Just the other day a friend reached out seeking guidance on how to move on from an unhealthy relationship. She knew part of my story and wanted to know how I was able to “let go and walk away” from my past relationship. As I was thinking and praying about what helped me and what I could share with her, I thought of how most of us struggle with when and how to let go of people in our lives, specifically during dating.
An unhealthy relationship does not necessarily imply abuse. It can be one where you lose part of yourself, change or minimize your values/faith, become too co-dependent, enable certain behaviors that God would not want you to tolerate, or allow confusion, lack of commitment or anxiety to persist. Relationships take discernment and when we are in a healthy one, we should see and experience the fruits of the Holy Spirit working through it. In my past relationship, I experienced an overwhelming sense of anxiety and insecurity, in large part due to a lack of stability and commitment. When I started to recognize this relationship was not leading me closer to Christ and I experienced more anxiety and confusion than peace, I began wrestling with what I knew I was called to do. I continued wrestling for over a year, placing my hope for happiness in this relationship, grasping for what I wanted, and ultimately refusing to surrender my future and vocation to God and His timing. God was patient with me during this time, but I endured more heartache than necessary before I finally started to cooperate with the grace God was giving me to let go and move on with my life. So, what kept me stuck for so long, even though I knew I was being invited to something healthier? Why do we sometimes refuse to let go, even when we know that is what we need to do? Everyone has a different journey and each relationship is unique, but I wanted to outline a couple of the main underlying factors in my own life.
Fear of loneliness
This was a huge factor for me. If I walked away from my relationship and spent time on my own, would I just constantly feel lonely? Loneliness was always the one emotion that would send me running in desperation. I remember being on a retreat when a priest told me, “It is better to be alone than to be in a relationship you know you shouldn’t be in.” That really hit me and became a turning point for me. For the first time, fearing the thought of settling more than the fear of loneliness, I made a decision during prayer that I would offer my life to Christ and entrust my loneliness to Him before I would ever allow myself to settle again. Sometimes we have to make an intentional decision where we just say, “Enough.” Relationships do not have to be filled with anxiety, uncertainty, lack of commitment, constant questioning, or trying to convince ourselves of things. God wants more for us than we often want for ourselves. When I started to truly believe that God wants peace for me and that I never actually had peace in any of my relationships, that was a game changer. The hope of having a sense of peace in a relationship one day was worth any loneliness I would experience by walking away and being on my own. I also came to understand the difference between being alone and being lonely. I was on my own for three years before I met the man I now get to call my husband, but my life was anything but lonely. I took time to heal, get to know myself again, understand what it meant to find my identity and worth in Christ, build a beautiful community of friends and got involved in things that enriched my life. I had moments of loneliness, of course, but I came to experience true fulfillment during my singlehood. God gave me the grace to face my fear of loneliness head on and make peace with it.
Lack of trust in God and His timing
A couple years into being on my own, I flew to Florida to attend a healing retreat with the JP II Healing Center. During a moment of praise and worship, one of the retreat leaders said, “Expect goodness from God.” In that moment, I started to cry. Those words pierced me and unlocked a lie deep in my heart; the lie that God did not really want happiness for me. I knew in my heart, as soon as I heard those words, I did not fully expect goodness from God. Intellectually I knew God wanted good things for me, that He longed to bless the desires of my heart, but I did not fully believe He would. My past experiences of suffering, heartbreak, and loneliness made it hard to believe this was true. I would see people in healthy, holy relationships and I would long for that, but deep in my heart I carried a lie that God would not bless me with those things. I did not expect goodness from Him. Often times when we are tempted to settle or grasp onto our own plans and desires, it is due to a deeper wound regarding who we believe God is and what we think He wants for us. It reveals a lack of trust in the goodness and faithfulness of God. On that retreat, a priest prayed over me for healing from this lie and allowed me to gain insight into when I first started to doubt God’s goodness and trustworthiness. The freedom I experienced in that moment was amazing.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart.” Proverbs 3:5
If you are struggling with letting go, I would encourage you to ask God to reveal to you the areas of your past that make it difficult for you to trust in His goodness. Continue to ask for healing and hope and greater trust. In order to walk away from anything less than what God wants for you, including an unhealthy relationship, I invite you to beg God for the grace to trust His plan is far better. Ask Him for the courage to open your hands wide and let go so that you can receive the blessings He wants for you. God cannot be out done in generosity.
This is one of my favorite songs that helped me on my journey of letting go.
© 2017 Drewe DeJesus
Photo from Freely Photos, Jeremy Yap https://freelyphotos.com/hands-open-prayer-2/