Success stories where "one that got away" was really not "the one?"
August 13, 2013 5:54 PM   Subscribe

Are there any success stories of people who have gotten over relationships that you /know/ could have been fixed if circumstances had been different and have gone on to find greater happiness, especially with successful, committed relationships? I am worried that my recent relationship is going to turn into one of those "the one that got away" situations, and he's made it clear he doesn't want to work on it anymore, so I can't do anything about that. I had thought I would be settling down in a city with a long term partner by now, and the fact that that is not happening is really tough to handle. Help!!! I need encouragement.

I am going through a very painful breakup while also freaking out about starting grad. school in 2 weeks in a city I don't like or want to stay in. At the time that I made the decision to move, I had thought I would be in a long distance relationship that would be supportive while I went through this degree and that I could stomach the move. Now that I'm here, I worry I made a huge mistake--lots of what-ifs (had I not moved, would my relationship still be alive? What if I get stuck in this city I don't like forever? What if I can't stomach starting over /again/ (I have uprooted and rerooted multiple times and am entering my late 20's) after starting over so many times?)

I genuinely miss my ex a lot, but I am also mourning the sense of stability that making plans to come back to him gave me. I can't believe I actively chose to move to a city I don't like for a prestigious school. But at this point, not going to school would mean wasting a lot of money on re-applying and would mean putting my life on hold for a year (not to mention my lease is already started, etc.). He's said that if I went back it would not make a difference (I asked).

My ex broke up with me primarily over communication issues and said he was too worn down to keep trying. I had considered staying in the city we lived in to be with him until he broke up with me a few months ago (there were 2 short breakups before this final one) -- at which point I thought it might be best to just pick the best school regardless of location.
posted by dubhemerak3000 to Human Relations (20 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
My ex broke up with me primarily over communication issues

relationships that you /know/ could have been fixed if circumstances had been different

This does not sound like it ended due to "circumstances." It sounds like it was going to end no matter what, and your moving just made it happen slightly sooner.

These communication issues are the problem. Can you expand on this?
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:00 PM on August 13, 2013

Not personal experience, but the song "Unanswered Prayers" by Garth Brooks tells this tale.
posted by mibo at 6:06 PM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: @showbiz_liz : The communication issues had to do with communication styles, I think. The issue was that we genuinely had a tough time understanding each other's communication styles, I think. I mention "circumstances" because the relationship began a few months before I started applying to schools -- so the possibility of long-distance was always on the table. My ex had said that this made him nervous, but at the time that I was considering staying in his state he also kept reminding me that he might need to move for a job (he was finally wrapping up his own studies) and that he wanted me to go to the best program for me... so I can't help but think that the long-distance possibility lurking in the background made everything more stressful. I wonder whether not having had that pressure would have helped us in our communication problem resolution--he did say he felt a pressure for everything to be perfect before I took off for school, and he said that the fact that it wasn't motivated him to end the relationship. I think we both really wanted to figure it (how to communicate clearly) out but for whatever reason just couldn't.
posted by dubhemerak3000 at 6:06 PM on August 13, 2013

It doesn't matter as much how you feel about your new city as it matters how you feel about your school. You could find such a tight knit grad school community that it won't matter what city you're in: your school will provide your community, social programming and more workload than you know what to do with.

And plenty of late 20s/ early 30s peers to befriend and date.

Embrace it.
posted by slateyness at 6:06 PM on August 13, 2013 [5 favorites]

For me at least I think "The One" is someone who wouldn't imagine breaking up with you... like that would be the most ridiculous idea ever to them.

You said you guys broke up 3 times already...he's not "the one".
posted by littlesq at 6:10 PM on August 13, 2013 [25 favorites]

people who have gotten over relationships that you /know/ could have been fixed if circumstances had been different and have gone on to find greater happiness, especially with successful, committed relationships?

This might feel counter-intuitive to you at the moment, but actually, most relationships are presaged with that kind of story for your average westerner couple.

Most people have a few or at least one serious relationship under their belts before they move into a longer term one that can last decades etc. So it's not really a matter of "success" stories - I think to be honest that framing relationships as success/fail binaries is a pretty unprofitable endeavour.

Thinking about what you have taken from relationships - what you have learned about yourself; what you like and need/dislike and don't need and what you can do to be a better partner in general for future partners can be great things to get out of relationships that have ended.

