[guy filter] How can I stop loving her? How do I get over this? You're advice is greatly appreciated, guys.
September 19, 2009 6:52 PM   Subscribe

[Guy filter] How can I stop loving her? How do I get over this? You're advice is greatly appreciated, guys.

First, thanks to everyone who takes the time to read this, and to those who leave me your advice. I'm asking the guys of Metafilter, because as we all have come to know, the filter is amazing - and I wanted to get a strictly male perspective on things (to be fair, I'm also posting this in an exclusive gal-filter).

I've recently experienced a breakup with a girl I've spent the last year of my life with. She's amazing, wonderful, and I venture to say, we were perfect for each other. I'm a fairly recent grad, and I had to move a few hours away for the career, and it turns out the distance was too much (for her).

I've been in many relationships, ranging from casual to significantly serious. This was probably the most serious I've ever been in - I'd catch myself trying to picture what our children would look like, I put her on my life insurance policy (and I still can't bring myself to take her off - I want her taken care of, you know?), and I even began making long term plans around her. Usually when a relationship falls apart, I'd have the normal guy's night out, have a few brews and talk about how woman are plight on all mankind etc etc, and a few days later be on my merry way. I don't know why this one is different.

I can only phrase it as "heart-sick." Mind you, I'm no wuss. I'm a resilient guy; I've had the fortune of having a tumultuous life, and I've learned the lesson of rolling with the punches, picking myself off the mat and barreling through the next wall. I'm rarely phased by things, I guess I'm trying to say.

I wake up, and my first thought is off her. I catch myself staring at my phone, hoping that it lights up with a message from her. I've tried my damnedest to pull away, move on, stop loving her. I can't, or haven't figured out how for this gal, and its killing me. It seems one popular way of getting over a past love is to start dating someone new; I myself have experience with that one - this time, I can't help but feel like I'm betraying our (former, I know) love, and doing a disservice to the other girl I'd be starting a new relationship with.

I hope this makes sense. I don't blame you if you can't make heads or tails of it; Most days I don't even know what I'm doing anymore. I'm a young man, and I'd appreciate anyone's advice. And believe me, all my other guy friends are giving me the "screw her" / "just move on" / "stop being such a bleeding heart" speech, and although I do appreciate the thought behind it, its not quite as insightful as I seem to need. That said, advice anyone?

Great thanks, and my best to you all.
posted by platosadvocate to Human Relations (50 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
Response by poster: Also, I wasn't aware that we are allowed one question per week, so they girl's-perspective companion question to this will have to wait. Best laid plans as they say, right?
posted by platosadvocate at 6:54 PM on September 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Tell her this.
If she doesn't respond, move on.
posted by k8t at 7:03 PM on September 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


[oops-i'm-a-girl-filter] Sorry to stray, but how were you going to phrase this any different for us ladyfolk?
posted by june made him a gemini at 7:04 PM on September 19, 2009 [9 favorites]


Best answer: Oh man, that's a tough one. Good thing ruined by something that wasn't part of the relationship. You are going to continue to feel the pain as long as you think of her.

Try to set your mind on other things. Work, hobby, whatever. I used to live in the gym after I broke up with the perfect girl, also due to long distance. It only helped a little - twenty years later, I still think about her, but at least the pain isn't there. I got into real good shape, and met the woman who would become my wife!

It's really important to focus on your inner monologue - self-talk. Think about what you are are thinking about, and try to stop any negative thoughts. Not that your ex is a negative, but apply the same vigilance. Force yourself to think positive things - make it a habit. That should help.

Also, try and date again. Nothing like the hair of the dog that bit you. Seriously, a new relationship - short or otherwise - will help a LOT. Just don't talk much about the ex with the new friend. The pain will come to the surface, and you won't be helping yourself.

Just my two cents :)
posted by Xoebe at 7:06 PM on September 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Response by poster: @june made him a gemini

Almost entirely word-for-word - I was ready to copy and paste that whole post - except I planned on adding an apology/no-offense to the "women are the plight of mankind" line though. People make extreme statements when they're in pain (or they're close friends are).
posted by platosadvocate at 7:10 PM on September 19, 2009


"women are the plight of mankind"

that would be blight.
posted by violetk at 7:20 PM on September 19, 2009


Response by poster: You're right! Sorry about the lacking writing of the post (grammar / spelling errors) - I, as you likely know, have more serious things on my mind.

