Is the ‘Let Them’ theory the secret to great relationships?

If any of your relationships are stressing you out, the Let Them theory may help. Here’s how this mindset hack works, and how to put it into practice.

Best-selling author and podcaster Mel Robbins went viral on social media after sharing her “Let Them” theory.

The mindset hack promotes the idea of accepting and letting go of things that are beyond your control in order to find peace and contentment, and better relationships.

So, what is the Let Them theory?

The theory is based on the emotion regulation strategy of acceptance, which has been around for a long time, psychologist Dr Rowan Burckhardt explains.

The Sydney Couples Counselling Centre director says practising acceptance involves not trying to change things we cannot change.

“For example, we cannot change the fact that we are going to grow old, or we cannot change that we are going to experience negative emotions in life,” Dr Burckhardt says.

He says the Let Them theory is the application of this strategy to our relationships with others.

“It promotes accepting other people’s decisions, behaviours, desires and feelings,” Dr Burckhardt says.

Benefits of the Let Them theory

Therapist and Meraki Mental Health Training founder Stella Ladikos says there are benefits to letting go of trying to control other people’s actions, and allowing them to be who they are.

“Some people can spend quite a bit of time and energy or stress anticipating people’s behaviour, or wanting to change others’ behaviour to suit what we want,” Stella says.

“When you let some of that go, the benefit is a redirection of your time and energy, which can also lead to a decrease in stress.”

Dr Burckhardt says another benefit is we can move on to get our needs met through other connections.

“If someone we have romantic feelings for does not have those same feelings towards us, we need to accept that and move on to find someone else who does,” Dr Burckhardt says.

Are there any limitations to the Let Them theory?

Dr Burckhardt warns the shortcoming of the theory is that it doesn’t recognise change.

He says people can, and do, change in response to the way we interact with them.

“If I tell a friend that I found it hurtful that they divulged my secret to others, they may apologise and make a change in their behaviour in the future,” Dr Burckhardt says.

Dr Burckhardt says in a romantic relationship, it’s particularly important to use the strategies of change and acceptance.

He says when we find someone to share our life with, there are aspects to our partner that we need to accept, such as their core character.

“However, we also need to share our feelings about things that are hard for us and use that process of expressing feelings to work through our differences,” he says.

Another limitation is when someone ignores your boundaries, Stella says.

She says it’s not OK if someone is putting you or themselves in danger, if they’re disrespecting you or discriminating against you, or if their behaviour is crossing a personal boundary.

“In those situations, the theory is not as useful, because then we run the risk of getting walked all over,” Stella explains.

“It can negatively affect our mental health if we don’t have those boundaries, if we don’t feel like we’re respected, if we don’t feel like our needs are prioritised.”

How to put the Let Them theory into practice

In romantic relationships

When dating, use the mindset of not trying to make someone interested when they don’t have those feelings, Dr Burckhardt says.

With friends

Accepting friends more as they are can help lead to better friendships, Dr Burckhardt says.

With children

Allowing kids to make their own choices and their own mistakes – unless, of course, those mistakes would cause them harm – is an important part of helping children learn, Dr Burckhardt says.

A final word on the Let Them theory

Dr Burckhardt says it’s important to remember that the Let Them theory needs to be used in conjunction with other strategies.

“Life is complex, and a single strategy will never replace a range that we learn to use effectively in different situations,” Dr Burckhardt says.

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Written by Bianca Carmona.