Relationships can be a source of love and affection and make us feel a sense of belonging in life. However, sometimes our relationships can have the opposite effect. Things might go well in the early days of the relationship, but at some point, things take a turn for the worse, and it just doesn’t serve our best interests anymore.
Perhaps one or both partners can no longer give as much as they used to within the relationship, or one person’s behavior has become toxic and destructive. Whatever the reason, sometimes you find yourself in an unhealthy relationship, and your only option is to create some physical or emotional distance between you and that other person.
If this describes your experience, this article is for you. We’ll explore exactly what you need to know on how to distance yourself from someone and create physical space in a safe and healthy way.
Why is it hard to emotionally detach from someone?
It’s very easy to become emotionally attached to a person with whom we have become close. Life can be lonely and confusing at times, and when we finally find someone with whom to share ourselves, including our vulnerable and intimate sides, we may quickly want that person to be around all the time.
Such is often the case when we meet a new partner and feel overcome with excitement and passion, with love and affection. We see that person and our relationships through rose-tinted glasses. They make us feel good, loved, and cared for.
However, all relationships are subject to the test of time. Eventually, once that rose filter is lifted and you see your partner as just another person, that’s when you need to decide if you want to continue choosing them or if you’d be better off going solo again.
Thinking about this decision can add stress and strain to the relationship. It can make partners pull away from each other. The problem is usually that one person has reached this stage, but the other person isn’t there. The result is that the person who’s still in awe and admiration for their partner and loves how they feel in the relationship (or who gets a lot of ego gratification from the relationship – as is often the case) might feel neglected or abandoned when the other person needs to reassess.
Why is it important to detach emotionally?
Over the course of many relationships, one or both partners forged emotional ties to the other person, so if that person then decides that the relationship is not for them, the first person may be hurt, rejected, and deeply disappointed. Of course, that’s not their partner’s problem. We are all responsible for our emotional well-being and must accept there are consequences to placing it on the choices and actions of others.
Emotional detachment, then, is a preventable measure against losing yourself so much in a relationship that your mental and emotional well-being are in jeopardy if the other person decides to leave. It also helps you make healthy, wise, and mature decisions if it turns out that your once kind and compassionate partner becomes toxic or even abusive.
If you become emotionally attached to such a person, then it’s going to be much harder to leave the relationship, even when you know you should. By detaching, you focus more on your well-being, not on efforts to ‘fix’ the relationship or wondering how things could have been if you or they had done something differently.
Practical Tips: How to distance yourself from someone
1. Figure out why you need distance
Just like kicking a bad habit, doing so blindly without a goal or clear reason reduces your chance of success. If you don’t know why you’re trying to change something, you’ll more than likely end up not changing anything at all.
So, to help you create distance between you and that other person, you need to figure out why you’re doing it and exactly what you hope to achieve. For example, if a partner has become abusive, then clearly, the reason for distance is to protect your physical, mental, and emotional health and not to allow yourself to be treated poorly.
If your partner has become overly needy and clingy, then you might want to create distance because their need for closeness makes you uncomfortable, and you don’t want to resent them. Perhaps you would like to be friends with them, but their attitude towards partnership is too obsessive, so to continue with a relationship would make you hate them.
Sometimes distance is required when we feel taken for granted. In all relationships, time passes, and the spark that was once there fades.
All is not lost when this happens – but it’s a time to refresh your relationship with your partner. It’s time to find once again that which drew you to them in the first place. Not everyone does this, unfortunately. Some of us forget to make a conscious effort to appreciate our partners and end up taking them for granted. It’s only when they leave or when they take some distance from us that we realize how special they are.
2. Have a support system in place
Know that when creating emotional distance from someone who has become toxic to your mental and emotional health and well-being, it’s important to have a strong support system in place. Reach out to trusted friends or family members whom you can rely on for support and encouragement. They may also be able to check in with you regularly and make sure you’re staying responsible and accountable for yourself.
