One of the most important skills I’ve learned as a therapist is how to give up. I know, that sounds discouraging, but stick with me here. It turns out giving up successfully can be an incredibly freeing process that helps you take the next step and move forward. It can help you move from a stuck place to one of action and acceptance. So let’s talk about how to give up with grace.

Giving Up In Marriage

8 years of marriage means that I’ve had to give up some things along the way.  While I used to fight this process more strongly, as time goes on, I have gotten better at giving up.  For instance, recently my husband and I have been in an arduous search for a new home.  One of the reasons it has been so incredibly difficult is that we have different beliefs about how we should be going about this process. Unsurprisingly, this has led to misunderstandings, arguments, and hurt feelings. Looking back over the last 8 (!) months, I realize that I would have been better served by accepting earlier on that my husband just was not going to feel the same way about this process as me.  Instead, I expended a great deal of energy trying to get him to view the issue in the same way that I did.  This, of course, did not work.  What has worked much better is accepting that he is not going to have the same viewpoint as me.  Instead of trying to win him over to my side, I accept that he won’t be wooed, and we’re going to have to meet in the murky middle.

Giving Up In Mental Health

Maybe this is a bit radical for a therapist to say, but I don’t believe that all problems can be solved, or fixed, or are worth the effort that it would take to correct them.  For much of my life, I have struggled with an anxiety disorder.  After years of trying to find the right combination of therapy and medicine, I have been able to get to a place where my anxiety is fully managed and does not impede my efforts to live a happy, full life.  That said, there are traces of my anxiety that remain, worrisome thoughts that come in from time to time.  I have decided that it’s not worth the energy it would take to fully relinquish these thoughts. For myself, I acknowledge that I am not willing to do the work necessary take to remove them (if they even could be removed), and that’s okay.  I don’t have to have a shiny perfect bill of health.  I have to be healthy enough to thoroughly enjoy my relationships and work and interests.  I have that, and that’s enough.  Sometimes, we have to recognize when are efforts are good enough, and that perfection is either unattainable or not worth the work required.

Giving Up In Parenting

As I discussed in a recent post, one of the most empowering moments in therapy can be when parents accept their responsibility for what they can do for their kids, and focus less on the outcome. Instead of concentrating on making your kids engage in certain behaviors, focus on setting the context so that they are primed to make good choices.

Further, sometimes you have a great kid whose respectful and gets decent grades and overall does what’s asked of her, but can’t seem to keep her room clean.  Sure, in family therapy we would talk about strategies for discipline and encouragement, and how she can demonstrate respect for you by keeping things tidy, but it’s worth asking yourself how much of your time and energy you want to exert in getting your kid to do this one thing. If you feel that overall your child behaves appropriately and you’re proud of their character, perhaps it’s not worth going to the mattresses over dirty laundry on their bedroom floor.


Give up, may not be the sexiest mantra, and it’s not going to headline anyone’s parade.  But when done properly, it can free you from unnecessary or impossible expectations, and allow you to move on.