Detachment in a relationship — or a foreboding sense of departure — is more common than you think. Many couples have faced the tough question of “How to detach from someone?” after failing to rejuvenate their bond. The damaged relationship is not like bad skin or hair that one shampoos for an instant gloss. Sometimes, it just withers away, creating room for this need for detachment.
However, after having spent much time together, it is difficult for two people to just leave everything behind. There is not a single opinion or a vanilla answer to how to detach from someone. The response to this difficult question is laborious. However, we will start looking at our options – I will help you untangle the mystery of how to emotionally detach from someone.
What Causes Emotional Detachment?
But first, what is emotional detachment in relationships? There are several ways to define it and several reasons that it’s needed. It could be the dramatic death of your emotions. Or even lack of affection or intimacy. It could also be having a set of ground rules for yourself to avoid the unwanted brunt of stress, anger, resentment, and disappointment. It could also mean straight-up avoiding your partner – over calls, email, and text – everywhere.
In short, emotional detachment in relationships refers to a state where an individual disconnects themselves emotionally from their partner or loved one. This could be done intentionally, for example, when one must practice detachment in a marriage that’s not working. Or involuntarily, for example, when gradually falling out of love with someone. It creates a psychological distance and reduces the intensity of emotional connections. This is a coping mechanism to protect oneself from pain, disappointment, or a sense of vulnerability.
Emotional detachment is not a lack of sentiments or stonewalling. It does not mean an acute empathy deficiency. It is simply putting yourself before anyone else. Emotional detachment may not always also mean bidding the partner goodbye. It could entail establishing what behavior is comfortable for you in general or simply setting emotional boundaries in the relationship. Some people may find it rude when you voluntarily detach. However, why and how you emotionally detach from someone is going to be solely your decision.
Signs It’s Time to Detach From Someone
Spotting the warning signs that tell you it’s time to emotionally detach from someone can be quite a challenge. But it is an essential step in prioritizing your well-being, guarding your mental health, and keeping yourself safe from a toxic relationship. While each situation is unique, there are many factors that suggest the need to create emotional distance. Knowing about them can empower you to make the necessary changes for your own growth and emotional health.
Here are several signs that indicate it’s time to detach from someone:
- Constant negativity: If the person consistently brings negativity into your life, criticizes or belittles you, and drains your energy without offering support or positivity, the best way out might be to let go while taking care of your own life
- Lack of respect: If the person consistently disrespects your boundaries, values, or emotions, and shows a lack of regard for your well-being, it’s a sign that you have a toxic partner. Detaching from a relationship in this case is the right choice
- One-sided effort: If you find yourself investing more time, energy, and effort into the relationship than the other person, without receiving reciprocal support or effort, it may be a sign of an imbalanced dynamic. There aren’t many things worse than living in an unequal relationship
- Trust issues: If the person repeatedly breaks your trust, lies, or engages in deceitful behavior, it has a huge negative impact on the relationship. It creates a breeding ground for relationship issues, making it challenging to maintain a healthy connection
- Emotional and physical harm: If the relationship causes emotional distress, anxiety, or physical harm all the time, it’s crucial to prioritize your safety and well-being by having clear boundaries related to violence, emotional manipulation, or mental torture. Seek professional help if you are facing mental abuse. Don’t hesitate in consulting physical abuse hotline should you find yourself in harm’s way. Otherwise, this behavior over time can develop into serious mental health conditions in the victim
- Lack of growth: This can also be a reason for detaching from a person. If the relationship hinders your personal growth, limits your potential, or prevents you from pursuing your goals and dreams, it may be time to detach and focus on your own development
- Energy drain: If spending time with them leaves you feeling exhausted, drained, or emotionally depleted, it suggests that the relationship may no longer be serving your best interests. You must ideally have a healthy attachment with your romantic partner instead of living with emotional pain or even boredom in your life forever
- Constantly having conflicts: If conflicts and arguments are the predominant feature of the relationship causing you to consistently feel anxious, and efforts to resolve issues are mostly ineffective or short-lived, detaching may be a difficult task but is necessary
- Loss of identity: If the relationship diminishes your sense of self, individuality, and independence, then recognizing the need to detach, letting go, and reclaiming your own identity may be the best thing. You might struggle to get over your partner since your self-worth might not be in a good state, but you’ll get there slowly
- Gut feeling: If you have a persistent feeling that something is not right in the relationship, trust your instincts! It may be an indicator that you might be emotionally detaching or inching further away from emotional attachment. Different people have different capacities for recognizing the voice from within, and you may have to develop yours and make better decisions for yourself
Related Reading: 6 Steps To Take If You Are Feeling Trapped In A Relationship
How To Detach From Someone You Love Deeply – 10 Ways
It could be said that detaching from someone is done in multiple stages. Firstly, you need to be sure of your decision to withdraw, and then work out a plan to survive. Because it is not going to be easy to suddenly be on your own after having shared crucial space in a relationship. Detaching emotionally or physically is a conscious decision. Thus, do not jump into it. Let us look at a few ways to detach from someone.