That's what I meant though - thanks!
posted by platosadvocate at 7:24 PM on September 19, 2009


Best answer: all my other guy friends are giving me the "screw her" / "just move on" / "stop being such a bleeding heart" speech, and although I do appreciate the thought behind it, its not quite as insightful as I seem to need.

The thing is, they're right.

Everything you've described here -- I can't move on, I feel like I'm betraying her, I wonder what our kids will look like, it's not as insightful as I need -- all of it, are just stories in your head. Stories you're telling yourself. Stories you are choosing to tell yourself.

None of it -- none of it -- is real.

Tomorrow, choose to do something else.

Every time you catch yourself drifting, do something else. "I miss her. Wow, look, a tree! I miss her. I'm going to go run around the block. I miss her. I'm going to learn how to properly iron my shirts."

Eventually, this giant story you have in your head will get smaller, and smaller, and smaller, and you'll laugh at how big you thought it was.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:26 PM on September 19, 2009 [30 favorites]


No one belongs to anyone else. Get used to it, for life.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:29 PM on September 19, 2009 [14 favorites]


Me again. I used to be you. I have one more anecdote.

I never got a tattoo, because I was always afraid of the idea of their permanence. "I could get one now, but what will I think 20 years from now? What if I hate it 20 years from now?"

Twenty years later, I realize now that I wouldn't have cared. And I would have enjoyed my tattoo that entire time. It would have been cool. But I was a wuss.

So when you ask yourself, "If I move on, will I have betrayed her," you have to keep in mind that you have nothing, and more importantly, you have nothing right now.

Move on and get something. Get it NOW. Because now won't exist 20 years from now.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:32 PM on September 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


Response by poster: @fourcheesemac

What do you mean by this? I never meant to imply some twisted idea of ownership - however, we were incredibly compatible, and I believe given the right situation, perfect for the long haul. A clarification would be greatly appreciated, I guess.

Thanks!
posted by platosadvocate at 7:34 PM on September 19, 2009


Speaking as a woman who moved 1500 miles away from my family, friends and home to be with the man I love: stop torturing yourself. If you love someone, you find a way to make it work (your career was more important than your relationship, her whatever-that-kept-her-where-she-is was more important than your relationship, so be it!). As Cool Papa Bell says, you are telling yourself stories. You choose your paths in life. You can choose to have this woman be the great, dramatic One That Got Away, or recognize that you had some fun for a while, that it was nice while it lasted, but it obviously wasn't anything more. My now-husband and I did the long distance thing for a year and a half, and we have been married for seven years now - if you really love someone, and are really committed to it, you make it work however you can, clearly neither you nor your ex were committed enough to the relationship to make it work, there's no shame in that, but try to see the facts here for the truth that they are: you are letting yourself be blinded by your imagination, stop blowing this out of proportion, get over it and move on with your life.
posted by biscotti at 7:42 PM on September 19, 2009 [9 favorites]


First loves always hurt. And by "always" I mean both invariably and perpetually. Welcome to the club, we've been waiting for you.
posted by milarepa at 7:45 PM on September 19, 2009 [10 favorites]


Best answer: You have to confront the idea that you were incredibly compatible and perfect for the long haul, analyze it, and see that it's false. And it's false because she has said goodbye to you. No matter how good anyone seems to be, not wanting to be with you is a major drawback. A deal killer.
posted by exphysicist345 at 7:46 PM on September 19, 2009 [21 favorites]


Almost entirely word-for-word - I was ready to copy and paste that whole post - except I planned on adding an apology/no-offense to the "women are the plight of mankind" line though. People make extreme statements when they're in pain (or they're close friends are).

As one of the mods here, please don't do this. Feel free to MeMail if you need more details/explanation.
posted by jessamyn at 7:59 PM on September 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Cool Papa Bell, milarepa, and exphysicist345 have got it down. I'm going on 20 years of what you're going through. Talk about time wasted on the way. It happens to most everyone. Sure, the pain is special because it's your pain, but it happens to so many people that it's one of life's nasty little cliches.

Talk yourself into giving up the fairy-tale notion that there's one perfect person out there for each of us. There are lots of perfect people out there -- or at least damn good people. I'd be concerned about rebound and wouldn't, myself, get back on that horse too quickly, but don't take forever, either, because that will let you stretch out the misery. Find ways to not stretch out the misery. Don't listen to those songs. Don't watch those movies. Don't go those places. Reinvent your life and have fun doing it.

