"Our love is like Jesus, but worse/Though we sealed the tomb up where we laid its body, it rises"
June 23, 2008 8:37 AM   Subscribe

How do you let go of love?

I mean, just time helps, obviously, but do you have any particular tricks to jolt yourself out of that state of mind where you're reliving the good things and missing what you don't have anymore? For an added level of difficulty, this is a relationship that you don't really have any bad memories of, so you can't use those to change the direction of your thoughts.

I suppose this question doesn't even have to be relationship-specific, because it could apply to a number of other things. You had something fantastic. It's gone now and not coming back. How do you keep from getting mired in regret?
posted by MsMolly to Human Relations (32 answers total) 64 users marked this as a favorite
Man, I'm sorry you are going through this. And the only way is through it.

You let go of it by creating new memories that are even better and having new experiences that stimulate you and fulfill you. These do not have to be, and are better if they aren't, romantic experiences. Get involved in your community, take classes, travel, hang with your friends, and focus on "dating" yourself. Treat yourself the way you'd want a luvah to treat you. It may be rote at first, but taking care of yourself and focusing on having new and interesting experiences will eventually take you to a place where you look around and realize you haven't thought of your (former) love in quite a while!

I know it is hard when you are hurting. Good luck.
posted by Punctual at 8:57 AM on June 23, 2008 [3 favorites]

Go find more fantastic things.
posted by mpls2 at 8:57 AM on June 23, 2008

Distraction. Good books, trashy books. Good movies, bad movies. Working out hard. Task projects. Alternate these things with being in the moment, enjoying where you are and what you're doing. I'm guessing the You in that relationship would want you to do that: be where you are and love that.
posted by dog food sugar at 8:57 AM on June 23, 2008

Looking towards the future often helps me. Sometimes it's in the form of daydreaming about a similar situation which is just different enough to separate it from what I'm pining after. Other times, I focus on making plans for something totally unrelated, whether it's something as small as a trip or as huge as a major life change. Distracting myself with other people's needs can help, too. Sometimes, however, I just need to be with my regret and give myself permission to be sad and wistful and grieve for whatever is gone. It can be a slippery slope from healthy grieving to destructive wallowing, but that's where the distractions mentioned above come in, I suppose. Hope this helps.
posted by katemcd at 9:04 AM on June 23, 2008

Nice Mountain Goats reference in the title.

As for getting over love, something not necessarily relationship related, I've always been an advocate of doing something really stupid, screwing up really bad, and then settling back into reality after all of the pieces fall. Sounds stupid, but there is something to be said for one night stands, shopping sprees, and eating an entire gallon of ice cream.
posted by banannafish at 9:08 AM on June 23, 2008

Best answer: I'm sorry you're feling poorly. I go through a bunch of stages really, the major one of which is really that it's okay to still love someone, what you're mostly getting used to is not being loved back. That is, it's okay to love someone who doesn't love you and give your feelings time to naturally ease off of their own accord (not just force an "okay I don't love this person anymore" feeling on yourself) you just need to be clear that 1. your love isn't reciprocated 2. feelings are not actions. it's okay to feel whatever you want, just act appropriately. This works okay whether the person is your ex or someone recently deceased.

So besides being generally busy, I try to keep a few things straight.

- love is not sex - getting laid can help you remember that you're still sexy and there are other fish in the sea. self-love, likewise. Don't hang your whole sexual identity around one person
- love is not companionship - get other people in your life to spend time with you and even go to couple-y things with you if you don't like to be alone. It's okay to take a pal to a friend's wedding, it's okay to take a friend visiting your parents
- love is not medicine - sometimes it's easy to make feeling strongly about another person keep you from attenting to yourself and the absence of that feeling can be a vacuum to bad feelings about yourself. realize this effect, try to mitigate it with good treatment of yourself.
- love is not only to/from The One - there are other people who love you and who you love, most likely, reconnect with them and get a little love sent your way, even if it's friendly love or even the love of a good gerbil.
- love goes out as well as in - find other things to love in your life and it will help make you not feel like a bottled up love thermos waiting for another person to be poured into. Go love the river, or a pet, or a family member, or your local mailman, or whatever. Letting it out is a good way to practice and be ready for it to come back in as well.

