I have broken up with the same person about four different times.
To be fair, we were never really dating. We stayed in the middle between friends and significant others for about two years. This kind of relationship works when both parties are happy being undefined, but I knew about a year into our “thing” that I wanted us to be an exclusive relationship and there was no way in hell he would ever commit. So I walked away from this hopeless situation again and again, but with limited success. Each time I was so totally done, I adopted a different tactic for moving on and it is only this last time that I have managed to get it right. So, here are a few words of advice about the trials of moving on from someone still in the midst of doing it.
Moving forwards is not the same as moving on. Moving on is the final stage, when you are truly okay with the relationship being over. However, this kind of nirvana takes time to reach, so start by simply moving forwards. As obvious as it may seem, moving on does not work when you are focused on trying to get back to the past. You cannot walk away hoping that he will have an epiphany and beg you to come back, because that is not really walking away at all. You have to accept that what is done is done; it has gone for good and whatever happens next is going to be different. You cannot recapture what you have lost and you cannot go on pretending everything will be the same again because it will not.
Moving forwards also means you cannot just throw yourself into work, alcohol, or other people to keep your mind from dealing with the fact that someone you used to know so entirely will now become a perfect stranger. You have to give yourself the chance to realise how awful the situation is before you can move towards being okay with it.
Trust me, I know that committing to walking away from someone when you still love them is probably one of the hardest things in the world to do. After our last breakup, I cut off contact with him entirely, because I knew how easy it was to swallow my pride and continue on being his friend like nothing had changed. I had given in before to the temptation of familiarity and had gone back to accepting less than I had deserved to avoid the daunting task of starting over. So this time, I let it all wash over me. I felt everything: relived every memory, replayed every conversation, and thought about all the plans I had for us this year. I cried, I went on walks, I wrote, I wallowed, and finally, I committed myself to the concept of moving forwards.
When it is ending, it feels like everything you know is collapsing around you, but eventually you realise that you have been wearing blinders and that there is a vast world out there to explore. You cannot forget that they did matter and probably still do, but you have to recognise that eventually, someone else will matter more and that ultimately, you yourself matter most of all.
You have to get back to remembering who you were before all of this happened. I dug up old books that I loved; listened to one of the first albums I ever bought on iTunes; and started writing my novel again. There was a before and there will be an after if you dedicate yourself to the concept of letting this one go.
The process is not an easy one: I have considered texting him a million times and I have screwed up and called him once or twice, just to hear his voice. My body has betrayed me many times, rebelliously craving his touch with every inch of my skin despite knowing how toxic he is to my wellbeing. But every time I waver, I remind myself that missing him is better than being with someone who does not love me.
It is painfully difficult to stay gone, but one day I will thank myself for being strong and taking the hard route towards eventual happiness. I cannot say that I have achieved that final stage and successfully moved on. But I can say that I will get there, with time, with patience, and with a lot of help from friends and wine. I will get there because I deserve it and because if the wrong thing was this damn incredible, imagine just how earth shattering the right thing will be.