And, yeah, welcome to the club.
posted by bryon at 8:02 PM on September 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Response by poster: I mean, I hear everyone, and I'm forever grateful for everything. But don't you ever wonder about "what if?" or "what could I have done differently"? I don't want to look back in 20 years and regret what I could have possibly done to make it work, you know?
posted by platosadvocate at 8:10 PM on September 19, 2009


I totally agree with what the others have said here. But behind it all, take with you what you have learned from the relationship.

Personally, when I have a really painful break up, as difficult as it really is to think about I just try to tell myself it's part of this journey called life, you live and you learn. You know now what you want from a relationship, the kind of people that really turn on that switch for you. You cannot go to say that you never again will find someone that's compatible for you. Feel blessed that you had a chance to get to know someone such as her and hopefully now you have a better idea of what you're looking for in a partner.

In the meantime, like others said, find new hobbies, friends, etc. keeping your mind & body busy is possibly the best advice anyone can give on moving on from a painful breakup - not much other than that could make it any easier!
posted by lwclec072 at 8:12 PM on September 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


We were perfect for each other.

What, may I ask, does that even mean? No, you guys weren't. Not because it turned out this way, but because that's not how love works. That's not how human beings work.

Now, normally, I'd warn against aestheticizing your pain—you know, what can I get out of this?

But.

I'll predict many people disagree with the following statement: Having a relationship is so goddamn common. It's so pedestrian! What, really, is life for? What is being alive for? Is is this endless pursuit of another person, someone else's affection, some kind of meaning in a mind you will never enter.

So what if this didn't work out. You have a career; you seem more than intelligent; and it is possible to think you quite a nice life. Now do something with it. Not after you get over her.

Now.
posted by trotter at 8:17 PM on September 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


Best answer: It has been 27 years. It threw me like a atlas missile launch. I see now. It. wasn't It. It was my path since that pain, that was the gold. You will respond uniquely. The world is much more weird than anything you can think of now. Go now.
posted by JohnR at 8:39 PM on September 19, 2009 [18 favorites]


I don't want to look back in 20 years and regret what I could have possibly done to make it work, you know?

First off, good luck with that - life just has a way of building regrets, and some of them are only apparent after 20 years. One of the great challenges of life is to see this and not hold onto it. You do the best you can with what you have - always.

Secondly - what "you" could have possibly done? She did break up with you, right? What exactly could you have done? Take her off the policy and move on.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 8:41 PM on September 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


You're still in love with a girl that turned you down. There is no cure for that. And you're going to turn yourself inside out with anguish if you don't figure out a way to get over it. She doesn't love you. Screw her. Just move on. Find a girl that does.
posted by whiskeyspider at 8:45 PM on September 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


I've been in a similar situation for about a month now. It's tearing me up. I haven't done well with it. Here's what I've found.

- I do very, very badly when I have nothing to do. Especially when I have nothing to do and I'm alone. I'm moving into a dorm right now, leaving all of my friends, and she went with them. I need to meet new people, which I do "okay" with when I'm not kind-of-crazy like I am now. Classes haven't started yet, and that makes things worse.

Make a to-do list every day, if you don't already, and concentrate on doing all of the things on it. Not to get them done, but to get fulfillment out of them and to enjoy being a productive person. Being busy makes things better.

- I think too much. I think about her, I think about what she's doing, I think about the guys she's meeting. I spiral this way. I thought I was a fairly self-aware person-- I make a point of trying to find the source of my emotions and thoughts-- but I didn't recognize this until recently, it was so easy to do. I need to check these behaviors.

Xoebe's advice is excellent, and I'm going to try it myself. Before I moved in, I would check my thoughts with the arrangement of my dorm. She's not even thinking about m-- I am going to put the desk underneath the bed. I will put the stereo on a shelf in the desk. Be firm with yourself, but don't be angry. Try to be calm.

- I feel like I'm always "clenched"-- there's a knot in my chest, I scowl, I'm angry. I know this comes from sorrow, but I often find it difficult to "unclench".

A friend gave me some relaxation exercises-- some of the "lie down, flex x muscle as tightly as you can for ten seconds, let it go, move up your body" type things. They were immensely useful. Because they can be done lying down, in a dark room, and because they take a long time and demand concentration, they solve many problems at once: something to think about, something to do, something to relax physically with, a way to get to sleep.

- Exercise. God, I've been to the gym so much. Get yourself so tired you can't move. Then go home and think about how attractive you're going to be. The endorphins from the exercise give you a high, and thinking about yourself as attractive is a good lead-in to thinking about yourself pursuing other people. Which you should do, too.