And, as people have said, it's totally okay to grieve and think "this sucks" and to not like it at all. Just don't let those feelings stangnate you and keep you from living the rest of your life, try to channel that good and bad energy into doing something that makes you feel good and hopefully something that's good for you.
posted by jessamyn at 9:23 AM on June 23, 2008 [126 favorites]

I like to put all the memories in a specific memorable room, and then fill it with timer sand. It lets you mope a little bit while also kind of "burying" all the nasty memories.
posted by shownomercy at 9:24 AM on June 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ugh, I'm sorry you're dealing with this. It's so hard. Two things I have to say about your situation.

1) Time heals all wounds and so you're just going to be waiting this hurt out, and it may be a while.

2) Get busy and saty busy. Take up another job (on that you like) or start a hobby. When you're busy, time flies (see #1).
posted by wmeredith at 9:24 AM on June 23, 2008

Been here before. The cure for me was throwing myself into hobbies and trying new things. Also start working out if you don't already. This is my best advice. I have trouble thinking about anything more than breathing when I'm running. It's nice to get out of your own head in a time like this.

The crappy news is that you will still have to go through the process of getting over a love. It's never easy and it just takes time.

I couldn't tell if you were referring to a break-up or possibly a death, but if it's a break-up there is one thing you should NOT do. Do NOT talk to that person for a long time. It only puts you back at square one if you do.
posted by smeater44 at 9:50 AM on June 23, 2008

Work on yourself as much as you can. Activities include working out, meeting other people, working on facets of yourself that wish could be better. If you must think about the relationship try to understand exactly why it fail and please write it down somewhere this way you stop fantasizing about it. Realize that everything in the past will always look better than your present, is ok to take some time to reflect but dont do it too much. Good luck!
posted by The1andonly at 9:50 AM on June 23, 2008

Heh, I know a trick, and it only takes 2 days or so. Use it with care, because it's very powerful.

What you do is that you imagine a set of scenarios where the person will destroy you. For example, becuase of love, you give up your job and become a lonely housewife that kills herself after years of suffering. Everytime you think of this person, force different bad scenarios into your mind. After a few days, your mind will unconsiously associate this person with negative things, and the love will stop bothering you.
posted by ChabonJabon at 10:28 AM on June 23, 2008 [7 favorites]

How do you keep from getting mired in regret?

Sometimes it helps to name things. The emotion of loss is sadness, you can feel that without regret.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:34 AM on June 23, 2008

To paraphrase a buddhist metaphor, you wear it out like the sole of a shoe.

This means not escaping the crappy feelings you are having--acknowledging that you do feel crappy, allowing yourself to feel crappy, but also acknowledging that you can get through feeling crappy.

Don't fight the crap. Accept it for what it is, and it will fade.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:48 AM on June 23, 2008 [5 favorites]

I'm with 23skidoo. The "get out and do new things"/"work out a lot" advice that is standard to these types of questions is about reminding yourself that you can feel great outside of this fantastic thing you had. This isn't limited to love either; it's a way to mourn the loss of anything. Expanding your horizons physically is also to do the same, emotionally.

It's also critical to remember that you shouldn't regret actually feeling the way you do. Owning these feelings is a part of the process, so accept and live in the fact that you are sad, that things were great, that this part of your life is likely to never return. Luckily for you, there are many things and people out there who can recreate these feelings (and more!) for you, so when you're ready, they're waiting for you. Avoiding these opportunities to feel good about yourself is the only thing worth regretting here, but you'll get to them when you're good and ready. The sooner, the better.

Best of luck. Things will get better.
posted by littlelebowskiurbanachiever at 11:01 AM on June 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

This'll sound depressing, but sometimes I think about death and the crazy turns of life. There's nothing that guarantees that even if you did everything right, both you and romantic interest would have the life you thought of. Either of you could have been killed in a car wreck in a year, or contracted meningitis and left with half your mental faculties, or any number of tragedies could have robbed you of the time you're mourning now. The truth seems to be that everything is fleeting. There is a terrible side to this, but a freeing one as well, one that turns even limited time with someone special into a gift.
posted by namespan at 11:03 AM on June 23, 2008

any particular tricks to jolt yourself out of that state of mind where you're reliving the good things and missing what you don't have anymore?

