About three months ago, the girl I’d been dating for about nine months dumped me. She said it was because of family stuff and the stress of that, but to be honest, I always felt more into her than she was with me. My best friend tells me she’s the “unattached pixie” type, so I feel like a total stereotype, like a guy that has just been had. I’m writing because despite knowing that, I can’t stop thinking about her. I can’t get over her. She was hot and fun and smart too. I’ve never been into a girl this much. It’s hard to imagine finding someone else like her. I know a lot of people say that you just need to fall for someone else, but that seems so irritating right now. Who even knows what would come of that? Any tips for moving on?
You are not pathetic. You’re grieving a loss. We’ve all been there. Well, many/most of us. And those who haven’t experienced this, haven’t lived. Okay, maybe not. But I do think there’s something about pining heartbreak that’s good for the soul, that forms one’s character. That might be the last thing you want to hear right now, but in destitute times, sometimes there’s comfort in knowing that.
But for now, you’re hurting, she hurt you, it hurts. There’s probably been a pine-y, heartbreak-y loop playing in your head for these last three months: images of sweeter times, hand-holding, sex-having, laughs between kisses, inside jokes, all that wonderful shit that now feels like happened in an ethereal dream world. Maybe you’re partial to sad songs, sad movies, cloudy days, and pizza with extra cheese and stuffed crust, with tacos for dessert. Maybe you’re comfortable there. Maybe you’re even starting to prefer it.
But they don’t call it the Heartbreak Apartment. It’s a hotel: you check in, you spend some time, and eventually, when you’ve sufficiently wallowed, you check out. Some (lots of) people treat it like an extended stay, one of those places with a kitchenette.
Pat, you’re three months out now. You’re getting antsy. I can tell because you’ve written to me. Now might be a good time to start to admit that you’re going to check out one day- you’re going to move on, despite the seeming impossibility of that thought. And while you’re taking a stab at admitting that, I also suggest admitting that maybe the relationship broke up because it was…broken. Consider that.
One time, seven years ago, I went to Machu Picchu. It was, as one might expect, epic. It evokes a reverence in people. I thought of my grandparents and uncle, who’d died years before and instilled a love of travel in me. I thought of my parents, over 6,000 miles away. But mostly I thought of one guy. I thought of him all over Peru, Costa Rica, and Mexico. I dreamt up fantasies of him showing up at my door in the Andes, professing his devotion to me, a girl he’d dated for like two minutes before she left to go teach abroad. (You can read more about that here and here.) He too was different. Before him, I’d fallen only a few times, briefly, keeping myself protected. I began to fear that I wasn’t going to ever really fall and that I wasn’t capable of real intimacy. I think the knowledge that I was leaving in a few months initially gave me a safety net. But I fell quick and I fell hard. An image of me free-falling out a window onto a car roof, leaving a human-shaped dent in it, kept coming to mind. Ultimately, it hurt.
It took me a long time to get over that guy. I felt pathetic too. Like, really fucking pathetic. Like I would never meet anyone as sexy or as smart of as funny as him. It took me a longer time to realize there were more reasons for that. He came into my life at one of my most vulnerable points; I was in flux, not yet adjusted, not yet more self-assured. I can see that clearly now. It took a weird winter coming home to his rejection and a summer where I slowly started to pack my bags and tidy up the kitchenette. It took an autumn in which I kinda dated an idiot for a minute. In between that stuff, I decided to take writing classes, I performed, I read more, worked out, went out, stayed busy. By the end of that year, I was putting out the vibes of a well-traveled and reasonably self-aware woman. Eventually, memories of Machu Picchu and a life-changing year were still clear and strong, but memories of that guy were fading. And then, I started dating a not-idiot.
It. Takes. Time.
Orbit outside of your life it and really look in at it. Be honest with yourself. But keep moving. Practice, as Anne Lamott says, “radical self-care”.
On a lighter note, I will leave you with a song. Part of my radical self-care was listening to this song, a staple from the Pretty Woman soundtrack, a LOT. I hope you have an appreciation for early 90’s keyboard pop.
You’ll get over her. I know you will.