- Cut yourself off from her, if you aren't already. It's very easy for me to kill time on the computer halfheartedly surfing the Web, sitting on Facebook, whatever, looking to see if she's online. It's not good. Kill your instant messenger, turn off texting, whatever you need to do.

Hopefully that's helpful. I'm not over the girl I'm talking about, and I was actually just in the middle of mentally composing the AskMe question about what the HELL I should do, but I have identified those things as good and bad. Stick with it.
posted by aaronbeekay at 9:03 PM on September 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


"Almost entirely word-for-word - I was ready to copy and paste that whole post - except I planned on adding an apology/no-offense to the "women are the plight of mankind" line though. People make extreme statements when they're in pain (or they're close friends are)."

I'm fairly sure this isn't what you mean, but this reads a lot like "I'm fine with this kind of misogynist sentiment between guys, but when ladies are around I'll pay lip service to being against it, even though I'm not (I mean, if I was I'd make exactly the same caveat no matter who I was speaking to) because it is necessary to pacify those silly ladies who might (unreasonably) feel hurt or offended by the idea that it's cool to refer to them universally as a blight when a man is upset at one specific lady."

Anyway, I don't give a shit about gender restrictions, so I'm breaking your dudez-only rule here to back up the person who said that no one owns anyone else, and clarify a bit: no one is entitled to their relationships working out exactly how they want them. I think that a lot of people sometimes feel like their strong feelings should be enough to MAKE things work, because if they feel THAT STRONGLY how can it just not work? I mean, there must be a reason why you feel so strongly! It's so fundamentally unfair that your feelings don't govern reality like that!

Of course, it's not really unfair - romantic feelings are purely subjective, and reality is pretty purely objective, so nine times out of ten of course they are going to be opposed to each other on some level (this is why Every Relationship You Will Ever Be In Is Doomed To Fail, Until One Isn't). You think you and her were perfect for the long haul; she obviously didn't feel that way, and the thing is that in order for a statement like "we're perfect for each other!" to be true, there has to be consensus on it from both parties. She's blocked consensus. You can't make there be consensus just by wanting consensus bad enough, especially since she's already left the (metaphorical) collective (of your relationship).

It totally sucks, I know! And don't feel like you have to rush out and start rebound-dating, or move on IMMEDIATELY - "being patient" and "moving on" are not mutually exclusive deals. Heartbreak, especially young heartbreak, is something you just have to suffer through until it gets more bearable. And I guarantee that in 20 years, if she really IS the Perfect True One For You Forever, you'll have figured out a way to be together by then - and if not, you won't be looking back on this time in perpetual agony.
posted by ellehumour at 9:25 PM on September 19, 2009 [12 favorites]


Response by poster: @aaronbeekay

Yes! Exactly! The knot in the chest is a very physical reminder of all that has transpired. Thanks for you comment brother, and best of luck to you in this shared situation.
posted by platosadvocate at 9:31 PM on September 19, 2009


Best answer: I'm a fairly recent grad, and I had to move a few hours away for the career, and it turns out the distance was too much (for her).

I'm a fairly recent newlywed, and back when we started dating I avoided a good opportunity to move away for the career, because after only a couple months I suspected my now-wife was The One. She lived a couple hours away, so even still we often only got to see each other every weekend.

In my second-best relationship, when I had to return to school after a summer fling, the thousand-miles-away long distance worked for us via phone/email/vacations for the year until she could move to join me.

So I hope that adds some perspective. Perhaps there's some misunderstanding, where she thought you only had a casual interest that wasn't worth the inconvenience? I doubt it, but do make sure she knows how you really feel; the embarrassment of utter rejection is still more pleasant than torturing yourself with "what might have been". If she knows you feel this way (either already, or after you tell her), and she still can't even handle a few hours distance (only getting to see you on weekends? oh, the humanity!), then this isn't the woman you were going to have children with. This wasn't even a relationship worthy of runner up.
posted by roystgnr at 9:36 PM on September 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


How old are you? How long were the two of you together? How long has it been since she broke up with you?

If the answers to any of these questions are "younger than 25," "less than 2 years," or "less than 6 months," respectively, it's likely that you're in a very normal, very temporary stage of post-relationship grief.

It's natural to feel this way when you're grieving the loss of a relationship; what you're feeling is akin to a period of mourning for what you thought your life was going to be like. You're taking this harder than you've taken past breakups because you cared for this person more than you cared for other people you've dated, and because you had a vision of what your shared life would be like. You're going to need some time to adjust to the fact that your life is not going to be the way you thought it would be and that you'll have to come up with new plans that don't include this person who was so important to you. Let yourself grieve.

