Love Them Enough To Leave Them Alone

relationship little CTA

Around this time last year, I was dating A Very Nice Guy Who Just Wasn’t Right For Me.
I did all those things you do once you discover that someone’s not your person.
I made it painfully clear to him that I wanted to ‘take things slow’.
I only saw him once a week.
I instituted a ‘no sleepovers’ rule.
But, eventually, I realized that it wasn’t particularly kind to string along a sweet guy who wanted to be my boyfriend when I was more interested in Dollywood and moonshine than my relationship status. I spent a month crying in restaurants to my girlfriends, practicing break up speeches, and googling things like “how to let someone down gently.”Also: eating carbs and cheese in various combinations.I finally worked up the nerve to end things and closed the conversation with ye olde “but I’d like to be friends.”

And then, dear readers, to the horror of us both, I actually tried to do that.
After what I thought was a suitable amount of time, I sent him an email.  When I saw his hometown in the news, I texted him. I asked him out for breakfast.Was I interested in getting him back? Not at all! Did I miss my friend? Yes. Was there a hip-hop-show-companion shaped hole in my social life? Yes. Did I worry that he hated me? Yes.

Now, if you’re keeping track, exactly none of those concerns had anything to do with Very Nice Guy I Dumped. They had everything to do with me, my needs, and my ego.When we end things with someone – a romantic partner, a friend, even someone we’ve employed – we become a source of discomfort. As much as we’d like to stay in touch, stay friends, stay in the loop, we need to put the ball in their court.  When you’ve ended something, you no longer have a say in how that person spends their time or directs their feelings.

So what does this look like in real life?If you know he’s having a hard time getting over your breakup, don’t text him those inside jokes you used to share.If you know she’s still hanging on, despite the divorce papers, don’t tell her that she looks great and you like that haircut.If you know he’s still holding out hope that you’re ready for a serious relationship, stop it with the late night booty calls.

If you don’t want the best friendship that she does, stop inviting her out for one-on-one drinks while you unload all your problems on her.

Sometimes love comes in the shape of space.
A tough but clean break.

Mentally wishing someone the best and then letting them go after it – without you.How do you deal with exes?  Do you give them space?  Do you wish they’d would let you be so you could get on with your life?

P.S. You also have the right to be left alone.  If someone hurts you or ends things and then wants to be part of your life, you can tell them that you’d prefer not to be friends. You get to choose who’s in your life!
Before You Commit CTAphoto by sara

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Love this. And may I say it's so nice to see a blog post that is not bussiness-related (no offense, it's just that I don't have a career in that area so I apreciate more the personal development posts or the plain funny ones) 🙂

Lynsey @ Eternally Wanderlyn

You make some excellent points in this post. Sometimes I think we focus too much on trying to keep them in our lives that we completely miss that fact that it's hurting them. Sometimes they just need to move on without us.


My mom always told me to take at least half the length of the relationship to get over the relationship. It doesn't work so exactly… ever… but I like the sentiment.

My one ex that is still a really good friend– we dated for 22 months, didn't speak at all for almost the same time, and then we did reconnect we were both beyond it and could talk about the things we have in common again without the pain.


Very well-said. I had it in my mind for most of my twenties that remaining friends with exes was a sign of being a healthy person who can get beyond the past. Personally though, I couldn't really gain perspective on why exactly the relationship failed when I was trying to be friendly with the person – I needed the distance and ultimately, with sufficient distance I could safely realize that I didn't really have any desire to keep that person around at all. It just didn't need to be. I've realized that my drive to be friends has been more about needing to believe that there was something redeeming/good about the person, otherwise why would I have been with them?! By staying friends, I was forceably proving to myself that I wasn't utterly terrible at selecting intimate partners and that I hadn't wasted years of my life on lost causes. So it was TOTALLY about my own ego! Ugh. Once I was able to let go of that insistence, I was much more able to move on (and honestly I think most people breathe a sigh of relief when they know there aren't any exes lingering around).


wise words.
i struggle with "letting my ex go".
we broke up 5 years ago – but have communicated, fallen back into old patterns, etc over the last 5 years.
we stopped talking again about a month ago – we just become so toxic for each other.
my heart still hurts.
i still miss him.
i liked feeling DESIRABLE….especially from him.
break ups can be so easy for some, but others…sometimes you connect your heart with a person too deeply and when it ends, it just…resonates pain.


