Auntie SparkNotes: Lost Love That Lingers
I'll cut right to the chase here and skip all the fluff. This past summer my boyfriend and I broke up. It wasn't anything messy, it just didn't work out.
Well, the fact that I was leaving for college and he was going into the service played into it a lot, too. After we broke up, I never really had any crazy moments where I felt like I needed to break down eating ungodly amounts of chocolate ice cream, burn and/or shred anything that reminded me of him, have some crazy one night stand rebound, etc....you get the picture. We agreed not to talk to each other or contact each other to make it easier to move on before we tried to see if we could just be friends again (we're friends with a lot of the same people and will see each other a lot on breaks).
It seemed like a great breakup and I thought everything was handled really well. But the thing is, I can't stop thinking about him. I'm at school, meeting plenty of great guys, spending time with them, living a totally new and fantastic college life, and yet I catch myself thinking about my ex all the time. It's been FIVE months since we broke up, and I still can't get him out of my head! Is that normal?
Should I have gone through all of the typical break up rituals to make it more official? Does the fact that I still secretly wish he would call me when he's on leave mean anything? I just want to know if it's normal to still feel like this months after a "good" breakup. And if it is, how much longer till I'm totally over him? Is there anything I can do to speed up the process? I just want to enjoy my life at college without HIM running through my mind all the time! I know there are no quick fixes, but do you have any advice for me? I don't want to feel this way anymore.
Oh, sweetheart. I'm sorry. And the unfortunate fact is that even when you do everything right—and man, did you ever do everything right!—breaking up with someone you love will never, ever not suck. Because no matter how maturely you handle it, and no matter how much it's all for the best, you still have a hole in your life where he used to be. There's no way this was ever not going to hurt.
And that goes double when—and if I had to guess, I'd say this is why you're having the hardest of hard times, here—you're still in love with the guy.
Which is, of course, why "for the best" breakups tend to hurt the worst. The relationship ends, but your feelings don't. And you don't get to be righteously angry at having wasted your time, or to be relieved at having the freedom to find a better guy, or even to enjoy the petty satisfaction of calling your ex a douchebag. All you get is the comfort of knowing that you did the mature, logical thing—which, in the short term, is pretty much no comfort at all.
All of which is to say that the breakup didn't change how you feel about him; it just peeled the label off your relationship. And given that, of course you're still thinking about him all the time, wishing he'd call, and generally having a tough time moving on. So please, give yourself a break. What you're feeling is normal, natural, and understandable in the extreme. And when it comes to getting over him, here's what you'll do:
1. Keep on living your life as best you can. Join activities, try new things and meet new people, until you find something—whether it's a new hobby, an untapped skill, a great extracurricular group, or, perhaps, another guy—that, at least for a little while, makes you happy enough to drown out the sound of your broken heart. Distract yourself with exercise, artwork, naps, friends. Make sure you're sleeping enough and eating right. And while at first it'll only work for a few minutes at a time, this is how it happens: in increments. Because eventually the minutes turn to hours, and the hours to days, until you're thinking of him less, and less painfully.
2. Break the silence. As smart as it was to cut off all contact at first, now might be a good time to talk to your ex and learn how to negotiate your lives as just-friends—or at least, put the possibility of talking back on the table. Not just because you can do so in relative safety (with you at college and him in the service, you won't be able to sabotage your own healing process with an ill-judged hookup), but because at this point, it might actually help. Your current no-contact agreement no doubt made the first few weeks of the breakup easier, but now it's outlived its usefulness—and what started out as a for-your-own good radio silence to ease you both into not being together has now become a way for you to fixate that much more on his absence in your life. So for starters, try just giving yourself permission to contact him if you want to. And once you do, you might not want to; sometimes just knowing that you could reach out is enough.
The bad news: at the end of the day, the only sure salve for a broken heart is time. And when it comes to speeding up the process... well, you can't. All you can do is not hinder it, by taking care of yourself in all the important ways. So hang in there, have faith, and look forward to the day when you wake up and realize that yesterday, you didn't think of your ex at all.
Got some words of support for our letter-writer? You know what to do. And to get advice from Auntie, email her at email@example.com.