You'll begin to feel better more quickly if you don't allow yourself to wallow in the "what if" part. In other words, it's fine and natural to feel sad; it's unhealthy to beat yourself up over perceived mistakes or to spend time thinking up or trying to implement plans to get her back. Don't see or speak to her. Find other things to occupy your time. And don't contact her again until you feel better.

(On the off chance that you are trying to get over the loss of a very long term relationship or that it's been a year or more and you still feel this way, I'd suggest counseling. Those are different situations, and you may want to talk about your feelings in a more formal way to jump-start the process of moving on.)
posted by decathecting at 10:39 PM on September 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am not a man, but this book was written by men, and my brother (a man) found it very helpful during a couple of difficult breakups.

In general, getting angry at everyone on Earth who shares a gender identity with the person who broke your heart isn't a good way to heal or move on. I'm not just saying that out of pique--I'm absolutely serious. All of the people I know who are all "Women are evil, mysterious creatures, who can figure them out?" or "Men are evil, mysterious creatures, who can figure them out?" tend to have one horrible relationship after another.

Once you stop dealing with some imaginary projection of The Mysterious Creature and start getting to know your partners as individual human beings, the whole relationship thing works much better.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:39 PM on September 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Best answer: I'm a fairly recent grad, and I had to move a few hours away for the career, and it turns out the distance was too much (for her).

This means that you were perfect for each other.

Let me offer you a counter example from my own life. I live in Georgia and am married and was contemplating going to grad school in Vermont a few years ago, after we bought a house here. I jokingly said to my wife "Oh, you probably wouldn't go for that" and she replied "Why not, it's only for two years, right? Not saying it would be easy, there'd be flights and trains and phone sex, but if that's where you really wanted to go for grad school, ok." I'm not putting my marriage up as a shining example of a relationship, but part of being this mythical perfect for each other is being willing to get out and push when the going gets tough, to sacrifice for the others happiness and keep the long term in mind.

I'm not trying to knock your ex, but a few hours away for your new career and she can't handle that? That my friend is a sign and it's better that you found out now as opposed to later.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:39 PM on September 19, 2009 [6 favorites]


Response by poster: @Sidhedevil

I want to clarify as much as possible: I'm not transferring my personal experience upon my judgment upon women in general. The whole reason I wanted to create two separate posts (one for men, one for women) was to further establish the source of the advice, that's all. I'm an analytical guy, so I like to take in as much data as possible when analyzing information, that's all.

The extreme things people say (i.e. "women are nuts!" "Women were sent here to destroy us, hahaha!") are, indeed, extreme. It's understandable, I think, that people within extreme circumstances (personally experiencing intense pain, or a friend feeling the pain via proxy, etc) might be apt to come to such conclusions; that said, I realize that this is a specific circumstance. My opinion of women, in general, can be best said as "held in the highest regard."

Hope that helps. Thanks for all the advice so far - it has been insanely helpful, more than you'll ever likely realize. Please keep it coming.
posted by platosadvocate at 10:57 PM on September 19, 2009


I just want to chime in and say that you don't have to stop loving her. You just have to understand that loving her doesn't mean you have to be with her.

Like most others, I've been in your shoes. Breakups, to me, are about faith. You just have to believe you'll get better... because you will. I had a really tough situation like yours, and it eventually went away. I've never been in love since, and I hope I will again. We broke up because of situational things as well. It sucks but you have to believe you broke up for a reason.

When you start thinking about the "what might have beens," accept it. Don't get angry at yourself or torment yourself. Focus on something else as long as you can. Rinse and repeat.

You'll feel better in time. Hoping it's sooner rather than later.
posted by PFL at 11:01 PM on September 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I tend to think that your latest clarification reinforces Sidhedevil's point. "Women" are not a monolithic entity, so it's equally unhelpful to think of them as all nuts or as all deserving of the highest regard. Some women are nuts. Some of them actually are out to destroy you. And some of them are wonderful, kind, awesome people who deserve your high regard.

Think of it this way: if you got in a car accident, and it was the fault of a guy with blue eyes, would you, even for a second, think "all blue eyed people are out to destroy us," or even "blue eyed people are bad drivers?" I think that it's unlikely that you would. Instead, you'd think, "that guy is a bad driver, and he ruined my day." Women are just as unlikely to share characteristics as are people with blue eyes.