I think you are going through a period of great uncertainty, and it's only natural in a situation like that, that you would cling to, value, and miss elements of certainty, even if they are not healthy etc. Breakups of serious relationships are always sad and trying times, but I suspect a portion of your anguish is actually fuelled by anxiety about your move, new course, etc, in addition to regular break up remorse.

Hang in there tiger; the move is actually the best thing for you now, and will really give you an opportunity to reframe the way you think about yourself, your relationships, and opportunities to establish a plethora of new ones. Go for it. O.
posted by smoke at 6:10 PM on August 13, 2013 [9 favorites]

I'm not going to get into specific details here, but to answer your main question: Yes, there are success stories like what you're asking about. I'm one of them. I was in almost exactly your shoes - right down to moving to a city I didn't like so I could go to school that was important for me to attend and the relationship ending in part because of that move and in part for other reasons similar to what you describe. I spent way too long lamenting the end of the relationship. Way too long. I eventually got over it and, a few years later, met the woman who has now been my wife for well over a decade, who is the best person I know and with whom I have a far better relationship than I ever could have even imagined. Hang in there.
posted by The World Famous at 6:10 PM on August 13, 2013 [8 favorites]

I have a "the one that got away". He's my only ex who I never think "oh we were actually not as good together as I thought at the time" because, well, we were. But it wasn't strong enough for either of us -- we had distance problems too. He had a chance to move to where I was but chose a better opportunity for him somewhere else. I could have moved to him but I didn't want to move away from my family, so it ended. I think if we had been in the same place, we would have stayed together, and I think we would have been good together and I would have been happy, but like I said, neither of us felt strong enough about it at the time. We stayed friends (we were friends for years before we were more), though we're more "friendly" than friends now.

I am now married to the love of my life.

I will admit occasionally having "what if..." day dreams about the one who got away, but in the end, I could not be happier with how my life, and my romantic life in particular, ended up. I moved on, slightly before I was ready to, I think, but by doing so I met an amazing new guy. He was not the only one out there for me, and in fact I found someone much better for me, and someone who I would follow anywhere in the world if he asked me to. Breakups suck and they hurt but there really are a lot of people out there, and you'll find someone who works with you if you go looking for him.
posted by brainmouse at 6:15 PM on August 13, 2013 [5 favorites]

I don't have a "one that got away" story, but when I went to grad school I left a well-paying job and wonderful group of friends in a city I loved, to move down to Columbia, South Carolina. I didn't know a soul there; I'm not super fond of heat; I prefer larger, northern cities to smaller, southern ones ... and I'm gay. Shortly after I moved to SC they passed their anti-equality marriage amendment.

Needless to say, I wasn't super thrilled about being in South Carolina.

BUT! Not only did I make new friends and have some pretty cool experiences, but while I was there I fell in love with the woman who will be my wife exactly 55 days from now. There are days now that I walk around bedazzled by my own life - it's just so amazing to me that, had I not ended up down in SC where I really had NEVER expected to be (nor did my partner!), I would not have met the person who makes me actually believe in the idea of 'soulmate.'

I'm sorry you're not feeling great about the place you're about to move to, but you truly never know what could happen. Jump in wholeheartedly and experience everything that you can while you're there - I promise, you won't stay there forever if that's not what you want.
posted by DingoMutt at 6:22 PM on August 13, 2013 [4 favorites]

Personal success story: I was married (briefly, and very soon after starting to date) and was 100% sure that relationship was the end-all and be-all. Shit happened, he wanted out, we got divorced.

That was a few years ago. It took me a long time to get good and truly over it, but I did. I'm not currently in a relationship, but I have a good idea of what I want out of one and what to look for in a partner.

Here's the real success: I moved on by working on me, my goals, and my future. I changed my life around from being supported by other people (parents, boyfriend, etc), went back to school, and now I have 1 year to graduate with my bachelors and another to graduate with my masters. I am studying a field that I am absolutely in love with and couldn't be happier about my future. I still get a little lonely, but I have so much self-confidence from the life I have built for myself and the future I have waiting for me that I don't really worry about being in a relationship. A relationship doesn't define me, nor does being single define me. If I meet someone who would fit with my life, it will be an awesome bonus (one that I'd life very much!). But that's the thing -- it's a bonus, it doesn't define who I am.

I went to a summer program in my field this summer, in another country, completely out of contact with anyone I knew and in constant contact with a group of strangers who I didn't connect easily with. It's a bit like starting grad school (which I am also doing, but it's in the same department as my undergrad). Not only did I get through the summer program, but I am such a better person for it. It was tough. Really fucking tough. I doubted myself academically, socially, physically, and emotionally. But the most important thing was that I held on to who I was and maintained confidence in myself, and because of that I am so much more certain that I can persist through the obstacles and come out the other side shining.

