The One that got away.
February 17, 2006 11:01 AM   Subscribe

How do I get over The One that got away? She's moving on and I'm not.

A very long term friendship w/ strong elements of unrequited love eventually turned into a relationship which then ended for reasons I've given up trying to understand. She's over it and moving on but three years later I am most definately not over it and I am destroying my inner life over the matter. Intellectually I know i have to let go and move on but I have made no progress whatsoever. I am at the point where I have started to realize the extent of my problem and have begun to seek some outside professional help by looking for a therapist or psychologist but have yet to find somebody with whom I am comfortable. I suppose I'm asking for your related experiences, books to read, or anything that may be of use to keep me occupied while I search for professional help. I have a close friend who I have talked to who has been great but there is a limit to what I think I should expect in terms from their commiseration.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Nothing goes away if you dwell on it. The best way to move on is to start dating. After seeing a few other people, it should help to put an emotional distance with people in your past.
posted by JJ86 at 11:09 AM on February 17, 2006

You may never fully put it behind you. Even when you've moved on with your life and married and had children and found a new job and new hobbies, you may still think about her from time to time. She might still show up in your dreams. The only comfort I can offer in that fact is that we become who we are through the totality of our experience, and you may learn to appreciate the pain.

The best solution that will come is when you realize the truth and wisdom in the saying, "Take one day at a time." Repeating it over and over won't help, and I don't think reading it here will make anything click. What'll happen is that some day, you'll suddenly realize that's what you've been doing: taking each day as it comes. I don't think it's a lesson you can "jolt" yourself into learning; it will happen without your knowing, and you'll only recognize it in hindsight.

In the meantime, the best advice you'll receive is to keep busy. Find a job that gives you 60+ hours a week. Immerse yourself in hobbies. If you can, date. Keep busy. And good luck.

If you're young, you probably feel like your experience is unique. You'll come to realize it's not. If you feel like shelving your anonymity, I imagine many respondents below would be glad to talk via email. You'll be surprised how many have been in your shoes.
posted by cribcage at 11:19 AM on February 17, 2006 [2 favorites]

As JJ86 said, you'll need to find somebody else to displace the first person in your heart. Easier said than done, of course. Your situation happened to me, but deliberately trying to find someone to love was dreadful.

YMMV, but I found love when I wasn't actively looking for it - I started out being friends with Future Hubby and it just got better from there. I thought we were in the Friend Zone, he announced he loved me, and after I picked my jaw up off the floor, I thought "Well, maybe ... why not ... nice guy ... nobody else in the running ... OK, I'm open to the idea ... " and eventually decided I loved him too. (So here's a testimonial that the Friend Zone is not permanent and fatal to romance!)

On preview, I find that my experience differs a bit from cribcage's. I rarely think about First Guy, and when I do there's no emotion attached any more - he's just part of my history like high school, college, etc. I've fully put him behind me, but again YMMV. Good luck!
posted by Quietgal at 11:22 AM on February 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

Three years is a long time to grieve anything, unless grieving is all you are doing. Grief can become obsessive, perhaps because it can be a way of hanging on to something or someone lost. Problem is, as you are discovering, when you hang on to what's lost, the effort that costs you keeps you from living any other, maybe happier, life.

I don't know that you need a therapist with whom you are completely comfortable. You may need someone to help you get uncomfortable, and to manage some medications with you for a while. Reading, extended looking for help, and commiserating can all be seen, after 3 years, as further displacement activities, helping you avoid ending your grieving, and putting away your past relationship. Find a licensed shrink, explain the problem as you have here, answer what questions they may ask, take any meds prescribed, and go to therapy sessions as suggested or directed. It may be a much shorter process than you envision.

And try making a new friend, to whom you say nothing about The One, for the next five years.
posted by paulsc at 11:33 AM on February 17, 2006

Keep busy, remember that you will not feel this bad forever, let yourself feel how you feel and don't fight it.