Ascribing to all women the characteristics of one woman you're mad at is likely to exacerbate your bad feelings. Instead of saying "this one woman hurt me, and that makes me upset," you begin to think of your breakup as emblematic of a larger problem with society or with all womankind, which is much harder to get past. Remember, this woman hurt you; no one else in the world did anything to you, and many of them (including many women in this thread) are going out of their way to help you. So while some of your friends may encourage this kind of thinking, it's unlikely to serve you well in your life.
posted by decathecting at 11:08 PM on September 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


The extreme things people say (i.e. "women are nuts!" "Women were sent here to destroy us, hahaha!") are, indeed, extreme. It's understandable, I think, that people within extreme circumstances (personally experiencing intense pain, or a friend feeling the pain via proxy, etc) might be apt to come to such conclusions

You are missing my point. I hear people say "Women are evil" when they are disappointed in love by women. I hear people say "Men are evil" then they are disappointed in love by men.

It's not that either hurts my fee-fees, it's that I think it's a bad habit of mind. The people I know who say that stuff have strings of bad relationships, without exception. The people I know who never say that stuff tend to move on from tough, painful breakups to good relationships.

I'm recommending a cease-fire on this stuff for everyone, not out of moral sententiousness, but out of pragmatism. It doesn't work. It's what they call in the 12-step universe "stinking thinking," and what they call in the behavioral therapy universe "negative self-talk."
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:12 PM on September 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you're wanting a similar but not so sexist kind of fierce, unfair, solidarity-inducing validation, the movie Clueless, of all places supplies the best example I've ever heard. I'm paraphrasing, but the heroine's dad says something like "Anyone who's too stupid to want you doesn't deserve you."

That's what I tell recently dumped friends, regardless of gender, orientation, whatever.
posted by tangerine at 11:54 PM on September 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Read No more Mr Nice Guy by Robert Glover.

The online forums for the above book are amazing. The book may not be 100% you, but it does offer suggestions as to how to NOT make your life revolve around a woman.

Read How to fall out of love if you want a sure-fire way to actually stop loving her.
posted by flutable at 1:23 AM on September 20, 2009


You don't have to stop loving her. You just have to stop making excuses and playing the what-if game. Love isn't necessarily romance and picket fences and happily ever after. I love life, but it sure doesn't love me back...

I'd posit that if you CAN stop loving her, it never really was love.
posted by gjc at 4:27 AM on September 20, 2009


Best answer: I'm not a guy, but you aren't going to be able to post your "gals only" version, so we may as well weigh in here. First, I'm so sorry you have to suffer this pain, and I understand... but let me tell you something about love: like anything else worthwhile, it's not something that springs up fully formed, complete and perfect with no history/effort/growing pains. You know what helps you to love and be loved? Loving does - even when it goes wrong. Maybe even, to some degree, especially when it goes wrong. You love this girl, and in a different way she probably loves you, too, and whether you realize it or not, you've probably learned a lot, and developed in myriad ways that will help you to understand, appreciate, recognize, and cherish the love you will feel for the right person when she comes along.

If I hadn't had some of the heartbreaking history that I had before I met my husband, I can't imagine how I would know enough to appreciate him as I do... I sometimes think, what if we had met when we were younger?... we could have been together since the beginning and escaped some of the anguish we both suffered. But in reflection, I am terribly grateful that we both had loves that hurt us in some ways, helped us in some ways, and definitely, without question, led us to be astonished and grateful for each other. Let's break it down: We learned about joy (and pain), we learned how to live with somebody; we learned how to sacrifice, how to compromise, how to forgive, how to value the good things, and finally how to recognize that we needed something different, and what the shape of that difference was. Essentially we learned how to recognize each other.

If not for our hard-won lessons, perhaps we would believe that finding love is easy, that willing love is all it takes (it's not), that being true and honorable will always be rewarded (it won't), that you always get back what you put in (you don't). Perhaps we would take each other for granted, be more inclined to stray, be less inclined to bend and flow and find our way around issues that arise ... Perhaps we would naively believe that we deserve things (nobody really does), that we could have some checklist of love that the other person better live up to. The only people who believe that are people who haven't learned about love, who haven't earned their luck in love, who still think it's really just all about them, because they haven't been handed a few of life's choice lessons.

I'm not telling you that real, mutual, soul-shaking love must be difficult and fraught with pain, but I'm telling you that the path to get there can be, and that it's much easier to spoil if you haven't had any other experiences. And also, loving somebody expands you, even when it doesn't work out, and teaches you things about yourself, and about how to love and be loved if you will allow it to - if you can work through the bitterness and sorrow to lay claim to that knowledge.

