Letting Go and Moving On: When Relationships Don’t Serve Us

Change can be scary, but it’s essential for unlocking our potential.

Summary (TL;DR)

Change, whether chosen or forced upon us, is a constant part of life. While we might long for things to stay the same, sometimes change is needed for growth or to escape unhealthy patterns. We can’t force change on others – true transformation has to come from within. It’s tough to recognize when someone has genuinely changed, but key signs include accountability, consistent actions, and a willingness to keep learning. Accepting that change is often temporary helps us focus on making our own choices for a better life. Ultimately, the greatest power lies in changing ourselves, not trying to control those around us.

When Change Becomes Necessary

Change is a constant in life. It can be subtle, a gentle evolution of who we are and what we value, or it can hit like a tidal wave, reshaping our world in a matter of moments. Whether initiated by us or thrust upon us, change shakes things up. But within that disruption lies opportunity.

We change because we have to, but also because we want to. Our internal landscape shifts – values realign, goals transform, and suddenly, what once felt right no longer does. Life also has a way of throwing us curveballs: a new job, a blossoming relationship, a major move – these external changes often require internal ones for us to thrive.

Sometimes, change is about breaking free. The feeling of being stuck, whether in a dead-end job or a pattern of self-sabotage, can be suffocating. Change becomes the key to unlocking a life with more possibility. And then there’s the beautiful kind of change, the constant pursuit of growth. We yearn to become the best possible version of ourselves, a journey paved with transformation.

Yet, even when change promises something better, it can be terrifying. The familiar, even if dissatisfying, holds a certain comfort. Change disrupts that comfort, forcing us to confront the unknown. We might fear failure, fear judgment, or even fear the parts of ourselves we’ll discover along the way. This internal resistance can make embracing necessary change an uphill battle, one fought inside our own minds. But recognizing this struggle is often the first step towards choosing a different path.

The Difficulty of Facing Change

Change, even when necessary, can trigger fear and resistance. We might cling to the familiar, even if it’s unhealthy, because the unknown is daunting. Sometimes we know we need to change, but fear and insecurity hold us back. It takes courage to face those fears and embrace the unknown potential that change offers.

My own experience in 2015 illustrates this perfectly. Someone confronted me about my choices, wondering when I would “figure it out?”. I knew he was right, but fear of change – fear of failure and of what I might discover about myself – had kept me paralyzed. What if I was wrong? However, his blunt honesty pierced through that fear. Suddenly, inaction felt even scarier than stepping into the unknown.

This kind of confrontation isn’t always necessary or kind. But, in my case, it forced me to see myself with stark clarity. Recognizing the truth in an outside perspective, even a harshly delivered one, can sometimes be the jolt we need to finally choose change.

Why You Can’t Change Others

It’s a natural human instinct to want the people we care about to change, especially if we feel their choices are causing them (or us) harm. Yet, as well-intentioned as this desire may be, trying to force change on another is a recipe for frustration and resentment. While change is often necessary for growth, it’s easy to forget that not all change is permanent.

Think of someone trying to kick a bad habit. They might start with strong resolve, but then circumstances shift, willpower wanes, and old patterns creep back in. This doesn’t mean they’ve failed, just that change often occurs in fits and starts. When we try to force someone else to change before they’re truly ready, any changes they make are likely to be superficial and short-lived.

Each person has the right to chart their own path. When we attempt to manipulate or coerce someone into changing, we disrespect their fundamental autonomy. True, lasting change comes from within – a deep, intrinsic desire to see and do things differently. The most effective role we can play in the lives of others is to model positive change ourselves, creating a safe space for their own transformation if and when they choose it.

Accepting When Relationships End

One of the hardest lessons around change is when it signals the end of a relationship. Whether it’s a friendship, a romantic partnership, or a work dynamic, sometimes growth takes us in vastly different directions. Values might shift, priorities clash, and the mutual support that once existed begins to erode.

If a connection repeatedly proves to be a source of pain rather than encouragement, change might mean creating distance. This is especially true in relationships with harmful or abusive patterns. Letting go is never easy, but it can be one of the most courageous and empowering forms of change we make. We deserve relationships that nurture our growth, not stifle it.

Navigating the end of a relationship takes time and, often, involves practical shifts. Setting healthy boundaries, seeking support from loved ones, and finding joy in the activities and people that truly uplift us are essential steps toward healing.

5 Signs Someone Has Genuinely Changed

While we can’t force change, it’s sometimes hard to discern if someone has truly transformed. Remember, genuine change rarely happens overnight. Since so many attempts at change are temporary, it’s natural to be cautious. Here are a few indicators to look for:

Quality Description
Accountability They sincerely own up to past mistakes and harmful behaviors.
Consistent Actions Their words stop being empty promises and are now backed by tangible actions and new choices.
New Insights There’s a deeper level of understanding of themselves and others, less defensiveness, more openness.
Improved Communication They express themselves more honestly and clearly, and listen with genuine attention.
Humility and Openness They know growth is a journey, not a destination. Setbacks are seen as learning experiences, not proof of failure.

How Long Does Lasting Change Take?

Unfortunately, there’s no magic number. The time it takes for a change to become truly permanent varies depending on the person, the type of change, and their support system. Some changes might solidify within months, while others can take years of sustained effort. The key is to look for a consistent trajectory of growth, even if there are occasional missteps along the way.

The Path Forward

Change is life’s one true constant. It can be scary, exhilarating, heartbreaking, and beautiful all at once. The greatest power we have is in focusing on our own journey, letting go of what no longer serves us, and trusting that change can lead us toward a life better aligned with whom we truly are.

Is there a change you’ve been contemplating, big or small? Give yourself permission to explore what that might look like on your own terms.


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