Mel Robbins' 'let them' theory is a mindset hack that can free you from paranoia about your relationships

  • Motivational speaker Mel Robbins shared her "let them" theory in spring 2023.

  • Since then, the theory continues to go viral on TikTok and Instagram Reels.

  • The simple advice can help you choose your battles in relationships without being passive.

In May 2023, motivational speaker Mel Robbins shared a simple rule for life she said she'd heard about on Instagram. She called it the "let them" theory.

"If your friends are not inviting you out to brunch this weekend, let them," Robbins said in the video. "If the person that you're really attracted to is not interested in a commitment, let them."

Since then, the video amassed over 33 million views. Robbins posted about it on TikTok in June 2023, and the clip outperformed her other videos at over 17 million views. Moreover, other people's recent TikToks of the "let them" theory keep reaching over 1 million eyeballs, and the concept even has its own hashtag.

Annie Wright, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Berkeley, California, said she concurs with Robbins' advice.

"Instead of over-functioning or attempting to control the behavior of others or the outcome of certain situations, allow them to show you what their choices are, to see the outcomes that their actions create, to learn more about them as a person," Wright told Business Insider.

Wright explained why she felt this tip keeps resonating with audiences — and where to take advice from non-therapists with a grain of salt.

By giving up control, you gain important knowledge

While relationships can feel convoluted and messy sometimes, the "let them" theory can simplify your dynamics. Much like the similarly viral "bird test," it champions calmly observing how someone treats you instead of resorting to people-pleasing.

To use Robbins' brunch example, if you fear being left out by some of your friends, you might instinctively do everything to prevent it, or ruminate over reasons why they wouldn't want to hang out with you.

But if you just let them make plans without trying to influence the outcome, you might realize 1. That they're not leaving you out at all, or 2. That they exclude you and aren't good friends.

"You'll have the information you need in order to reflect on what your boundaries are and what your needs and wants in relationship are," Wright said.

Wright likened the "let them" theory to getting blood work done or checking your bank account — you have clear data that you can make decisions around. "I think that there's a lot of agency in there versus attempting to control a situation that may be uncontrollable," Wright said.

It's the opposite of being passive

This is not the same as having no expectations of people, Wright said.

"I don't necessarily interpret her advice as you either lower your bar and take what you're presented with or you walk away from the relationship," she said. It's more that you step back to gather more intel before coming to a conclusion. You might then set boundaries with a parent, break up with a partner, or fade out a selfish friend.

And while the "let them" theory sounds breezy and detached, it can actually take a lot of courage to go through with. "If we do the MRI, if we check the balance of the student loans we owe, what we do is a little bit of exposure therapy," Wright said. "We confront the thing that maybe feels really hard and scary and we actually face the reality."

The next steps can be more complicated

As with any statement from non-licensed mental health professionals such as Robbins, Wright said it's worth seeking out other resources as well.

"Occasionally these messages can lack a little bit of nuance," Wright said. "If you're very curious about how this might apply to you, take it to your therapist to really see how it might be applicable to you."

For example, you might try this theory and learn some uncomfortable truths: your best friend never initiates contact or your partner is quiet-quitting your relationship. A therapist (or resources such as books by mental health professionals) can guide you on next steps.

If a client presented this theory to her, Wright said she would reframe it as a way to give themselves more choice and agency in their relationships. The goal is for them to be "practicing sound relational skills, negotiating, practicing conflict resolution, and talking about things that don't necessarily feel good to them," she said.

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