What Does It Mean, “If You Love Something, Let It Go”?
By: Mason Komay
Updated July 15, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Laura Angers
The last thing you want to hear in a relationship is, "If you love something, let it go." It can feel hurtful and disheartening, especially if you're truly in love with your partner. Maybe you want to stay with this person forever. Unfortunately, things don't always work out this way. Sometimes you really do have to let things go, no matter how painful and heartbreaking it may be.
The idea of letting go of someone you hold so dearly may seem incomprehensible, maybe even impossible, but it beats the alternative of losing that person completely. When facing a breakup, you'll have a choice: do you try to force them to stay in your life when they don't want to? Or do you simply let them go?
Throughout our lives, we encounter new partners. According to a recent study, men will have an average of six relationships in their lifetime, while women will average five. Despite this, your current relationship can sometimes feel like your last. When you let someone go and give them the opportunity to come back or not, it can feel scary. As humans, we seek companionship, love, and security. Letting go of someone you love can make you feel you're losing these things.
Am I Too Clingy?
When we first fall in love, our entire world revolves around our relationship. Once the flames have died down, however, most people return to their primary personal goals-finishing an education, building a career, or perfecting their skills. You may have a codependent relationship if you're unable to find satisfaction in life outside your romance. Even if you're capable of recognizing unhealthy behavior in your partner, you may choose to stay and give them your support at the cost of your own mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing.
While some people thrive on codependent relationships, they're not healthy. Codependent dynamics can stunt personal growth. They can also be a breeding ground for conflict. Codependent people will often try to control the relationship, usually by manifesting anxiety, jealousy, and a tendency to be clingy. If the green-eyed monster has been controlling how you relate to your partner, you may need to step back and give your true love some emotional freedom. Although this may prove to be painful, if you love something, let it go. Romantic relationships are built on equal trust. Trust that if your relationship is meant to be, that person will come back to you. This relies on faith as well as confidence in yourself.
The quality of the love you can give to others is reflective of how much you love yourself. A person who has self-confidence doesn't undermine the confidence of others. A person who takes pride in self, takes pride in others. When you love yourself, you are supportive of your partner, but will not accept self-destructive behaviors. These maladaptive behaviors are an indication that the love you have for each other isn't healthy. If you love something, let it go when destructive behaviors have damaged your mental wellbeing as well as the mental and physical health of your loved one.
Crossroads of Life
It can be extremely difficult letting go of what you love just to see if it comes back to you, but it's a decision you'll be faced with throughout your life. Life is full of loss, and breakups are a part of that. People either stay together or they grow apart. There are also times that a family member makes a decision that will separate them either physically or culturally from the rest of the family. Sometimes we have no choice but to accept these circumstances.
Children will eventually leave home for college, boarding school, or camp, yet we accept them back with open arms. We demonstrate our best love when we do it openly, with respect and support for each other.
Sometimes relationships drift apart simply because we go through changes. These changes can often end up sending us in different directions throughout life. However, although we may go our separate ways, we are often brought back together by outside circumstances. We can't expect ourselves to be at the center of anyone's life but our own, so when we love something, we let it go to see if it really means something special to us. If it comes back to us, it's an essential part of our lives and destined to be so. If it doesn't, it simply means that when you approached your crossroads, you chose one direction, and the person you love chose another.
What Do You Really Want for Them?
You may believe that staying with you is your partner's best path for their happiness and wellbeing. This may or may not be true, but it could also be your inner child who doesn't want to say goodbye. There could be triggers from your past that are making you believe you need to hang on to this relationship, when in reality, it may just be your own inner conflict. In an adult relationship, your top priority should always be what really is best for your partner.
Do you want them to feel independent? Would you rather they stay if it meant they could never reach their full potential? Perhaps you feel that when you let them go, they'll never return. That may or may not be true, but taking the risk could mean that when they do return, they'll appreciate your love even more. When this happens, it's a warm and wonderful feeling. It's worth letting someone go because you'll be rewarded with their gratitude when they do return.
What Do You Want for Yourself?
