Willpower, determination, stick-to-itiveness, resolve, whatever you want to call it – discipline is the difference between success and giving in. For me, discipline is self–accountability. It’s an internal standards meter that propels you forward, when your body, mind, or emotions are all signaling, it’s time to give up.

By far, the question I get asked the most is, ‘How do I let go? How do I walk away? I know this is killing me, but I can’t stop.’ My answer is always the same.

There has to be a breaking point – that point where you say, ‘I deserve more than this.’ It’s a cup of pride and 8 cups of discipline. If you’re not used to delaying immediate gratification then this may be very difficult for you, but it is something you can learn.

We’ve all been in relationships and given in dozens of times – it feels good for a short while, but then it feels much, much worse and then we start thinking about ending it again. Making the final break usually comes once you’ve been on that break-up-give-in cycle a few times. That cycle teaches you that absolutely nothing is going to change, and you’ll continue to sing the same song, and feeling those same feelings, as long as you continue to give in.

You can make yourself nuts if you allow yourself to dwell on what they’re doing, who they’re doing it with and you give into the hurt and you just wallow in your misery.  You can spend all your time pining and waiting for their next contact, that’s certainly your choice. It’s not a healthy choice, but it is your decision and no one is going to stop you. The one thing you have to understand is that no one can, or will, pull you off of this cycle, or dig you out of the misery hole – only you can do that.

The most difficult part about ending an unhealthy relationship isn’t making the decision to end it.  The hard part is sticking to that decision, when everything inside you wants the opposite. I can remember when I would break up with my boomerang narcissist after catching him out with another girl. The pattern was always the same – I’d freak out, tell him off, and I would be determined to end it. It would last for a while, but then days would go by, and I wouldn’t hear from him, then a week, then another week and my resolve would start to crumble. I’d start to think about how much fun he was having with this other girl, that he was sleeping with her, that she was better than me, that he’d moved on so quickly and forgotten all about me, that I meant nothing to him….and on and on it would go until I would finally get that text, “We need to talk.”

Suddenly, I would get so overcome with relief that I didn’t care what he had done, or even why he’d done it. All I cared about was that he was back. The truth is, he was spending all that time away from me – with her and the only reason he was back, was because she figured out his game long before I did, and she kicked him to the curb. I would never admit that to myself though. I would always tell myself that he was really missing me and realized that I was the one he couldn’t live without, only to find out some time later that he was doing the same thing again with the same girl, or a different one.

 Holding Your Resolve

When you decide that you want to stick to your decision and finally put an end to it, there are a few things you can do to enhance your chances for success.

Keep your mind occupied on things you want to focus on: Post break-up is a great time to go out with your friends, stay busy, take a class, start  going to yoga, catch up on your reading. When you notice your mind going somewhere you don’t want it to – stop it immediately before it takes you all the way to misery town. The one thing we can control for sure is our thoughts – so when yours start to go there, rein them in and keep distracting yourself for as long as you need to.   

Identify your triggers: If your eyes start to tear up when that song plays on the radio, you know the one, the one that was playing when he first kissed you, comes on – shut it off. If going to your favourite pub means your thoughts are prone to drift to that time that you two were in the corner over there, and he told you he loved you – then stop going until you’re over it. If walking in the park makes you think of that time he was being so sweet – again, don’t go. Figure out what activities and things try to drag you back there and keep you invested and ditch them at least for a while.

Have a plan ahead of time to deal with weak moments: We are all human and there is going to come a time when we do feel vulnerable. The ups and downs are going to happen, we just have to be prepared. The key is to write down all the possible scenarios and how we would like to react to them.  If John texts me I will _______. If John shows up at my door I will _________. If I start to think about the good times I will ____________.

In 1992 a group of Scottish researchers worked with 5 dozen elderly patients trying to rehab after hip or knee surgery. It was important that these patients start moving immediately after surgery, if they didn’t they ran the risk of forming scar tissue which would greatly decrease the mobility of those joints and there would be a higher risk of blood clots forming, but moving was pure agony.  They were all given pamphlets on rehabbing the injury. One group was given questions like – when the pain becomes intense I will _______and a blank part where they could fill in their responses and the other group was given the pamphlet without any questions. The research showed that those that had planned for their stumbling blocks and had already developed a coping strategy had a complete recovery and had healed 3 times faster than those who didn’t have a plan.

So this tells us, that if we expect to run into problems and we already know how were going to deal with them, then the better our chances of success.

Role Playing: Once we have a plan written out then we should act it out. Pretend that your doorbell has just rung; open the door and pretend he is there, saying, “John I really don’t want to discuss this anymore. There is nothing that you have to say that I want to hear. I’m asking you to respect my wishes and leave me alone. It’s time we both moved on. If you continue to contact me I will get the police involved. Good-bye.” And shut the door. Practice it a few times until you’ve got in down pat. Then do the same thing if he shows up at your place of employment. How would you react? What would you say? The purpose of this exercise is to make your responses automatic, so there’s no second guessing, no hesitation, no fear and no moments of weakness.

Give Yourself a Reward: Once you’ve set your goal of letting go and going no contact, set up a reward system for yourself. After you’ve gone one week of no contact, buy yourself a new pair of shoes, once two weeks have gone by with no contact, treat yourself to an outing with friends at a nice restaurant. After a month of no contact, treat yourself to a day at the spa…. Once you’re completely over it, then plan something bigger, like maybe a vacation. Setting goals and rewarding yourself for achieving them helps to keep you focused on the task and gives you incentive to stay the course.   

The key to walking away from an abusive relationship is exactly the same as ending any other type of addiction. You make the decision to end it and then you follow through with discipline. You can greatly enhance your chances of success by identifying your triggers and creating action plans based on how you plan to react to these triggers when they appear. Developing self-discipline is really like lifting weights, the more you practice it, the stronger your self-discipline muscle gets and that’s not all, according to Charles Duhigg in The Power of Habit, the stronger your self-discipline muscle gets, the more you will use it in all aspects of your life and pretty soon, you will find yourself meeting and exceeding all of the goals you set in life.

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