top of page

It's Not The One Thing...It's The Last Thing

My friend Gabby made an extremely wise observation that’s stayed with me (and served me well) ever since she shared it nearly 30 years ago.  Keep in mind, she was about 21 at the time, which made it even more profound given that I had a lot more life experience and could realistically be her mother!


To this day, I can remember what she said as we sat together in my living room after recently extricating herself from an extremely toxic relationship: “I was wondering what the one thing could be that would make someone want to end a long-term relationship, and realized it wasn’t the one thing … it was the last thing.” 

how to exit a relationship

“Hmmm…interesting insight” I recall thinking at the time. It was the way she said it – calm, confident, without malice or righteous indignation -that somehow shifted my own thinking and gave me a new, nonjudgemental lens with which to re-view past relationships gone wrong –personal and professional.   

Different from a “last straw” situation, I realized that Gab’s observation was free of judgement, malice and emotional attachment.

Oxford Languages defines the last straw” as “a further difficulty or annoyance, typically minor in itself but coming on top of a whole series of difficulties, that makes a situation unbearable.” In my experience, Last straw situations are fraught with pent up emotions and end with an exclamation mark, like “this is the last straw you blankety blank!”  Whereas Gab’s last thing scenario is the culmination of a series of realizations and acceptance that a relationship is irreparable. It’s free of emotion, ends with a period and basically says “we’re done here.”  

It wasn’t until I started to unpack the notion of It’s not the one thing, It’s the last thing that I realized that unconditional acceptance was at the core of Gabby’s insight. 

“Acceptance means fully acknowledging the facts of a situation and not fixating on how it shouldn't be that way. This mindset moves us away from often harsh judgement of ourselves and allows us to break away from thoughts of guilt or unfairness,” writes

licensed social worker, Lori Alford.

In her article, The Power of Acceptance, for Sharp Health News Lori shares these four tips on How to practice acceptance:

  1. Pay attention to internal cues. Notice when you focus on how something or someone should or shouldn't be, or on how unfair things are. Notice how that feels emotionally and how it feels physically within your body.

  2. Develop the language of acceptance. Move away from thinking in terms of what others should or shouldn’t be doing or how things should be fair. Have readymade phrases or coping statements to help you disengage from that internal struggle. “Here’s what happened and here’s what I can do or not do.”

  3. Let your body help you by relaxing tense muscles and physically loosening up while you meditate on something you’re having a hard time accepting. Start with small things that don’t upset you too much. Try breathing in acceptance and breathing out resistance.

  4. Repeat these steps if you notice yourself getting overcritical, dissatisfied or judgmental about people, places and situations. Pay attention to your emotional state that goes along with this, perhaps grumpiness, anxiety or deep sadness. Notice, too, where you feel it in your body. Practice breathing and relaxing, and work on adjusting the unhelpful thinking that keeps you stuck.

nancy mendelson

Bonus tip from me, try singing the chorus from The Gambler – out loud or in your head – I find that it often empowers me to walk away “when the dealin’s done!"

You've got to know when to hold 'em

Know when to fold 'em

Know when to walk away

And know when to run

You never count your money

When you're sittin' at the table

There'll be time enough for countin'

When the dealin's done



bottom of page