Examine your motives for wanting them to stay. Are you worried they'll be hurt out there in the larger world without you? People can get hurt whether they're in a relationship or not. You can't protect or shelter them from all harm. Trying to do so can create a situation where they resent you and want nothing more than to get away from you. You don't want to sabotage what might be your only chance at making this relationship work. No matter how much they love you, they may feel compelled to stretch their wings. In the meantime, you may be dealing with anxiety issues. You can discuss these issues with one of BetterHelp's online counselors to help you progress forward and prepare yourself for finding love with someone else.
Maybe you're afraid of being alone. If so, you need to work on your own emotional issues rather than focusing on your relationship with another person. Staying in a relationship because you don't want to be by yourself is unhealthy. It's better to be alone. Also, the dating scene can be pretty intimidating if you've been in a relationship for a long time. It's better for you, in the long run, to further develop your social skills.
If you're a parent with a child leaving home, you've probably spent most of your life taking care of them, worrying about them, and building your life around their needs and desires. Parenthood is a beautiful thing, and it may be hard to let their dependency end. However, as they leave, you have a chance to do the things you never had time to do before. You can spend more time being an adult, free of the responsibilities that come with raising a child.
You may be faced with a situation where your loved one isn't leaving the relationship but wants to go far away for a while to further their education, take care of family, or even pursue greater career opportunities. If you hold them back, they might come to resent you, or even worse, give up on ever living the life they want. If they settle for being with you when their heart wants to follow their dreams, both of you will suffer until they feel they're too old to live up to their potential. If this becomes mentally unbearable, the two of you may fall out of love completely.
Letting Go with Love
If you're angry or resentful toward them for moving on with their life, you might feel the need to lash out at your loved one. You may want to make them feel bad about themselves for putting you in this position. A part of you might even want them to suffer. This seems counterintuitive, but it's a normal human reaction to feeling rejected or abandoned.
Dealing with those feelings is your first priority, not only for their sake but for yours. Talking to a counselor can help you express your feelings without burdening your loved one with emotional outbursts. Certainly, you can tell them how you feel in words, but you need to be careful about displaying intensely negative emotions toward them. When all is said and done, you'll regret having hurt them if you truly do love them.
Instead, think of what you want for them as they move away from you. Do you want them to remember your relationship as a happy time in their life-so much so that they would consider coming back someday? If so, treat them with kindness and respect. Let them know you want the best for them and you're excited to see what wonderful things they can do in their life without you. Though this may sound painful, it will ultimately foster their independence and potentially lead them back to you. Congratulate them on their promotion or getting into the college of their choice. Make the separation process one of love and good wishes so they'll leave with a strong feeling that life is good and is about to get better.
Is It Okay to Stay in Touch?
Whether you maintain contact is up to the two of you. Many people who choose to take some time apart try the "no contact" rule, meaning that you do not reach out to the other person. This gives both people time and space to heal and work on themselves. However, you could have limited contact if this is something you both agree on. If they want to be completely independent and not hear from you at first, the best thing you can do for them is to respect their wishes.
If they don't want visits or phone calls, they may feel okay about receiving a letter or email from you to which they have the option to respond or not.
Don't tell them what the two of you should do. Instead, give them a chance to state their wishes before you make any suggestions. Whatever happens in your relationship, whether you reconnect or not, you should always focus on the overall wellbeing of both you and your partner.
Seeing New People. Though you may not be out looking for love immediately after ending a long-term relationship, going out and seeing new people is a healthy first step to moving on. This gives you the opportunity at a clean slate and can help to take your mind off things. And, who knows? You may even end up finding someone you care about just as much, if not more.
Exercise. After a rough breakup, you may experience depression or a sense of feeling lost. Exercising can help to stimulate your mind and pump you full of endorphins that counteract the sadness. It's also a great way to focus on both your physical and mental health.
Write Your Thoughts. If you overthink in frustration, you may end up acting out or saying things you regret. Try writing down your thoughts and words on a piece of scratch paper. This way, you can still express any anger or sadness without the consequence of harming yourself or others.
BetterHelp Is There For You
A relationship with BetterHelp lasts as long as you wish. That's why we offer private online counseling for those who need support. For more help with letting go of someone you love, contact BetterHelp and get personalized advice on how to better cope with these feelings. An online therapist can help you work through those feelings of wanting to hang on to a partner who might need some space. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from clients experiencing similar issues.
"I could not have had the confidence, groundedness or ability to let go on a weekly basis if it were not for Ann-Marie. She is exceptional at being there to listen and give advice and I am honored to be her patient."
