Pausing, identifying your emotions, and considering your partner’s perspective might help you let things go in your relationship. Doing this can strengthen your bond.

In every relationship, there’s a chance your partner will do something you don’t like — and vice versa. Sometimes, to make things work, you may need to let these small things go.

Maybe they keep leaving the toilet seat up. Maybe they forgot your anniversary. Maybe they snapped and said something hurtful to you.

Whether it’s a small irritation or a hurtful action, it may be tough to figure out when — and how — to let things go in a relationship.

You may want to start by being clear, with yourself and your partner, about those things you won’t tolerate. Anything else, if you want to choose love, you may need to move to the “let it go” list.

It’s OK to let things go in a relationship, as long as you’re clear on the things that you won’t tolerate.

You may still find that some things bother you. But, here’s where an active decision takes place – do you want to focus on the things that you don’t like, or do you focus on saving your relationship? Many happy couples make a conscious choice every day.

1. Try to pause and breathe

Any intense emotion can make it difficult to think clearly. When you feel angry, hurt, neglected, or frustrated, it can be tough to figure out how you should react to your partner.

Instead of responding right away, consider taking a moment. You might want to move away from the situation and decompress on your own. This can help you unwind, gain some perspective, and address the situation in a constructive way.

This isn’t to say that you should be giving your partner the silent treatment. Rather try to say something like, “I’m quite upset right now. Please give me a few moments to myself. Let’s talk about this later.”

Try to calm yourself. You might do this by going on a walk or meditating. Research, like this 2018 review, shows that deep breathing can be helpful for reducing stress and anxiety. This may help you handle arguments effectively.

2. Identifying your emotions may help

When you’re overwhelmed, identifying how you feel can be difficult. You might feel a rush of emotions without really understanding any of them.

Try to pause and tune in to how you’re feeling and why. This is part of developing emotional maturity.

For example, you might notice, “I feel annoyed because my partner signed us up to volunteer this weekend without consulting me,” or “I feel angry because my partner spent all night out with his friends without telling me where he was.”

3. Consider where your feelings are coming from

Sometimes, things may bother you because they act as a trigger — they might remind you of upsetting past events.

When you encounter these triggers, you might feel like you’re back in the past. You might get overwhelmed by the feelings you experienced back then, not the current situation.

Perhaps you’re deeply upset by your partner leaving their clothes strewn around the room because it reminds you of how your ex constantly expected you to clean up after them. With your ex, this messiness was a part of a pattern of disrespectful behavior.

Now, messiness feels distressing to you. Even if your partner was simply in a rush and forgot to clean up, you might feel hurt.

Considering where your feelings come from can help you let things go more easily. Try to meet triggers with compassion, but also try to be realistic. Just because there are some similarities to your past experiences doesn’t mean it’s the same situation.

4. Consider your partner’s perspective

Try to understand why your partner acted the way they did. Perhaps they really were being inconsiderate. But perhaps they didn’t realize that they hurt your feelings.

The best way to consider their perspective is to ask for it, of course. You might want to say something like, “I felt really hurt that you made plans on Saturday night because I thought we were spending time together. What happened?”

It might be that your partner genuinely forgot, or that there was a miscommunication, or that they thought you were coming along too.

As another example, you might say, “You were really harsh when we spoke earlier, and it hurt. What’s going on?” Your partner might apologize and explain how they were feeling and why. This may be the moment to use your active listening skills.

The point of this isn’t to make excuses for your partner’s behavior, but to check in with reality and hear them out. You may want to start with “positive intent” or giving them the benefit of the doubt.

5. Try to communicate and set boundaries

Communication is key when it comes to dealing with difficulties in your relationships.

A 2021 study involving 94 married women concluded that communication skills can help reduce marriage burnout.

You may want to explain where your feelings come from. For example, “When you did XYZ, it upset me because it reminded me of my relationship with ABC.”

It might also be a good idea to set boundaries. This can look like saying, “I understand that you’re busy in the morning, but I won’t pick up for you, so please do so yourself,” or, “I understand that you were catching up with your friend, but if you’re going to stay out all night, please let me know so that I don’t worry.”

Although it’s necessary to let some things go, there are some incidents in relationships that should be taken seriously.

Consider not tolerating these:

It may not always be as easy to recognize whether you should let something go or not. If you’re finding it hard to figure it out, try to ask yourself:

  • Did my partner deliberately try to make me feel bad?
  • Is there a pattern of behavior?
  • Are they trying to manipulate me?
  • Have I asked them not to do this before?
  • If my friend’s partner treated them this way, what would I advise them?

Sometimes, you need to let little things go to preserve a relationship. But at other times, you may need to let relationships go to preserve yourself.

It might be time to consider the end of a relationship if:

  • your partner engages in abusive behaviors
  • your partner isn’t apologetic or compassionate when you explain that they hurt you
  • you don’t see change or growth after discussing challenges
  • they say they’re trying to stop engaging in hurtful behavior — and perhaps they are — but they repeat it
  • your mental health has deteriorated since you started the relationship or since those behaviors started
  • you want to let the relationship go

How to let things go in a relationship may start with defining those things you won’t tolerate, and choosing to work the rest out.

In trying to let things go, you may find it helpful to pause, think your feelings through, and consider your partner’s perspective.

In some instances, it might be wise not to let things go. If your partner’s behavior is abusive, cruel, or damaging to your mental health, it might be time to let your relationship go.