Speak to a therapist
If you don’t feel like you have friends and family members who are available to support you right now, then don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional, such as a therapist or counselor. Qualified mental health professionals can offer you a safe and supportive space to help you explore issues within your relationship and how they may have impacted your well-being and your sense of self-worth.
Suppose the reason you need to create distance is that your partner has become toxic or abusive. In that case, a mental health professional can help you take an honest assessment of your core values and self-beliefs and identify areas of learned belief about yourself that may be unhelpful and which may affect your self-relationship and your relationships with others in the future.
3. Focus your time and energy elsewhere
Focusing your energy and time elsewhere is one of the biggest obstacles people face when they try to distance themselves from someone. Especially in cases where that person is a toxic romantic partner, it can often be similar to addiction. A sense of boredom or loss sets in after the fact, and one feels a deep discomfort within the self. There seems to be a missing piece or an itch that needs to be scratched, and the person figures that it’s better to go back to that old bad habit, in the case of the person, rather than sit with the discomfort.
Feelings of loneliness and loss are the biggest challenges to finally breaking from unhealthy relationship patterns. So, you’ll need to muster up courage and resilience to keep yourself focused on moving forward.
4. Work on yourself
Again, a support system can help you stay away from the person, but it’s also important to spend your time and energy on things that have nothing to do with that person. It could be hanging out with new friends, engaging in a hobby, volunteering, or getting into health and fitness.
The way you choose to spend it is up to you but make sure it’s something that will help you grow. Sometimes we distract ourselves from discomfort, but we do it the wrong way. We turn to alcohol or other substances, we snack on unhealthy foods, or we engage in other unhealthy behaviors.
5. Write a letter to your future self
Take some time to reflect on exactly why you’re trying to create distance and write it down. Try writing a letter to your future self explaining how you feel about that person and why you think distance is essential. Not only will writing a letter to yourself help you clarify your feelings, but it will also help you stay accountable in the near future.
There may be times when you want to change your mind and allow that person back into your life, so anything you can do to keep yourself focused and motivated will help you achieve your goal.
6. Set boundaries around contact
Setting boundaries is essential. If the person from whom you wish to create distance has different ideas and is reluctant to allow you to separate from them, then they might try to maintain contact with you. They might hang around you a lot and randomly appear at your favorite hangout spots, or they might text or call you all the time. There may even be a lot of mutual friends between you guys, making emotionally detaching and achieving physical distance all the more difficult.
We can’t control other people’s behavior, so sometimes creating distance from someone and trying to completely detach immediately becomes a challenge. What we can do, however, is create boundaries in our life. We can let people know what we will and will not tolerate and put in place consequences for not respecting your boundaries.
For example, if you want to create some emotional distance from a partner, you may not want to chat to them right now, but you’re happy to talk again after a few weeks or months, it may turn out that they don’t respect your wishes and keep trying to contact you. Let them know about your boundary.
Let them know if they keep trying to talk or hang out with you despite you telling them what you wanted, inform them that there will be consequences. For example, you could tell them, ‘I’m happy to talk to you when I’m ready, but I’m not ready right now. If you keep pushing things, I’m not going to talk to you at all.’
‘It is necessary, and even vital, to set boundaries around your life and the people you allow in it.-‘ – Mandy Hale
The very fact that you’re reading this article means that you know some physical and emotional distance from a specific person is in your best interest. If anything, we hope that what you’ve taken from reading today is that it is admittedly hard to detach ourselves from people from whom we had formed a close bond, but just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
If you still have strong feelings and are struggling to stay motivated and focused on doing what you know you need to do so that you can emotionally detach, come back to this article and read over the advice again. Time changes feelings, and sometimes we find ourselves regretting or doubting ourselves, but it’s important to keep moving forward when it comes to your mental and emotional health and happiness.
Save this article, or write down your thoughts about it. Keep in contact with those whom you know will offer your support and keep you accountable on your journey.
Remind yourself every day that what you’re doing truly is for the best and that even if that other person ends up feeling rejected or abandoned, that’s their issue to work through and resolve, not yours. Remember that you distanced yourself for a reason and that a healthy relationship is truly worth waiting for.