"Sharon Valentino has helped me through so much! Since we started working together, just a few months ago, I already feel like I have more power and control over my life. I have let go of some very painful things, I have moved away from abusive relationships and really gaining skills and tools I need to keep myself safe and happy. She has taught me that I have the power to control my thoughts, my anxiety, and most of all my company. I really like how direct she is, it helps me get grounded and connect to myself. I can't wait to see where I am after working with her a year!!!"
FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions)
Is it true if you love something, let it go?
"If you love something, let it go" is an expression that people use when they're having trouble relinquishing a relationship or control over something. For example, in a relationship, this expression can help people detach after a breakup. When you dump someone or they dump you, it can be hard to move forward. People get attached to their exes even if the relationship was unhealthy. You can't control the future, so if you love a person and still want to be with them, let go of that individual in the situation. If you're meant to be together, you'll come back and find one another. Relinquishing control is very important, but it's not always easy.
Who said, "if you love something, let it go?"
"If you love something, let it go" is attributed to the writer Richard Bach. The initial expression was, "if you love someone, set them free," so that is the true origin of this idiom. If they come back, they're yours. People have been using this sentiment for many years to cope with issues surrounding breakups and
various other things in life that have nothing to do with romantic love. Love isn't owned by any of us. You can't hang onto a person for the rest of your life. Falling in love is a wonderful feeling, but it's not something you can control. Life is full of unexpected consequences, and we can't predict what'll happen. We love love, and when you lose someone you're in a relationship with, it can be painful, so start with accepting the loss. You must take a leap of faith when a relationship ends and understand that you'll get better. Love is kind and forgiving, and it's hard to let go of something when you're attached to it. If you find yourself having difficulty, you can speak to a licensed therapist.
What does it mean to love someone enough to let them go?
Bach had the right idea about loving someone enough to let them go. It sounds counterintuitive, but to love someone enough to let them go means that you respect their autonomy and their decision to walk away from the relationship. Maybe, they're trying to find themselves and can't be in a committed partnership right now. It might not be about you at all. The expression, "if you love someone let it go" sometimes talks about mutual love, and other times, it relates to your feelings about an individual.
It’s also about respect. Mutual love is connected with being with a person that you love, and they also love you. When you search for expressions about love, you may find a category list of quotes online. You can find a mantra that resonates with you if you're trying to move through a breakup. True love is real, and it's present when people are committed to one another and understand each other.
Is it true? Why "if you love something let it go"?
You've probably heard if you love something set it free, but why would that be true? If you love someone, it can be easy to want to hold on too tight. This can lead you to be clingy and controlling in your relationship. It can also cause you to force a relationship to continue even if it might be best for it not to. If you are holding on so tight to a relationship, you may be the only one that's trying. Or, you may be actually pushing the other person away. But when you give them the freedom to choose, it can help you to discover the truth of where they stand. If they come back to you, then you know they are doing it out of their own desire and not because you're forcing it to happen. This will most likely help you to have a healthier relationship.
If you're unsure of how to let a person go or if you're holding on to tight, find a therapist that you can talk to. They may be able to help you see things from a new perspective.
How do you love and let go?
It's challenging to let go of someone that you care about deeply, but you can't have control over the future or someone else's feelings. You can care about them genuinely, but acknowledge that you can't do anything about how they feel. Acknowledge your feelings and give them the space to explore theirs. You can't make someone feel a certain way or make decisions for them.
When you let someone go, do they come back?
There's no way to know for sure if a person will or will not come back to you. Whether or not you're willing to let them go, they do have the autonomy to go, so allow them the space to explore their feelings and let it happen. If they do come back, you'll be surprised possibly, and happy. Not only that, but if you let someone go, this person will know that coming back is their choice, and there won't be old wounds about you trying to pull them in a direction they don't want to go in.
Will the love of your life come back?
Unfortunately, there's no guarantee that if you follow the "if you love something set it free" advice that they will come back to you. However, if they don't, it shows you that they may not have felt exactly the same way about you. This can be difficult to experience but it can also open doors that lead to personal growth. It may help you to see areas in your life that you want to address and change. If you need someone to talk to as you work through this situation, find a therapist that can work with you.
If your relationship was meant to be, and the other person feels the same way, then they will most likely come back.