My relationship of seven years just ended 3 days before Christmas. I was deeply attached to him. We both had issues to resolve independently and as a couple. I shared the realization with him that we didn’t seem to be moving forward… Apparently he had been thinking the same thing, because he abruptly left me and relocated to another state. It is all much more complicated than this, but ultimately I feel lost that he couldn’t forge ahead with me and put concerted combined effort into rehabilitating our many destructive behaviors. We had so many wonderful and inspiring things in common. I’d never felt closer to anyone. Then boom. Over. The hard part is kindness mixed with blatant cryptic disregard was displayed (by both of us) in the days before he left. Was it me just trying to figure him out? I think so. I think maybe I was ready to let him go because he had become a stranger who I couldn’t make happy no matter how much I tried. This, after being the center of each other’s codependent, addiction ridden worlds. Anyway. I am doing my best to respect the distance he has put between us. My heart breaks to know he believed we could not be together, and that the best thing to do was take the things he’d given me and leave. I know that all this was meant to express his anger, disappointment and dissatisfaction with me, but crap, I wish I would have been given the chance to work on it. That’s what hurts. I had not given up. He had. That spells THE END. He had mental health issues and I started to mirror him…I can’t believe love was not enough, because I think we tried very hard in different ways and different times to honor each other. I just want to blot out all the memories if I’ll never get another chance to “make it right”, or get healthy mentality, physically and spiritually and meet him again with health on both our sides, like we had the first time he came back from rehab… Only time and God knows, and probably Tod knows too, as the secret to why he left went out the door with him.


I've always wondered if this was a cultural thing. I grew up on the east coast and remained friends with none of my exs and don't know anyone who has. However now that I live on the west coast I find that it is a common practice. There is only one instance where I saw someone who couldn't make a friendship out of a past relationship and it was because she was hurt by the guy way too much and he didn't give her any space to heal from their relationship to be friends.


As someone who has received 14 texts from her exboyfriend today, mostly along the lines of "call me, it's urgent" (Because he knows I block his number and he can't really call me without my phone hanging up in his face.) I would like to give you a hearty, "hear hear!" It is extremely painful for me that is still so selfish, after a month of being broken up, to the point where he does not give a damn that I want space. It's absolutely unfair. And then I feel guilty since I was the one who broke up with him, and I know he's hurt, so in my guilt I'm like "ugh, maybe I should call him…" but that always turns out to be a terrible, terrible idea…. it's the worst.


oh my goodness! I have been in a similar situation. #1 – DO NOT FEEL GUILTY! It is not selfish to tell someone you're not into them. You're actually doing yourself AND the guy a FAVOR by being honest!

#2 – DO NOT CALL HIM! He is still hung up on you and it is DISRESPECTFUL OF HIM to continue contacting you in the way he is (its borderline harrassment). The only way he will get over you is if you guys just do not make contact. AT ALL. For a long time. Do not give in! DO NOT GIVE IN! Respect his feelings, his pain and realize what the solution is — and its not a pity-call-to-maybe-make-him-feel-better-and-increase-his-false-hope-of-getting-back-with-you …

Maybe after 3 months. Maybe 6. Maybe even a whole year should go by. And you'll know its okay when the conversation does not "end terribly" and BOTH OF YOU can be totally honest!

Ok I'm done.

I just know exactly what you're going through and I hate seeing actually feel bad because someone else is having trouble maturing a little bit.


I usually remain friends with my exes. I never break it off with "but we can still be friends". I just break it off. There is no "gentle" way to do it. It hurts and we're big boys and girls. We get over it. I don't say "lets stay friends" because it's their decision if they like me deeply enough to stay in touch or not. And we usually do, anyway. If someone is ACTUALLY YOUR FRIEND, you don't have to let them know that you still are friends. It will happen naturally, IMO.


I went through a pretty tough best friend "break up" and this was something I really struggled with. Though he was the one who broke my heart, I was the one who screwed it up. Trying to give him space and let him go was the hardest thing – I never quite mastered it as I never gave up trying to get him back and, eventually, I did.

