to a “must”. And if they aren’t, then you’ll remain in conflict for a very long time.
Here’s part of what I’ve observed: The laws of happiness are created for us — not by us. And the beautiful truth is that honor, integrity, authenticity and self-respect are immutable. You need them to have that enduring happiness you truly deserve. You cannot be happy without them. So, the part of you that’s arguing for anything less… must be the voice of “sabotage”.
I agree with you. You can’t force yourself to “do anything” you’re not motivated to do. It’s true that you can’t simply “turn off” certain feelings once they’ve begun to flow. But here’s what you can do: You can learn to direct those same feelings toward places, people and situations that are appropriate. And you can learn to motivate yourself to learn to do those things that you need to learn how to do — which includes learning to let go of attachments to people, removing your dependency on others for gratification, and releasing those feelings that are in conflict with the laws of happiness.
How do you do all this? In the same way that little boy learned to play baseball — time and distance. Begin with small steps, such as backing out of the affair, one day at a time. Put some distance between you and the affair partner. Put mental distance as well — when thoughts arise, rather than indulge them, put them off. Say to yourself, I’ll think about her tomorrow. When you smell/see/hear/do something that triggers a memory of her, say “I’ll let that remind me of her tomorrow.” In the same way it took time and intimacy to become emotionally involved, it takes time and distance to become emotionally uninvolved. The same steps that led you to where you are now can be reversed and take you back to neutral.
Until we speak again,
Remember: There’s no such thing as “I can’t” stop loving someone — there’s only “I don’t want to” or “I don’t know how to.”