1. Ask yourself all the important questions before pulling away from your partner
When figuring out how to disconnect, evaluate your relationship first. Think of all the highs and lows, the happy moments, the passionate ones, and the sad ones that have brought you to the verge of detaching from a relationship. Stand at that cliff and take a good view. Has he checked out emotionally? Or has she stopped being herself around you? If you see a definitive sunset, it means it is time to prioritize yourself so that you can wake up to a better tomorrow.
The questions that you pose yourself will help you in learning how to emotionally detach from a person. You need to understand your position before you start dislodging emotionally from a loved one you have been connected to on many levels. Think of it as an entangled machine that needs to be switched off carefully and not by pulling the plug and risking damage. It is not an easy decision to pause loving a person you have grown habituated to. Once you have gone through all the questions, you are ready to take the first step to detach from someone you love deeply.
2. Make an exit plan
When learning to detach, you need to have an exit plan in place. This is the next step in the guaranteed ways to emotionally detach. Have you figured out how you intend to start moving on or take the break that you have been craving? What are you going to do for support – will you be joining a hobby class, learning a new skill, or seeking support from groups meant for these purposes?
It is essential that you have this part of emotional detachment chalked up. This is a very important step. Venturing out of a relationship without a plan is akin to shoving your hand into a rose bush full of thorns. You will be injured and in agony. This exit plan while detaching from a relationship is essential because it also reflects what your emotional needs are. You need to find a way to quench those since you will not have your partner around. These first two steps will help you detach from someone without them knowing.
Related Reading: How To Leave A Toxic Relationship – Know From The Expert
3. Stay calm when you share this decision with your partner
It is already going to be hard when you decide to detach from your partner. There is a scope for heated conversations to unfold. Your partner may have a plethora of questions – and all of them should be answered. However, keep your guard up while responding to your partner’s queries about your decision to pull away. Practice mindfulness – learn how to react when your spouse says hurtful things. Or it could make the situation murky.
It may take time for you to convey the need for emotional detachment to your partner. When you finally do, they may feel as if they have been unable to fulfill your emotional and physical needs. You need to guide them through your decision, and be ready to accept a negative response from their end. Because it is not up to you to convince them. You should be assured of your decision. It does not require validation.
4. Try to avoid sexual contact
Apart from seeking emotional distance, you may also wonder how to distance yourself from someone sexually in order to completely transition to the next chapter. One should think twice before having sex in this detachment phase. In most cases, it’s recommended that you avoid having sex with them completely as it may complicate your separation. I fully understand that you may face difficulties while figuring out how to detach from someone sexually.
Sex is, after all, a bodily urge. To quench it, increase your exercise activity. Add masturbation to your routine to relieve yourself. It is a basic human instinct and nothing to be ashamed of. And for further help, there are several ways to say no to sex – you could use some!
5. Cut off social media contact for emotional detachment from your partner
Cutting them off on social media is our most urgent tip on how to detach from someone you love. You need to stop stalking them on social media as you do not want their tiniest life updates ruining your day. Sometimes, it can hurt more to see a person moving on and it can hamper your progress of detachment. If you have been feeling the urge to visit their social media accounts, pause. Think of why you started detaching emotionally from the relationship and you will find purpose.
Issa Rae, a middle school teacher, who had decided to take a break from her boyfriend, Shiloh, was bothered in her first few days of detachment. “It had gotten bad for us. We were becoming too dependent on each other for everything. It was not the sense of becoming a unit, but feeding off each other. So we decided to pause and overcome this codependency. It seemed right. However, within a few days, I found myself stalking him on social media,” she said.
She said she would try to trace him, and figure out if he was having a good time during their emotional detachment break. “It was driving me mad. I had to rope in friends to alleviate my concerns. It helped. A full stop on stalking is absolutely essential to figure out where you stand on the emotional plane,” she said.