I'm really not trying to say my life is all peachy keen -- it's really tough sometimes, I'm really lonely sometimes, get depressed, all that. But I've accomplished enough things on my own steam that I have an innate self-confidence, and that is the basis for happiness and success in life.
posted by DoubleLune at 6:27 PM on August 13, 2013 [5 favorites]

The right person at the wrong time is still the wrong person.

"The one" won't break up with you, they will stay and work it out.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:58 PM on August 13, 2013 [9 favorites]

I was in a relationship for two years that I was CERTAIN was "the one." We talked about marriage, planned for the future, and were waiting for a specific time in his career to have funds & time to get married. Then one day, pretty much out of the blue, he ended it for no other reason that "I feel like it's over."

I was devastated. Utterly. Literally left the country for a while to clear my head.

I remained devastated and convinced for the next year that my future was ruined, I would never find anyone else like him, and that surely he would see the error of his ways and return to me. Didn't happen.

Four years later and I am married to an incredible man that I didn't even know until eighteen months ago. My "future" is TOTALLY different from how I imagined it with Guy #1, even down to my career choice, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I love my job and I love where I live and both of those things would be different had it worked out with Guy #1.

The most helpful thing for me, looking back, is to realize that you meet people all the time, in unexpected ways. My despair after the breakup came mostly from a perspective of "He's the greatest guy I know, all the other guys I know are attached or losers, I will never have another boyfriend/find a husband," and I ended up meeting my husband is a pretty random way I would never have foreseen.
posted by raspberrE at 7:16 PM on August 13, 2013 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks so much for all of your stories, thoughts, and comments shared thus far. These are really helping me feel less hopeless... You all are so wonderful. It's so hard to stay positive right now--I really appreciate the encouragement.
posted by dubhemerak3000 at 8:38 PM on August 13, 2013

I actually don't believe that incompatible communication styles can be overcome. It tends to mean that there are base-level cultural, personality, and neuro-cognitive differences, and while you can learn culture and personality is influenced by outside sources, there is still very little you can do to alter neurology outside of trauma. (In the other direction, I think this has something to do with couples who "grow apart" - different rates of changing/declining cognitive function makes relating to the other person more difficult, along with all the other reasons people grow apart.)

In other words, you never had a chance. This isn't the one that got away, this is the one you wanted to be the one but isn't* and that's hugely disappointing especially with all these other life changes and imaginary goalposts you set up for yourself. This is also kind of part of the "bargaining" stage of grief, where you convince yourself it was fixable if only the other person had cooperated.

You will start to feel better soon. This probably wouldn't be quite as burdensome if you didn't have the major stress of a move and grad school on top of it, so be kind to yourself.

*Because there is no One, but there are also lots of people in the world who definitely wouldn't be the One if it did exist.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:08 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: This isn't the one that got away, this is the one you wanted to be the one but isn't* and that's hugely disappointing especially with all these other life changes and imaginary goalposts you set up for yourself.

Eloquently stated, @Lyn Never. This actually has crossed my mind as well. I really, really, really wanted him to be the one because aside from the communication differences, things were great, and so was he. I think one of the things that frightens me about this relationship not working out is that I am so culturally weird that I am afraid of never finding someone to relate to in a romantic relationship (I'm an immigrant and my family is multicultural/multiethnic even beyond that!! And I've moved around quite a bit). We had some pretty major personality differences, but I liked that he knew how to do things and think in ways I didn't, and vice versa. I guess I don't know what the fine balance in celebrating differences and realizing that they are not reconcilable is...
posted by dubhemerak3000 at 6:51 AM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

I was you a year ago. Late twenties, moving to a city I had reservations about, breaking up with someone I loved because of it, starting grad school in that city and freaking out.

It gets better. I'm not you in a year, but I have a new partner now who is better for me in a lot of ways and who is more dedicated to me than my old one.

It took me almost a full year to feel okay with my choice. I think that's about normal. Adjusting was hard due to heartbreak, being significantly older than my fresh-out-of-college classmates, and a crushing workload. But I survived and realized that I made the right choice. I'm learning so much and this degree will benefit me lots. Staying in my old town with my ex would have not, especially as he wasn't willing to see me through this important life step. It took time, but I found friends that I connect with and found a partner that I love. Pieces fell into place very slowly and I will say that I didn't start to feel fully okay with living here until about 2 months ago. It will take time. Be prepared for that.

