Four years ago, my best friend had one of the roughest summers of his life. His girlfriend whom he had dated for nearly three years had broken up with him that past April, and his emotional wellbeing seemed to completely collapse over the following months. I was also newly single back then, but from a short-term, less-devastating relationship. While I was alright, understandably losing a three-year long relationship was incredibly painful. He couldn’t shake the break up from his mind. A lot of his daily routine went like this:
· Creeping on her Facebook hoping her status would be about him.
· Staring at his phone hoping she would text him.
· Talking to women that were never “as good” as her.
· Wondering why life had dealt him the hand it had dealt him.
It was a depressing scene to watch, but the real devastation came that August when she had found herself another boyfriend. My best friend was devastated. “How could she do this to me?” he’d say, almost on repeat. “Four years and she replaced me in four months?” Beyond the “Hey, I’m sorry man” and “You’ll find someone else” I really didn’t know what to say. All of my relationships up to that point had at most lasted a year. He had dated her since high school. It was hard to see.
For some of us, breaking up is a lot like having someone scoop a big hunk of your heart out of your chest. When we’re the one getting dumped, it can be unexpected, shocking, painful, and even devastating. We’ll wonder how our now-ex seems so cold and able to move on so easily. I don’t have all the answers when it comes to moving on, but I have a couple of leads – perhaps I can help set us on the right path to moving on.
Their Relationship With You Ended First
I took her out on what seemed like a normal date. Things were going really well. We were just shy of nine months together. We sat down to eat, and the words came right out of her lips: “It’s not working.” Me: “Huh? What?” Her: “I just don’t think we’re right for each other. I’m sorry.” She got up and left. I tried texting. I tried calling. I didn’t even know what I had done. But like a light going out, the relationship was over. In my mind it completely came out of nowhere.
When we really like – or love – somebody, it’s easy to be oblivious to the signs that our object of affection is starting to slip away. There’s a point in time where someone is considering a breakup and eventually concludes that it is going to happen – and from that point on the relationship is dead. They don’t know when they are going to do it, because unless they are completely soulless they still care about the other’s feelings, but they know eventually it is going to happen. In most cases, this stage lasts for a few weeks. For some, it can take months.
In my case, I think that as I look back, the signs were all there the last month. Less physical contact. Less smiles at my lame jokes. Less eye contact. Less communication. I was blissfully unaware of what it all meant until it happened.
This is what I would have told my best friend had our breakups happened in reverse order: The reason your ex was able to move on so much faster from you was because she had, in her mind, broken up with you weeks or maybe even months before. She dealt internally with that pain of loss, but didn’t know how to tell you without hurting you. For me, I find solace in the idea that for the most part, I’m sure it was a painful ordeal for the other party – not because we want them to hurt, but because we know we at least meant something to them.
Time Heals Wounds
I don’t have as conventional-as-usual advice for this one. It hurts. I know. Most of us know. We’ve all had that first real taste of love only for it to be snatched out of our hands. That’s a very common human experience. But the way we deal with that is completely specific to our situation. What I can say is that you need to follow the lead of your ex – if they’ve moved on, you can at least try. Don’t waste your time hoping for a conversation where you both admit you still love each other. Don’t waste your time wondering what could have been. You are here right now. Ultimately, that’s the only absolute you have to deal with.
Honestly, it gets better. That pain of loss eventually vanishes, but you’ll have to slog through some painful memories but if you come to the other side, you’ll be the stronger person. Don’t waste your thoughts on the past. What has happened has happened, and the more you linger in it the less time you have looking forward to the future.
But understand that no matter what you felt for them, that’s perfectly okay. Loving somebody like that is perfectly okay, even if you came up short. Don’t feel mad, be appreciative that you had that relationship. One day, all of that pain and sadness will be a blessing, because your new perspective will have taught you more than you can imagine.