Domestic Kate

Excellent post. When my ex and I divorced, I briefly considered whether we would remain friends, but I ultimately, I realized that if we could be friends, we wouldn't be getting divorced. If we enjoyed each other's company, respected each other, shared similar interests/perspectives, and cared for one another–like friends do–we wouldn't have split up. I frankly don't know anybody who is truly friends with an ex who doesn't harbor uncomfortable thoughts about that.


I totally agree with all of this. I would actually go a step farther: it's not just about leaving the ball in their court. Most of the time when I've broken up with someone, I actively wish to not have them in my life anymore in any capacity. It's still painful, but if I was initially attracted to him as a boyfriend, that's very different than a friend. If the boyfriend thing doesn't work, I can't just move them over to a different type of relationship and see if that works any better. I've already got enough friends! Maybe that sounds callous, but it has worked really well for me.


Damn you're good. And the timing of this article is absolutely the strength and reinforcement I need right now. I am just about to head out to diner tonight to dump a super great, amazing guy. But I need to tell him this Oscar Wilde quote "Never love anyone who treats you like you're ordinary."

Also – FYI Sarah – You are never ordinary!


This is so great, and I'm kind of mind-blown at your realization that the wanting-to-stay-friends bit is mostly about ourselves, not about the ex-partners.

I had a boyfriend who claimed he didn't understand why people couldn't remain friends, and he ALWAYS stayed friends with his exes ("just because you're not sleeping together, why should anything change?"). I eventually figured out that this was because none of these past relationships had actually been serious; he hadn't had the kind of emotional commitment that causes the agonizing break-ups that aren't friend-able. Needless to say, when we ended things after 2.5 years, we did not remain friends… (hah).

On the other hand, though the love of my life and I couldn't speak for 2 years after we broke up, we now are friends and I value him as one of the people in my life who knows me best. Not to say it's not a TAD weird, but it's worth it.

Stephanie B

It's very true. My ex and I don't live in the same city anymore so I don't run across him or anything, which is a good thing I guess. We are in good terms, and I'm glad for that. I really value the relationship we had, and I'm glad we are not one of those people always throwing venom at their exes. I do think this came with the boundaries we have, we have let the other person free to be.


I just recently (circa 1 hour ago) ended up on the other side of this scenario. He broke up with me, wanted to remain friends, I said sure but left for a different bar to get some beer and space simultaneously, and magically he showed up there demanding closure and friendship. I had to put my foot down and say no. I needed the space very definitely.
So basically, I told him the title of this post and left, because it's hella true.

Amber Love

Totally agree with this! My ex broke up with me and was at first good enough to give me space but then he was texting and calling me and if I didn't reply he'd be all antsy! In the end he wanted to get back together but I didn't want that, I do want to be friends though. But for him to get over it like I did I'm giving him the space he needs 🙂 xx


Giving someone space is definitely important, but I do want to say it's not impossible nor is it always a selfish thing to stay friends with your exes. I've tended to do that at different times of my life and to varying degrees. There's definitely a right and a wrong way to go about it, and like Sarah says, it's really about the person who's been broken up with (the dumped) and how they feel. Most of the relationships I've been in spawned from friendships- whether or not this is the "right" way this is how it's been for me.

Most recently, I was the "dumped" but in a weird little twist, I had to give him space. So we didn't talk, for about 6 months, and I felt like my heart got ripped out. He was going through some heavy stuff and was in an "or flight" kind of place with everyone who loved him, and it was painful. Eventually he got back in touch with me, and at that point I wasn't sure I was ready to have any kind of relationship with him, but he was also cautious and gave me space.

The weird and happy ending to this is that we are back together, the relationship is stronger than it ever was before, and we are both incredibly happy. We learned to talk more openly and be more respectful of each other, and we learned that we didn't really want to be apart, ever. But NONE of that would have happened if we didn't respect each other's need for space and understand where we'd both hurt one another, so I think you're dead on about that.

When someone gets hurt, no matter how pure your intentions were in the first place, you need to let them have time to let the wound heal. Then you need to see where it takes you. Sometimes, you may still have that buddy to get a beer with now and again. Sometimes, you'll part ways and memories will be all you have. And at least in one case, sometimes it'll work out in weird ways you can't understand and you'll feel really lucky.

Just thought I'd share.