So, my advice is not to "get over it" but to get through it, not to stop loving her (you don't really get to choose that), but to move toward understanding that what you are taking away from this is the now-more-fertile soil where something deeper, stronger and better may grow, the real manifestation of the hopes and dreams that you had, but with the right person - the person who will truly share all that with you and treasure you in the same way... perhaps because she's also had to move through dooms of love, through sames of am, through haves of give*... and that's how she knows how to cherish you.

with abject apologies to e. e. cummings, who was writing about something else entirely, yet "love is the whole and more than all" and I couldn't resist stealing
posted by taz at 4:40 AM on September 20, 2009 [32 favorites]


Oops, the first line of my comment should read:

This means that you were NOT perfect for each other.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:22 AM on September 20, 2009


What do you mean by this?

What seems to you to be the loss of someone you were meant to be with is just another accident of biography.

You want guy advice? Bracket out one week. During that week, lock yourself up somwhere with booze, country music, and your own misery. Cry it out, hard. Rage against the dying of the light.

Then dust yourself off, pick yourself up, and go out and try again.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:56 AM on September 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm yet another non-dude, but I think your situation is pretty universal. Break-ups usually occur for two different reasons--Door #1: incompatibility, which leads to fights, cheating, bad behavior, mature and immature behavior, etc. Then you have Door #2: circumstances outside of the couple's control. Door #2 break-ups are uniquely difficult because you two didn't have those fights, the long sniffly nights of "should we break up but oh god I looove you," the tense silences, the bickering over who forgot to feed the cat. In short, you didn't have to second-guess your compatibility with your ex-girlfriend, which frees you up to speculate that she was probably perfect for you. You, poor man, got Door #2, where all you can rail against is the Cold Hard Universe that unfeelingly pulled you away from your beloved. So of course she's still on your insurance policy (though PS, you really need to fix that) and of course you're imagining what your kids would look like. She was perfect and then everything went to shit and you couldn't stop it and now you'll never meet anyone half as good.

Telling yourself she was awful or incompatible isn't the best route. You need to expand your understanding of the Cold Hard Universe that did indeed tear you away from your lady, but also has provided you with an abundance of other ladies, some of which will also be compatible with you. I know, I know, you want your lady, because she was perfect, but if you found one great girl, you will find another. We ladies are infinite and various, we contain multitudes, none of us will be a replica of your lady (nor should you want us to be!), but I will bet you a thousand bucks that another great person will find you.

Finally, please do refrain from idealizing this girl. I know she was fantastic, but the people we lose because we got shoved through Door #2 always seem to be bathed in a rosy glow as years progress, flawless and invulnerable to criticism. Keep perspective on her as a regular person, not as an icon. When you're ready to start dating again, really try not to look for a replica of this girl. It sounds obvious, but I can't tell you how many guy friends I have who are chasing after fleeting memories of some perfect lost girl. I knew a guy who ONLY dated women who reminded him of a girl who'd unexpectedly broken up with him in high school. But she was perfect, he'd say to us as a 25 year old, and then the new girlfriend would find out one way or another that she was just an understudy and she'd leave him more miserable than before.

You sound like a very decent person who loved someone very much. It'll happen again with someone completely different but no less worthy of your attention. In the meantime, take your ex-girlfriend off your insurance policy, pick up knitting or jogging or something, and give the Cold Hard Universe another shot. Good luck!
posted by zoomorphic at 6:59 AM on September 20, 2009 [13 favorites]


She was one in a million. That means there are five more just in New South Wales.
(From "Up Against The Wall" by The Whitlams.)
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:06 AM on September 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


So, my advice is not to "get over it" but to get through it
...and everything else taz said.

“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” -Anonymous
posted by ourroute at 9:00 AM on September 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


That "I can't live without her" love will always do you in. Everyone goes through it when they're young. When you get older and become your own person, all of that goes away- or it should go away- when you lose your insecurities.

You'll have your own life and then you'll meet someone who has her own life. You'll have the same type of relationship with her as you did with this girl, only you know if it goes away this time, you already know you won't be miserable and "hate women". Because you'll understand that there lots are others 'ones' just like her. Everywhere. It is this fact that makes monogamy and exclusive relationships a recipe for disaster (or at least a recipe for being miserable and resentful for the rest of your life -- or until you divorce).