My two pieces of advice. NO CONTACT, if you are in contact. I stayed in contact with my ex for awhile after the move and it both delayed getting over it and immersing myself in my new city and program. If you must call someone from your old town, call your closest friends while you wait to make close friends in your new place. Cutting contact let me heal and realize that I wanted someone who thought I was so wonderful that they would fight for me, not let me go.

Other piece: stay busy with building new friendships and doing your work. Really commit to the fact that you made the choice to be there, doing this program and living in the town. Try not to think of the past or what ifs, since those bridges are crossed and burned. The sooner you mentally commit to your new life and making the best of it, the faster you will feel happier.

Feel free to memail me too.
posted by cajalswoon at 7:21 AM on August 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

Hi! You are Temeraria (me) five years ago!!!!!! Let me tell you right now: you are going to be anywhere between just fine and friggen fantastic in the next 1-2 years. And without your ex. I swear!

Here's what you do:
1) Definitely follow the advice of cajalswoon (no-contact, keep busy (which you inevitably will in grad school)).

2) If you need it, check out your campus CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services). I did, and that was the BEST adult decision I've ever made. Seriously.

3) Give yourself time-- like months and months. Therapy can help you structure this time, but you might do it on your own as well. Since you got into a prestigious grad school, I'm assuming you know how to work hard. This personality trait will help you get through this emotional difficulty eventually, but right at this early phase it may also be what's driving you to feel like WHY ISN'T THIS OK RIGHT NOW I DID EVERYTHING RIGHT my world is crumbling...sob! Take a deep breath. Give yourself time to feel your feelings. Do things to take care of yourself-- take a walk, meditate, exercise, read a comic book, join a friend for a soda or a drink, etc. Get a massage.

4) Understand that there are a bajillion people in the world. The one you are letting go of is less than a drop in the bucket. More like an atom in a cloud, really. Are you going to meet someone right this second to fill in the vacuum that person left in your life? No. In fact, please don't. Will you someday, after having filled most of that void yourself, by investing in your own happiness and life goals? Heck yeah!

5) Give your new undesirable city a chance. There's usually hidden gems, even in the worst locales, especially when there's a university nearby.

I hope this helps. I feel for you-- I know what you are going through is extremely tough, overwhelming, scary, and sad. You'll make it! Feel free to memail me if you want. Best wishes.
posted by Temeraria at 9:21 AM on August 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

Yeah, without going into too much detail, I spent a long time in an on-again off-again relationship with someone, where I was always thinking "if he could just do X" our relationship would be fixed, where I was sure he was someone I could spend my whole life with.

Oh my god, I was so wrong. We were so wrong for each other. It took years to figure that out.
posted by inertia at 10:28 AM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

My story is a lot like the one brainmouse told. I was head over heels in love with a boyfriend and moved across the country for school to a place I had never been, where I didn't know a soul, so I could be closer to him. A few months after I moved, he dumped me. It was heinous. For a little while, I was convinced that the world had just crumbled beneath my feet, and that he was definitely the ONE THAT GOT AWAY. Flowers would never bloom again! Christmas cancelled forever!

Shortly thereafter, though, I met the real love of my life--the complete polar opposite of my ex-boyfriend in almost every way--who has stuck beside me through thick and thin, for both better and worse. I was still pretty broken-up when I met this new guy, but he patiently waited for me to come around, and now that I'm over it and have met the real man in my life I have no trouble laughing about the relationship that didn't work out. New Guy and I are happily married now, and each year is honestly better than the last.

In retrospect, I can clearly see all the waving, flashing red flags and stop signs that spelled out all the reasons why the ex was the wrong person for me. Sure, I got dumped, but I also got dumped on the doorstep of the wonderful, well-suited man I wasn't even looking for.

Take some deep breaths, grieve if you need to, but then move on with your own life. You don't need to run out to find a person to date, but enjoy the adventure of your own life and do the things that make you happy. Give yourself a shove to get out of the heartbreak rut if necessary. When you're ready, someone else will come along.
posted by anonnymoose at 12:50 PM on August 14, 2013 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all for your helpful answers... these have helped me feel a little less alone. It's encouraging to read about other people who've made it through tough times where their lives were turned upside down... All in due time, hopefully.
posted by dubhemerak3000 at 7:46 AM on August 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

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