6. Confide in a loved one
A friend in need is a friend indeed. Sometimes, a person close to you can show you how to detach from someone if you are facing difficulties. A friend can give you a fresh perspective and can remind you of the goal of the whole exercise. It could even subvert the need for detachment. It is important to have a support system during this process. If this doesn’t work with the people in your life because they are close to your ex-partner, contact your old friends, make new friends, or join support groups.
Being on your own while learning how to detach from someone you love is like choosing unnecessary misery. You will lose your sense of being with the sudden detachment. A support system of friends, family members, and professional help can reassure you on your hardest days. And if you still hope to get back with your ex, then there is a slight chance that spending time with friends can improve your relationship.
7. Maintain a journal of your thoughts while detaching from a partner
When looking for guaranteed ways to emotionally detach, journaling is a good daily habit. It helps a person chronicle their thoughts. It can help an individual have a better understanding of their own self. For instance, one can always flip a few pages to see how they have responded to a situation or map the growth of their thoughts – from when they knew it was time to leave the relationship to the current state. Journaling can also help when you are trying to learn how to detach from someone.
It is imperative to map the journey of emotional detachment. Over time, you can clock your progress – check if you are heading in the right direction or how you are faring with that emotional detachment. These thoughts, if they are heading in an undesired direction, can always be worked around.
8. How to emotionally detach from someone you live with? Practice mindfulness
Before we focus on its importance in detaching from someone, let us understand what mindfulness is. It is about being fully present, aware of our actions, and the effort that we put into not getting overwhelmed. Don’t you think this positive expression can help you during this tough transition?
Try to be mindful of everything that you do after you detach emotionally from a person. You need to understand the motive of your actions with the constant realization of your end goals. Mindfulness will not just help you survive your emotional detachment but will also put you into a better position making you resilient to any inner calamities that may occur in the future. To get over someone you see everyday, you do need a fair bit of practice in this aspect. So, one day at a time.
9. Meditate when trying to disconnect
The benefits of meditation are often undermined. Meditation can help in gaining a new perspective on stressful situations, building skills to manage your stress, and increasing self-awareness, according to Mayo Clinic. You may feel stressed while figuring out how to distance yourself from someone. In this turbulent period, meditation could come to your rescue.
Gia, a business analyst, said that she immediately felt better when she squeezed meditation into her schedule. She had taken a break from her partner, Julia. Initially, she had found it difficult to cope with her thoughts. She was recommended by her counselor that she take meditation classes.
“It worked,” she says, “Seeking detachment in relationships was never easy for me. I would constantly worry that Julia was going to sway and I would be left behind. The toxic codependency and many other thoughts encroached on my mind. But two months of regular meditation helped me wade through the maze of my thoughts.”
Related Reading: 9 Ways To Practice Mindfulness In Intimate Relationships
10. A therapist will help you understand how to detach from someone
Despite making a decision to move on from someone, you may find yourself intrinsically connected to them. Detaching may seem more difficult than it had seemed initially. It happens when you share a deep bond with a person. However, help is never too far away if you get overwhelmed.
A licensed therapist will help you learn how to detach from someone. They will guide you step by step into renewing yourself. They will help you make the tough decisions that bring about complete detachment. So, if you feel lost, you can talk to one of the licensed therapists on Bonobology’s panel of experts.
- Emotional detachment is an involuntary or intentional decision to disconnect from your partner
- A poor relationship marked with trust issues, lack of love, disrespect, abuse, etc., may create the need for being emotionally detached
- Being emotionally detached can look like a lack of intimacy, having boundaries, or stopping conversation altogether
- Making an exit plan, avoiding sexual contact, limiting social media use, spending time with loved ones, and practicing self-awareness are some ways to make the process easier
It is apparent that we seek emotional detachment in a relationship when we are troubled. One may even feel the guilt of seeking emotional separation. However, remind yourself why you decided to withdraw in the first place. It will serve as a fresh reminder of why you need to walk away from certain things in your life instead of rotting away in situations you never signed up for.
This article was updated in July 2023.
Be clear with your reasons – Why do you want to detach? What has brought you to this stage? When you have clarity, you make an exit plan to detach from the person you love. It is not always completely necessary to stop loving the person while detaching emotionally. You can set healthy boundaries while you decide on the future course of your relationship.
Limit your communication. If they try to talk to you, answer in monosyllabic answers. Tell your immediate circles that you have limited communication with your partner so that they will be mindful. Cut off from the person on social media. You do not need any reminder of their movements.