How do you say good-bye to someone you love forever?
If you find yourself in the place of letting someone go that you love, it's normal to struggle. You may feel a wide range of emotions and experience grief. Following the "love something set it free" advice doesn't always lead to the results that you may hope for.
If you're struggling to find ways to cope through this time, find a therapist that can work with you. This can be a good time to focus on personal growth in your life. Or, it may be helpful to try new hobbies and do things that can shift your mind away from the person that you lost and help you to move forward in a healthy way.
Can true love survive break up?
Before you decide to love something set it free, you may be wondering if there really is a chance that the relationship could continue in the future. It is possible but it's not a guarantee. Some people find that creating space during a breakup can help them to see what they really had in the other person and what things they were taking for granted. It can also help people to see what changes need to happen for the relationship to be healthier.
If your relationship survives through a breakup, it may be helpful to find a therapist to work with for couples counseling. This can help you to restart the relationship on good terms so you don't follow the old negative patterns that may have existed. Breakups can be tests; therapy can help you learn how to pass them in a healthy way.
Can lost feelings come back?
It's no guarantee, but it is possible for lost feelings to return. It can be easy for people to start to take the other person for granted and not focus on the good things they already have in their relationship. When you let them go and don't have them in your life anymore, you may both realize what you've lost. You may rediscover the old feelings that you used to have.
If you're struggling through a break up, you may want to find a therapist that can help you process your feelings in a healthy way.
Can you love someone and let them go?
Yes, you can love someone and let them go. Love isn't always healthy, even when it's genuine, and sometimes, letting go of someone that you love is the best thing to do.
If you know it's best for the relationship to be over but are still struggling, find a therapist that can help you process your feelings and create a plan to move forward.
Why is it so hard to let go of someone you love?
“If you love something, set it free” may sound like great advice and has played a role in some of the popular romantic comedies. However, in real life situations, it's not always easy to do. The feelings that you have for someone when you're in love are generally strong. The person is most likely an important part of your life. Choosing to let them go without a guarantee that they'll come back is risky.
However, there are times when this is the best way to move forward in a healthy way. If they come back to you, then the relationship may be better than ever. And if they don't, it can be a good sign that they weren't the right person for you in the first place.
How do you say goodbye to someone you don't want to leave?
Saying good-bye isn't always easy, especially when you don't want to leave. If you're going to be saying good-bye, it can be helpful to spend time preparing yourself mentally and emotionally for the change that's going to happen. You may benefit to find a therapist to talk to. They can help you learn strategies that you can use to cope throughout the process. The last thing that you want to happen is to begin struggling with a secondary challenge during this time like anxiety, depression, or eating disorders. Getting help with moving forward in a healthy way may be necessary.
Will true love find its way back?
True love will find its way back to you because you care about that person deeply, and they reciprocate. It can be hard to let someone go, but if it is true love, you will find a way to rekindle and reconnect with someone. The most healthy thing that you can do to set that up as a possibility is to let it go unless it comes back naturally. Take that time to discover new things outside of the relationship.
When should you let go of a relationship?
If someone breaks up with you or you break up with them, you should let go. Let time pass and use it to learn more about yourself. If the relationship isn't healthy and it isn't positively adding to your life, it's certainly time to let go.
If you're struggling to let go and move on, find a therapist that can help you learn effective and healthy ways to cope.
How do you know if you're truly in love with someone?
Love is kind and patient, and if you're truly in love with someone, they add value to your life, and you add something to theirs. It's important to know that you can be in love with someone and that loving them doesn't mean the connection is healthy. You need to look at your relationship objectively and ask yourself, "Is this healthy for me?" if not, it's time to move on.
Is true love painful?
True love can be painful if it's not a healthy connection. If you feel like you're in a toxic dynamic, it may be true love, but that doesn't mean you should stay in that dynamic. Be honest with yourself, and let yourself let go of connections that aren't good for you. There is love out there that'll be kind and healthy for you, so it's essential to have that self-awareness and release what's unhealthy so that a better fit can come along in the future.
How do you let her go when you still love her?
You can love someone passionately and still let go of them. She needs to take the time to evaluate her feelings, so as hard as it is to let go, let her explore how she feels. She might come back to you, and you might not. While it may take some time, you can get to a place in life where you know that you're okay with or without her. To let go of someone that you still love, let yourself feel your feelings. Cry if you need to, and don't be afraid to reach out to loved ones or speak with a licensed mental health professional.