You will understand that no other woman can 'complete' you. It's a romantic myth.
posted by Zambrano at 9:40 AM on September 20, 2009


I mean, I hear everyone, and I'm forever grateful for everything. But don't you ever wonder about "what if?" or "what could I have done differently"? I don't want to look back in 20 years and regret what I could have possibly done to make it work, you know?

You know you can always move back right? Call up ex-girlfriend and tell her since you have to choose between her and your career, you pick her. You'll quit the job and move back to Girlfriend City if she's willing to give it any other chance.

If you don't want to make the call or would resent her for having to move back, then she is clearly not The One, and you need to acknowledge that, right now, you place a higher value on your career than the relationship with her, and take the rest of the advice offered in this thread.
posted by nooneyouknow at 10:09 AM on September 20, 2009


Response by poster: @ Everyone so far:

Thank you. Each and every one of you - thank you so much. This is exactly why Metafilter is so amazing.

I stayed up as long as I could last evening, watching the posts roll in, and trying to respond to the best of my ability. I woke up this morning, fired up the web, and was greeted with a lot more insightful, meaningful advice. I re-read the entire thread, then went on my long Sunday run, and came back to even more. I really can't tell you how much this means to me. You guys and gals are amazing, and I'm forever grateful for the goodwill you have shown me here.

This is by no means is an attempt to wrap up the thread; I really look forward to the future responses that come in. I just wanted to drop this note in the off-chance that any of these users eventually return.

If I can ever return this measure of goodwill, don't hesitate to contact me.
posted by platosadvocate at 10:37 AM on September 20, 2009


You'll be fine.

I've been in love, by my reckoning, three times. The first two times I was a kid, teens or twenties. Those relationships ended relatively quickly. The breakups were excruciatingly painful, but I got over them in a matter of several very unpleasant months, during which I was experiencing feelings like the ones you describe. I still think fondly of these women, though, and there was no lasting damage.

I am thinking this is where you're at.

The last time, it was very different, I had been living with this woman for several years and spent the last few months in a desperate bid to "fix" our relationship. One day I realized that she didn't want it to be fixed, she wanted it to be over. So I let it go. It was a moment of transcendent relief. But when a significant part of your life has been spent with one person, it's hard. It has taken some time, I still love her, but with time and perspective I know we shouldn't be together and I'm happy with that.

I can't give you specific advice, but the attitude that helped me was to stop grasping. Let yourself have whatever feelings you have, but don't be attached to them. Realize that these feelings don't really matter except in your own head. Let yourself still be in love but realize she doesn't share this and don't let your feelings guide your actions. Live your life and let time do its work.
posted by lackutrol at 11:53 AM on September 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


The best way to get over a woman is to fall in love with another one.
posted by jeffamaphone at 12:13 PM on September 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


The best way to get over a woman is to fall in love with another one.

Not to debase the dialogue of this helpful thread, but that is really fucking terrible advice.
posted by zoomorphic at 6:41 PM on September 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm fairly sure this isn't what you mean, but this reads a lot like "I'm fine with this kind of misogynist sentiment between guys, but when ladies are around I'll pay lip service to being against it, even though I'm not (I mean, if I was I'd make exactly the same caveat no matter who I was speaking to) because it is necessary to pacify those silly ladies who might (unreasonably) feel hurt or offended by the idea that it's cool to refer to them universally as a blight when a man is upset at one specific lady."

This. I used to go out with someone who used to go on about 'all women are...' and I much prefer being with someone who, y'know, treats women as a whole, not a hole. To borrow a cliche. As an earlier poster said, "All of the people I know who are all "Women are evil, mysterious creatures, who can figure them out?" or "Men are evil, mysterious creatures, who can figure them out?" tend to have one horrible relationship after another."

You don't need a guy filter - both women and men hurt like hell when good relationships end. Right now, there's a girl out there, maybe in Malawi or Tokyo posting just this thread to another message board. Gay men. Lesbians. Everyone goes through it, and limiting who can offer you advice to men is just going to hack people off - plus you'll miss out on some top advice there.

Don't look for a replacement. Your girlfriend is not an old couch. Look after yourself, concentrate on yourself, the rest will fall into place.
posted by mippy at 4:06 AM on September 21, 2009


Maybe she made a mistake. Still, it's the decision she made, and you keep hurting yourself by wishing you could change her mind. It's a relief when you reach a point when you can give up because it frees room for a hope you could touch in the future.
posted by woodway at 7:47 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


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