Now's not the time to start dating someone else. Enjoy being alone.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 11:35 AM on February 17, 2006

Are you still in contact with her? If yes, stop immediately - no calls, emails, texts, no asking friends how she is doing.

Ask yourself if you are avoiding seeing a therapist because you don't yet want for this to be over. (As an aside, you are probably not going to be perfectly comfortable with *any* therapist the first time you see him or her.) Are you gaining something by not being done with this yet? Is it a good reason not to date or fully live your life?

I would say go to a book store or a library and see what strikes you - you may find something resonates with you in a way that you did not expect.
posted by KAS at 11:46 AM on February 17, 2006

Knowing that she is moving on is probably (and hurtfully) the best thing that is happening to you right now, because you are removing any hope of getting back together. I've seen people respond in various ways on similar situations. It took me 5 years before starting to hope I will get over it. Still there is occasionally a 'what if' or a 'why' lingering in my thoughts and feelings but new loves and new interests, new circle of friends, a new environment has really helped me move on. But it is ok, past experiences teach us something, don't they? Things we did wrong, things we misunderstood, things we were not asking for. And in light of this new knowledge we "grow" and do things better of just differently...

One suggestion that might help you is to try to keep yourself away from her as much as possible for as long as you need. Try to avoid hearing about her or bumping into her. When someone suggested that to me, I thought it was cruel and impossible but it ended up being neither, just helpful.

Good luck.
posted by carmina at 11:46 AM on February 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

I haven't had The One; I've had The Two (First One at age 18; Second One at age 31). They were both very different types of relationships, but they both had very special characteristics in common that not only kept me grieving their loss for several years but also -- and this, for me, was key -- idealizing them and what their presence in my life met. To boil it down, I essentially thought of each of them as so incomparably brilliant/creative/romantic/handsome/just-shy-of-perfect in a way that cast them as my only path to happiness in my life.

This meant I needed to do two basic things to finally get past them: 1) see them as just regular, human-sized guys who possessed great and not-so-great qualities, and 2) understand that my life can and will be filled with happiness, creativity, etc. based on who I am and what I do with my life, not on my partners. Both of these factors really helped finally break the "spell" of both relationships.
posted by scody at 11:53 AM on February 17, 2006 [8 favorites]

and oh yeah, as others have said, I still have certain lingering affections/fondness/wistfulness for both of them, as you may have for your One, anon. They were men who I loved very deeply, and who had incredible significance in my life. I'm not in love with either of them any more (though I'm certainly friends with both of them), but I will indeed always have a special little corner of my heart for each of them.
posted by scody at 11:56 AM on February 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

Good lord, take KAS' advice. No contact whatsoever. Inform her if you must, but make that the last time and don't cheat.

Three years is too long. Time to stage an intervention for yourself. Make the tough choices and get your life back.
posted by samh23 at 11:59 AM on February 17, 2006

Realize that she's not The One That Got Away. She was practice. Now, when you finally meet the love of your life, you'll have the experience necessary to make it work.
posted by jrossi4r at 1:27 PM on February 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

Its likely that you are avoiding some other problem. Once you figure out what that problem is, the thoughts about the "one" will go away.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:14 PM on February 17, 2006

When I read your post, I immediately wondered if (as Ironmouth said) you might be unhappy in general, or unhappy about something else. A depression, for example, would make it much harder to get over a heartbreak. How are you doing at work, with friends, and in other aspects of life?
posted by wryly at 2:27 PM on February 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

Treat her like a cocane habbit. I had one of these ... and every time we communicate I hurt myself. I wish I had a simple answer - but displacement (just do other stuff) and every time I think of her I force myself to think of something else. These days, I assosiate her with pain - my own caused pain.

There are others like you. The void, the lost of meaning, the lost of a soul mate - time, and I really wish you the best.