Sure: Relive the bad things, and be grateful that they're gone. (Don't get obsessed and vindictive, though; just aim for the realization that maybe it wasn't the perfect fairytale you thought it was.)

As for regret: If there's something you wished you'd done differently, just, you know, do it differently next time around.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:28 AM on June 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Part of what you're going through is physical withdrawal from oxytocin. Understanding that helps put the bad feelings in perspective -- you're in withdrawal, so you feel crappy, but it will get better with time, and try not to prolong the experience by doing anything that will reinforce your addiction (seeing the person, pursuing stimulus that reminds you of them, obsessing about them, etc.).

Distracting yourself helps this period subjectively seem to go faster. Now is a great time to Netflix that really absorbing TV series you heard recommended so many times but never got around to watching when it was originally on.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:45 PM on June 23, 2008 [3 favorites]

Time, distraction, and facing it instead of hiding from it. That's about all.
posted by davejay at 2:06 PM on June 23, 2008

(note those last two are not contradictory; take some time to face it, and take some time to distract yourself from it.)
posted by davejay at 2:06 PM on June 23, 2008

Spend the extra bucks for good whiskey. I'm not kidding. Whiskey warms the cold heart, distracts the overactive memory, and is a renowned social lubricant. Courage and hope for better tomorrows in a bottle, put up for you 12, 15, 18 or 25 years ago, by forward thinking people who knew you might need it, now.
posted by paulsc at 3:52 PM on June 23, 2008 [12 favorites]

Time, certainly. But meditation helped me as well. I got to the point where I realised that dwelling on the past wasn't a way to live and sought out ways to clear my mind. Meditation was it. After a little while of doing that, I started to feel better about my life as a single person, which led to a more positive attitude and that in turn led to the ultimate way to forget past love; finding new love. And then getting engaged to that person (marriage is on 3rd October next year).
posted by Effigy2000 at 5:12 PM on June 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Try video games, or a good book. Just distract yourself and take your mind off what's bothering you. It's not like you have a certain set a mount of pain to deal with, the more you defer it, the less it will bother you.
posted by delmoi at 5:34 PM on June 23, 2008

Best answer: For me, the first step is what Ironmouth said: Don't fight the crap. Accept it for what it is, and it will fade. Just let it be what it is. There's a fine line between feeling sorry for myself (which doesn't help at all) and just acknowledging what's going on and being compassionate about it while encouraging myself to do the best I can given how bad I'm feeling (which does help).

Another step that often helps me is to try to take what I love about that person into myself. It helps if I realize that part of the love was about who I felt like I was around them, or who I was becoming. I identify what direction they pulled me in and remind myself I can do those things on my own. "I loved how we were always just enjoying life. I never take the time to do that. Hmm... Maybe Coworker Suzy would have lunch picnics in the park with me." "I always felt so secure, knowing someone had all the practical skills he had. Hmm... maybe I should buy that home repair book and some tools." (This can be a long list.)

The other thing is to remind myself that memory is physical. It's in the cells of my body. When I feel happy and think of the person, it's natural, pavlovian even. I might've spent a lot of time with that person being happy. But by physically doing new things, I'm creating new associations and new memories. It's a lot easier to control your body than your mind, so don't worry too much about what's going on in your head, but focus on getting out and doing something else for a while, even if it's kind of hard there at the start.
posted by salvia at 9:13 PM on June 23, 2008 [16 favorites]

I hope to never lose the feelings and memories of my prior loves.

I have often said that once I love someone, I will love them forever. Just sometimes you realize that loving someone is not always sufficient for a successful relationship.

I would never want to forget that person, what they meant to me, and what we shared together. I don't know how you would even go about it.

Put another way, I think if you could force your feelings to subside, then you never really loved them in the first place.

