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Learning to End Relationships Well

This past month I moved from Houston, Texas to Denver, Colorado. It’s always been a dream of mine to live near the mountains, and at 38 years old, I had to ask myself, ‘What am I waiting for?’

Moving states and a therapy practice was challenging enough logistically, but what I didn’t expect was the experience of having to say goodbye to so many people: 45 clients, 12 co-workers, two nieces, my beloved sister, family, and many wonderful friends.

I became a reluctant expert at ending relationships well.

In Radically Open DBT (RO DBT), our practitioners teach clients to end relationships well. What that means is learning to feel the sadness of the end of a relationship without falling apart. Taking brief moments to connect with one’s feelings when they arise and experience the sensations associated with the grief emotions, rather than ignoring them or pushing them away. Grief work is not wallowing in the emotion, rather it’s touching it and then returning to real life. In real-world terms what that means is: my U-Haul wasn’t going to pack itself.

For example, saying goodbye to one of my RO DBT skills classes was really beautiful and sad. As I thanked them for their dedication to the work of building radical openness skills, I felt joy and sadness at the same time. I love my tribe and yet it was time for me to move and build a new one. I will never forget the experiences I had with that class, but sometimes growth means leaving certain relationships behind to experience and make room for new ones.

That also meant allowing my tribe to express what they needed to as well. Thank yous for ways that I’ve helped them, fears of how their life would change without me in it, and memories of fun times. People expressed support, displeasure, anger and many tears. What I was able to take from this was that my relationship with them, mattered to them. What an incredible gift of truth I received.

There were many times during the process of completing my move that I thought, ‘This is just too hard. I should stay,’ ‘What if I fail in my new practice,’ or worse, ‘What if no one likes me in my new state?’ These are normal fears of big life changes.

If we listen just to the fear, we may never grow.

I think about all the clients who I’ve heard express regret about not taking a chance at something new, staying in an abusive relationship too long, or not dealing with emotions surrounding a loved-one’s death.

Grief doesn’t kill us, but not addressing it can make us sad, lonely, stuck, anxious, and depressed. Plus if we don’t feel it, we can miss out new experiences, dreams, and showing up for the next phase of our lives.

What do you need to feel and face so you can move forward?

Learning to End Relationships Well

Hope Arnold

Hope is a Radically Open DBT Senior Clinician and 1-day trainer for Radically Open LTD organization. As a self identified overcontrolled person, she works to help her clients learn to relax, take themselves less seriously and be the person they want to be. Perfectionism, anxiety, rigidity, detailed focus, risk aversion and loneliness are some of the areas that overcontrolled people struggle to navigate. In her writing Hope uses humor and real life stories to help overcontrolled individuals make the changes that will bring happiness to their lives. Hope is licensed as a LCSW in Colorado, Texas, and Virginia. She has a private practice in Denver, Colorado.

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APA Reference
Arnold, H. (2019). Learning to End Relationships Well. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 3, 2020, from


Last updated: 12 Mar 2019
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