Go well ...
posted by bright77blue at 2:29 PM on February 17, 2006

Maybe she isn't really over you. It is possible that she is still pining for you and you should do your best to find out if this is true. Her social life should offer more than enough hints about her feelings, so you should try to find out what she does on her free time. (Also, if she is watching sad movies or perhaps listening to your song, she might still be in love with you.) Perhaps the most unfortunate thign would be for her to end up with someone she does not really love, so you should probably try to prevent this from happening while you appraise her feelings.
posted by insomnus at 2:44 PM on February 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

I kept reading down wondering if anyone would think maybe it was she that isn't really over him and him knows it. Then insomnus came along.
posted by oh posey at 5:29 PM on February 17, 2006

I've been in the same place as you, Anon, though not for three years. Despite what you may think, you have made progress, but you've still got a ways to go, brother. Set yourself a deadline for finding a therapist; you've done as much as you can by yourself, but if you are capable of looking at your situation objectively but still can't get past it, it's time for help.

Seconding, thirding, and fourthing the suggestions of keeping busy. Get out there, get busy - get away from yourself for a while by doing something fun and constructive. It's a healthy way to keep the demons away, to reaffirm your self-worth, to build a stronger you. You'll find that what began as a diversion or distraction often becomes something bigger and leads to the wonderfully unexpected. Don't be afraid to start putting that potential and energy you've been hoarding for the last three years to work.

I'm going to have to disagree with some of what bright77blue said, and all of what insomnus said; the addiction thing works up to a point, but to end up resenting her will just begin another negative cycle, and to entertain thoughts of what if/maybe/could be again isn't going to help you now.
She was not The One, she was One.
There will be others.

My e-mail's in my profile; I know you did Anon. for a reason, but if you feel like talking to someone in the same boat - and I'm honestly not as hippy-dippy touchy-feely as this response makes me seem - it's there.
Take care of yourself.

posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:04 PM on February 17, 2006

I'm the original poster. I guess mefi can always use another $5. I do sincerely appreciate all of your comments. It's obvious to me that some of you do have a certain sympathy for the situation. I wanted to follow up with a few thoughts.

She's made it very clear that it is over and, regardless of any internal reservations she may or may not have, I believe I have to respect and accept her word.

I can appreciate the expediency of the "no contact" suggestion but I find this to be wholly unacceptable. I consider her to be a true, lifelong friend (going on 15 years now) and I simply don't feel it is right to discard a friend permanently when they don't meet your expectations. This isn't purely naive idealism; I did it once in another situation and have regretted it ever since. I believe I have to transcend this, not merely cut my losses.

Perhaps I should point out that I've only been seeking a therapist for a couple weeks now, not the entire three years. I'm pursuing this now as I suppose it took this long to recognize the pattern of periodically falling off a cliff and the expectation that there are even more difficult times ahead. I have indeed been keeping myself busy but find that the sum effect is temporary distraction and when I stop for a minute it rushes back and overwhelms me. I do indeed have my own problems, many and varied as they are, but I also I find it somewhat morbidly fascinating how this aspect of my life seems to amplify and transform the issues that always seemed to be background static in my mind.

I do find it difficult to meet people casually and at least initially I wonder if it would be right to try and get involved with someone else when I have something of this magnitude boiling inside. I certainly don't want to cause new pain to anyone else.

My email is in this profile now so I'll extend the offer indefinately to talk offline should anyone stumbling across this thread care to do so. Thank you all.
posted by cowboysong at 9:59 AM on February 18, 2006

You may not want to discard a friend who has not met your expectations, but that isn't the case here. The issue is that having her in your life is harming you. Not because she's a bad person, but because you can't get over her. At the very least you should take a long hiatus (on the order of 6 months) from seeing or talking to her. It may seem distasteful, but if you want to get over her, you need to get her out of your mind. You should separate and try to do other things/date other people. Any therapist should be telling you the same thing. It isn't that you've got a problem within yourself, it's that you've got one in your life. You need to change you life in order to change the problem. This is not to say that you will like making the changes, but you have a goal in mind that should supercede whether you like or dislike some of the things you have to do to get there.
posted by OmieWise at 11:50 AM on February 21, 2006

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