How to find "the one" again.
April 14, 2010 6:53 AM   Subscribe

How do you really get over someone you really, truly loved who's left you? Or how to fall in love with someone new?

I've searched around but haven't found many helpful answers to this on the rest of the internet, so I thought I'd put it up to the hive mind here.

A few years back, I met the girl I was absolutely sure I was going to marry. I'd had plenty of serious relationships before, I've been in love before, but you know how they always say that when you really meet the one, you'll know? Well I knew, no doubt in my mind.

Unfortunately, I was also still pretty young and stupid at the time, and despite the fact that I knew without any shred of a doubt that this was a person I wanted to be with for the rest of my life, I didn't do the best job of expressing that, and, due to a variety of mistakes I made, she moved on.

It's been several years now, we're both in our late 20s, we've kept in contact but fairly infrequently. She's going to be getting married to someone else in the not too distant future, and there's absolutely no chance we'll ever be getting back together. I know that. I accept that. And yet, I can't ever imagine feeling anything like the feelings I still feel for her for anyone else. I've had other serious relationships since, with some nice women who in theory would be good long term partners, but there's never been that feeling, that undeniable scream it out loud for everyone to hear feeling that, yes, this is the one.

So the question is, what do you do when the one person you've really, really loved isn't coming back? How do you find that with another person? Or if you don't, how do you accept the fact that you're not going to find that again? I'd like nothing more than to fall for someone again, but I just don't see it happening. Any help?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (16 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
This is one of those situations where you have to try to rely on your brain, which will tell you can love again, because people do, until your heart catches up with the rest of you. You never really put the last one you loved behind you until you meet someone else you love more. Just go on living your life and putting yourself out there until you do find that someone you can love.
posted by orange swan at 7:04 AM on April 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

And yet, I can't ever imagine feeling anything like the feelings I still feel for her for anyone else.

If anything, shouldn't you imagine you're more likely to experience and appreciate this kind of connection again, now that you know what it actually feels like?

Also, our appreciation of our own emotional states is colored by more factors than we can rationally understand. I think you are undoubtedly idealizing the strength and veracity of the feelings you had for this woman. And the very immaturity you cite as being the cause of your relationship's demise was almost assuredly a factor in your ability to experience those emotions relatively uncritically.

You were so convinced that someone was "the one" (ugh) before -- but you were wrong! So how can you cite your own instincts on the matter as the number one factor that would prevent you from giving other people a chance? If you become interested in someone but don't necessarily think they're "the one", you should probably ignore that thought; it's not like you've ever been right before.

Just relax and remain open, give yourself room to surprise yourself with what it turns out you really do want or don't want. You are not the same person you were when you ran away from that relationship; surely using that time as a yardstick to measure all future prospects has got to seem a little silly, right?
posted by hermitosis at 7:27 AM on April 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

I've had other serious relationships since, with some nice women who in theory would be good long term partners, but there's never been that feeling, that undeniable scream it out loud for everyone to hear feeling that, yes, this is the one.

Think about when your romantic life began; 12? 14? Later? Take your age and subtract that. The number is probably between 10-20.

Now, calculate the life expectancy for the average male/female; take that number and subtract your age. That number is probably somewhere between 50-60.

Now, calculate the number of people you know (round way up; say 1 million) and consider that one feeling you had to be a 1 in 1 million chance. There are nearly seven billion people in the world, so for you, there may be as many as 7,000 people who could make you feel this way in the world. 7000.

You're on a search now for that feeling again; you know there are a lot of people out there who could be that feeling once more, and you know you have a lot more time to find them (3-5 times the amount it took you to find the first one.) Couple that with the lessons you've learned in love so far and the things that you do better now and the chances are, you're a better searcher than the first time around.

I like your odds. Keep searching!
posted by Hiker at 7:51 AM on April 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

Read Joyce's "The Dead."
posted by greekphilosophy at 7:52 AM on April 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

The notion of "the one", doesn't seem to be serving your personal development very well right now and it might be best to let go of that faith for the time being.

In the meantime ... don't think about her when you drive.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:53 AM on April 14, 2010

With all due respect, you're still very young. You probably just need more time. Although I wasn't obsessing over him, it was probably 10 years before I was truly over my first love.

And even then I didn't find my real "the one" until I was 46. (But I was in small towns and this was all before Teh Interwebs existed. It's much easier to meet a huge variety of people now, and therefore probably won't take you nearly as long.) Patience, as they say, is a virtue. It's also damned difficult sometimes :)
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:00 AM on April 14, 2010

You need time, that is all. I know it sucks, but heartbreaks and whatnot will fade with time.

In the meanwhile, you need to big-up yourself, move forward, and have a think about these unscientific numbers:

There are like 7 billion people in the world. 3.5 billion that are female. My rough calculation is that there are around 200 miliion who are + / - 2 years of your age ( This is very rough but illustrative ) . If you hit it off with even 1% of those girls, you have a potential dating pool of 2 million girls. If you could find your soulmate in 1% of that 1%, you potentially have 20,000 soulmates in the world. 20,000! If you filled a small stadium with 10,000 totally awesome women, do you think one of them would be awesome for you? If you do think so, there are 20,000 soul mates out there for you buddy. Get get em!

