“People will show you who they are. Believe them the first time.” -Maya Angelou

Letting go is not easy to do. It’s much easier, for some, to see the best in people. To make excuses. To turn a blind eye. Sometimes we see the potential more clearly than we see the person; we know what they could be, and we hold on tight to that.

I see a lot of people doing this, especially in romantic relationships. I’m certainly guilty of it. We want the dream and so we clutch on to the closest thing we have to it. We fill the space with a warm body, even if it’s empty inside. We do our best to make it work. We excuse bad behavior and put on horse-blinds to block out what we don’t want to see. We make decisions and then change our minds. We leave and go back. Our bullshit-measuring bar is set too high; we will stand for far too much. We have not had enough until we’ve had enough.

It’s easy to do this with family, too. I’ve always been told that blood is thicker than water. But you cannot help being born, and you do not choose the people you are related to. Sharing a gene pool doesn’t mean that everyone gets along. Family is a tough one. You all get together for the holidays and you’re obligated to invite them to your wedding. You’re friends on Facebook and you call them on their birthday. Everyone talks about everyone else and you know just who to call for the latest family drama (you just hope it’s not about you.) It’s easy to overlook issues with family members to avoid confrontation, or because you don’t see each other that much, or because they’re older, or because you have a history and you were so close when you were a kid. Whatever the reason, it feels valid. We romanticize these relationships the same way we do with partners, or even friends.

These relationships can be the hardest to let go of. There is so much guilt associated with removing people from your life, and when they’re relatives, it’s that much worse. In my life, I’ve simply had to step back and see the truth. Most of the time, it all boils down to one simple question: is this person enriching my life, or dragging me down?

This question applies to all relationships, and, once answered, you need only to choose how to handle it. If the person in question is constantly taking from you, never giving, you have the freedom to address it in some way. You may need to have a conversation, or take a step back, or remove yourself completely.

I have done all of these things to varying degrees in varying relationships. A few times, I have had to walk away. This is not a decision I have made lightly, and has always been precipitated by some action on the part of the other person. The most obvious example of this can be found in Father Dearest, a poem and set of screenshots exposing the truth about my dad. My father was (is) an alcoholic, just like me, but he never found recovery. He was very abusive in my childhood but I stood by him even as the rest of the family took a step back (for good reason.) One particular night, he got very drunk and began texting me terrible, abusive things about me and my mother. I haven’t spoken to him since. It’s been years.

This is, of course, an extreme example, but the principal is the same. I have tried and tried and at some point, I hit my limit. I’ve had enough.

It’s a heart-breaking place to be. I love my father, and the various other people no longer in my life: friends, family, exes. They were in my life for a reason and now they’re out of it for a reason, but that kind of clinical, reasonable thinking doesn’t typically translate well to emotions, which is why I’ve historically stuck around in bad relationships for far too long. I need one final, horrible push before I let myself move on.

I’m posting this around the holidays for a reason. This time of year is so hard for so many people. Some can’t see their family, some have a ‘chosen family’ they see instead, and for some it brings back some very sad memories.

Whatever you choose, you can only make the best decision for yourself. Try not to beat yourself up for it. You’re doing your best. Letting go is hard to do.