Can I just ask what happened once you tried to be friends? Did it work for awhile? Was it then 10,000x worse when you did have to stop talking? Just curious, in that just-curious-cuz-that's-what-happened-to-me kinda way. 🙂


Hi Sarah,

Thank you for this post. I think it has given me a little insight into what my recent ex-boyfriend has been going through. He dumped me without fully telling me why, and the closest thing he gave to an explanation was that he "wasn't 100% there for me". He also said that he wasn't sure what he wanted, but based on his actions, it is clear that it isn't me that he wants, not romantically at least and expressed that he didn't want to lose touch with me but it's tricky because of residual feelings. So far, we have not been in contact and I'm giving him as much space as he needs to figure out what it is that's going on. He said that he isn't sure what happened, whether that is true or not, I don't know – it could be that he's decided to put me down gently without telling me the real reason to avoid hurting my feelings. (That he was never in love with me, etc.) Basically, he's not opened up to me. I am hoping that he will somewhere down the line. I have a few questions for you, though, if you don't mind.

How long were you dating this guy before you realised he wasn't the right one for you? What made you realise he wasn't the one for you and what did you say to him to let him go?

Hope this doesn't revive any touchy memories.



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This post is exactly what I’m currently going through. I was dating a great guy for about 6/7 months and realized into a few months into the relationship that maybe we weren’t quite right for eachother. We started off as friends so I still really enjoyed spending time with him and talking to him, but I just couldn’t see us working as a couple. The thought of breaking things off with him made me almost nauseous at the thought of hurting him like that. But in the back of my mind I knew it was the right thing to do and in the long run would benefit us both. I finally ended it about a month ago and he hasn’t spoken to me since. The worst part was that I still saw him around school and we had mutual friends in our classes. It was painful having to see him everyday and having him ignore me. Since it is the holiday season I thought about sending him an email to wish him well and a happy holidays but I think you’re absolutely right. Me reaching out to him is more about me than it is about him. I just have to accept that he needs space and no matter how much it sucks to lose him, maybe that is what is for the best for us. Thanks for helping me feel less alone<3


Hi Susan. Wanted to find out if you ever did get back in touch with your ex. My reason for asking is I was at the receiving end and after over a week of constantly questioning what went wrong (breakup was executed calmly but brutal) and I’m almost hoping she will contact me to explain although I did tell her never to contact me again.


first of all let me start by saying that i can not still believe my eyes that my ex that left me for another lady is back to my arms this was made possible through the help of this great man called prophetkalito and am here letting the whole world know what this great man is capable of doing because he suprized me with his powers if you are out there having problems getting your ex back or you are a cancer patient or having any other problem or you have been childless you can contact this great man through his email

William lee gilliam

William 1966 I’m still in love with my ex wife I don’t know if I’ll ever be the same She dose terrible things text mean things has other Poeple trxt mean things e-mails. But I still love her like none other. I married her 3 times I’m stupid just in love with a person Love will


My only addendum is… if you bump into each other on the street don’t be an asshat and ignore them. Being rejected and parting ways is bad enough but making rude and making the person feel like a leper is just mean.

Say hi. Keep it short. And then back to giving each other space.

Diana Alexandru Valeria

My name are Diana Alexandru Valeria,my life became devastated when my husband sent me packing, after 8 years that we have been together. I was lost and helpless after trying so many ways to make my husband take me back. One day at work, i was absent minded not knowing that my boss was calling me, so he sat and asked me what its was all about i told him and he smiled and said that it was not a problem. I never understand what he meant by it wasn’t a problem getting my husband back, he said he used a spell to get his wife back when she left him for another man and now they are together till date and at first i was shocked hearing such thing from my boss. He gave me an email address of the great spell caster who helped him get his wife back, i never believed this would work but i had no choice that to get in contact with the spell caster which i did, and he requested for my information and that of my husband to enable him cast the spell and i sent him the details, but after two days, my mom called me that my husband came pleading that he wants me back, i never believed it because it was just like a dream and i had to rush down to my mothers place and to my greatest surprise, my husband was kneeling before me pleading for forgiveness that he wants me and the kid back home, then i gave Happy a call regarding sudden change of my husband and he made it clear to me that my husband will love me till the end of the world, that he will never leave my sight. Now me and my husband is back together again and has started doing pleasant things he hasn’t done before, he makes me happy and do what he is suppose to do as a man without nagging. Please if you need help of any kind, kindly contact dr osasuyi for help and you can reach him via email:


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