You simply need to increase the odds of finding one of these wonderful women. In the meantime, enjoy life, do what you love, get lots of sleep and plenty of exercise.
posted by jasondigitized at 8:41 AM on April 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'll echo what others here have said - I thought I had found "the one", and after six years, it turned out that she was as far from "the one" as I could possibly get; she moved on, which devastated me, but once I had the benefit of time (which heals all, it's definitely true), I realized that my feelings for her were not based on objective reality, which helped heal my heart. You might think she was perfect, but remember, people change over time, and there's nothing to say that the person you fell in love with is even still there, as you remember her.

You'll find love again, and it'll be even better than "the one", because guess what, the idea that there is only one other person in this world for you, is as silly as it sounds, a ridiculous notion that is neither realistic or even desirable. Best of luck to you, I know how you feel, but I promise you, if you want love, you will have it. If you go looking for it, well, just know it tends to find YOU, not the other way around.
posted by dbiedny at 9:44 AM on April 14, 2010

In a practical sense? It takes years and years. In a complete sense? Maybe never. Life goes on, and there's no guarantees. Thinking positive and thinking of odds is OK but don't forget that.
posted by rahnefan at 10:57 AM on April 14, 2010

There's this research psychologist whose research tends to indicate that lost loves do continue to have an influence throughout one's entire life. She does phone consultations.

Aside from the plenty-of-fish arguments, I think the question is also asking, "what do I do in the meantime?" I've been struggling with this, too. I've been working a combination between self-improvement goal-setting, time-limited, controlled distraction, mindful confrontation of circular thoughts, and meditation/visualization. From an external point of view, my life is much improved. Internally, I still struggle. A lot of it is just a manifestation of preexisting depression. I think it will be important to find peace before getting too deep in another significant relationship.
posted by Skwirl at 12:25 PM on April 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

I really, truly believed in "the one." I was sure I had found mine. We truly loved each other; we - and everyone who knew us - thought we were going to be the couple who beat the odds. We did everything right: we had all the right conversations, we took all the precautions.

And after nearly ten years together, our marriage ended. It's not acrimonious at all, but the emotional toll of losing our relationship was huge, and awful.

If you had told me then that this was going to happen, I wouldn't have believed you.


I've moved on. I'm doing better than I ever thought I would. The thing that has helped most is time. That, combined with taking care of myself (eating right, exercise) and taking advantage of the opportunity that having this time and energy freed up has presented.

As a practical matter, I made a lot of lists. Lists of things to do (in the beginning, they were pretty basic: "get out of bed. Try to eat solid food"); friends to reconnect with; hobbies I wanted to pick up; projects I wanted to finish (or start). For me each time I could check something off seemed a concrete measure of progress.

Getting out and dating other people has helped as well. I've learned something from each of the people I've been with since then. I was surprised to learn that sometimes I don't even know what I want in a person until I've experienced it; and sometimes I think I want things that turn out to be not very important after all.

For what it's worth, just because a lot of people go through this kind of pain in their lives doesn't make it any easier when you have to. I feel for you. Good luck.
posted by AV at 2:59 PM on April 14, 2010 [4 favorites]

Didn't want to answer this, but I couldn't get you out of my mind.

That sort of happened to me about 40 years ago. Got very depressed for a couple of years. Then had a couple of hook-ups. Then met my present wife. Solved all my problems.

BUT. Am presently doing some very deep psychotherapy work. Realized the abandonment, lost-love feelings were still there (but sort of inoperative all this time). What I can see is that the feelings had nothing to do with that particular woman — just as the feeling that attached to her of being just the right one — had nothing to do with her. They were my feelings (not reality).
These feelings arose at a certain time in my development as a human being and preceded her. Not to get all Freudian or psychoanalytic on you — but seriously, talk to a good therapist or couples therapist. You can find out what these feelings are about and deal with them. Falling in love with someone new will not make them go away (and if it doesn't work out, might just cause the cycle to repeat).

My heart goes out to you. If what I've said strikes a chord, MeFi-mail me and I can say a bit more.
posted by feelinggood at 6:48 PM on April 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Read Joyce's "The Dead."
posted by greekphilosophy

I've read this, but, as it pertains to this question, SPOILER ALERT isn't it contain a story in which the wife DOESN'T ever get over her old flame? Isn't that kind of at odds with the message the OP needs? Can you spell out what you meant, or were you being sarcastic?
posted by skwt at 11:14 PM on April 14, 2010

posted by skwt at 11:14 PM on April 14, 2010

Slugs and slugs of time, peppered with mistakes and a few hearts you'll probably break along the way towards finding the real 'one'.
posted by spaceandtime30 at 5:53 PM on April 15, 2010

How? You go on, meet new people, and eventually you find someone even better.

It may take a fair amount of searching, but you will have that feeling again when it's right & if you're open to it.
posted by jzb at 11:41 PM on April 17, 2010

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