And as someone said above, nostalgia and fond memories are not the same thing as regret.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:13 PM on June 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Love that is gone is still love, only crystallized. It's shiny and it's unchanging. Put it on a pedestal and admire it. It is not lost, it is forever. In your heart, shout the beauty of this love to the universe. Fill your heart with it. Wish love on everyone else and everything else. Be awash in this love. Become love.

But it is static. It is compressed. Having loved, you are better for that. Your capacity for love is not diminished, but enhanced. Let it become a light, shining on your path towards new love.

Sorry if this is all too poetic, but what better way to handle emotion?
posted by Goofyy at 12:07 AM on June 24, 2008 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks guys. It was the first time in a long time I had really been in love with someone enough that I could see us together happily far into the future, and it was a real shock to find out that he didn't feel the same way. A lot of the advice is good, but stuff I already know (keep busy, exercise, distract yourself, etc.), so I marked as best answers things that can help me look at this from a different angle. I really liked jessamyn's imagery of not being "a bottled up love thermos waiting for another person to be poured into". And thinking of some of this in terms of physical withdrawal, like Jacqueline suggested, is helpful as well. And salvia definitely hit on something I hadn't thought about. I love him in part because of the way I was when I was with him, so it makes sense to work on incorporating those things into myself.
posted by MsMolly at 9:44 AM on June 24, 2008 [3 favorites]

is that quote in the subject of this ask from something? please jog my memory...
posted by slagerst at 8:13 AM on June 25, 2008

Response by poster: It's from Going to Marrakesh, by the Extra Glenns, a side project of John Darnielle from The Mountain Goats.
posted by MsMolly at 9:39 AM on June 25, 2008

I don't know if you're old enough to know that it will go away eventually, but that is the #1 thing that has comforted me in the past 10 years.

It is really, truly only time. And the people who say "immerse yourself in other activities" - well, yeah, sometimes that works, but sometimes you just don't want to. People who love you wil tell you when you are wallowing in it too much, and when you have to get out even if you don't want to go out and pout the entire time.

It is okay to mourn. It is okay to be really, really sad. It is okay to let yourself be miserable.

Everyone reacts differently, so don't let your mom/older sister/neighbor tell you to pull yourself out of it before you're ready. Some people are fine and cheerful and process on the inside. Other people need the deep, heavy mourning. Don't beat yourself up for your reaction, whatever it is, because it's about YOUR FEELINGS. You are allowed to have whatever feelings about this you like.
posted by micawber at 2:34 PM on June 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you've already gone through the hardest part - accepting what's happened and that it's over. Keep telling yourself that this is the rough part - and that someday you'll be able to look back on it, that this will pass. It will never be completely over in some ways - pain might linger - but it will hurt a bit less.

As far as day to day - keep busy, do little things you enjoy. It's a great time to focus on anything creative - if you're into a form or arts, crafts, etc. it's time to see what you can create - or perhaps learn something new. Painting, writing, a musical instrument - pick up something and play with it. You don't have to paint the next masterpiece - just find a way to enjoy something. You can either use it to forget by focusing on the work and excluding all else - or to focus and express how you're really feeling now. I've known both ways to work.

Lots of other good advice here.
Mostly just wanted to hop in and say hang in there, you'll get through this.
posted by batgrlHG at 4:32 PM on July 2, 2008

I don't have any wise advice. I just wanted to say I'm dealing with this *exact* same thing right now. I saw her for the last time yesterday and I've been feeling so sad since then. One thing I keep reminding myself of is that previous women I've liked/loved who ended up leaving/dumping me and where I felt really bad at the time... those women have almost no emotional resonance for me now. I can think back on those relationships mostly objectively and without any anger or sadness. So, I just keep thinking, eventually it will be that way with this latest one too, given enough time and distance (real physical distance; we worked together at the same company). Good luck!
posted by wastelands at 9:24 PM on July 4, 2008

For the record, I am going to write Jessamyn's comment on my mirror because I'm going through this exact same thing right now.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:44 AM on August 26, 2008

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