Does letting go mean giving up?
Letting go doesn't mean giving up on love itself, on your life, or your happiness. You're giving up on trying to control what you can't, which is a powerful and healthy thing to do.
How do you give it to God and let go?
If you're religious, you can use your faith to help you let go of someone or something. Again, it's not easy to do so, but having a higher power or spirituality can help you lean on something or someone to have the willpower to let go of something you can't change.
How do I stop loving someone?
There's no quick answer to this question. Even if you feel that this is true love, you can still let go of the person. You might love this person for the rest of your life, but you need to understand that just because you love them, it doesn't mean that you need to be with them. You can care deeply about this individual and appreciate their qualities or what they bring to your life, and you don't need to pressure yourself to stop loving them. You can also talk to a therapist about these concerns and work through the feelings you're experiencing.
How do you get over someone you love deeply?
The wounds can be deep, but allow yourself to heal. You might need to stop contact with them, and that's partially what "if you love someone, let them go" means. You may need to take a step back and not speak to the person even if you love them so that you can truly let it go.
Can someone leave you if they love you?
Someone can leave you if they love you. If they don't feel like it's serving them in their life, they don't need to stay, and the same is true for you. It's not necessarily about loving someone, but about if someone is adding happiness and joy to your life experience. Love is complicated, but you need to pick apart if you want to be with them and if it's healthy.
How do you know if someone will come back to you?
Unfortunately, we don't have a crystal ball that can tell us the future. You can use your intuition, which is different from knowing what'll happen in the future. If you intuitively feel that this person will come back in the future, that could be true, but it's essential to trust the universe and know that even though you can't control things, letting go will help you and your mental health. You can't know that they'll come back, but focusing on the moment and doing things in your life that bring you joy will help you through the process. That might mean taking art classes, theater classes, or playing a sport that you're passionate about. Put that energy into something that you can control rather than something that you can't.
How do you get your ex back when he has moved on?
Your ex has to decide if they want to be with you or not. You can be receptive if they're going to talk to you and are willing to have a conversation about reentering each other's lives, but don't try to force them to come back. Breaking up can be frustrating because you want them to be in your life, but trying to "get someone back" can be incredibly destructive. Let them have their own experience, and if you're meant to be together, they'll come back, because true love that is healthy and meant to be will thrive.
Should you fight for the one you love?
If you believe that it is true love, there's nothing inherently wrong about fighting for it, depending on what that means to you. The most important thing to note is that there's only so much you can do. One healthy way of fighting for someone you love is to express your feelings, let it be known that you care for them, and know that what they do with what you're telling them is up to them. You may believe that this is your true love, but there's only one way to know, and that's to let them process how they feel in response to your emotions. If it's true love, you'll both agree that you want to be together. It's unfair to be in a relationship where the other person doesn't reciprocate, so make sure that the kind of relationship you seek out is reciprocal. It's okay to fight for someone, but you have to let them make the decision.
Why let go of someone you love?
Letting someone you love go is crucial sometimes. If they make a conscious decision to come back, you'll know that it is true love. You deserve to be with someone who loves you as much as you love them. It is a powerful move to have the confidence to let go. Know that no matter what the outcome is, you are whole, and you will be okay. You will survive this experience, and if you need to speak to a therapist to guide you through the process, there's nothing wrong with that. The counselors at BetterHelp are here to lean on for support.
What do you do if you love someone?
The best thing you can do when you love someone is to let them know how you feel. It's powerful to express your emotions in a vulnerable way no matter what the response is because that way, everything is out on the table. Whether you're together or not will have to be a mutual decision, but you have ownership over your feelings, and they have ownership over theirs. If you love someone, express it and see what comes next.
Falling in love is an indescribable feeling, which is why it hurts so much when we have to say goodbye. Love is not selfish, jealous, or controlling. Love is kind, tolerant, and accepting. If you truly love someone with all your heart and want to see both of you flourish, the best thing you can do is let them go. When you both have the time and space to grow as individual people, you may find yourself reuniting in healthy ways, or you may re-discover how to love yourself first. Either way, BetterHelp is there for you. Take the first step to more fulfilling relationships today.