Dear Capitan Awkward,
How do you get over someone?
OH MY GOD I JUST REALIZED it’s been SEVEN years since this whole story started and I am SO OVER FEELING THIS WAY.
ok. so SEVEN years ago I started dating someone (X) who had just gotten out of a relationship with (Y). It was just after I moved to a new town where i knew no one, so dating was exciting and lovely and I fell for this person in a real way. Forever Feelings For The First Time. Our relationship moved fast, and we were in a committed and L-word relationship four months in when X dumped me to get back together with Y.
THE STORY SHOULD HAVE ENDED THERE.
what transpired next was TWO YEARS of deep conversations and feelings and negotiations between X, Y and myself. X & I tried being friends & ended up sleeping together multiple times. X tried dating both Y and I at the same time. Y was heartbroken and unwilling and felt cheated on (BECAUSE SHE WAS) and X felt torn and everyone was deeply unhappy.
in those two years, my main support was my new friend Z. Z was a sounding board, late night cheerleader, and advice dispenser. two weeks after introducing X and Z to each other, they fell in love, Y and I were unceremoniously dumped, again, and X & Z moved in together. it was shitty. it was shitty and the worst part is that i felt like i had asked for it, and that I was making terrible decisions, and that i was behaving like the worst of myself. Z tried to maintain a friendship with me while X went back and forth from writing long, dramatic emails to no contact whatsoever. I finally couldn’t handle it anymore and cut both of them out of my life, a decision that affected all our mutual friends and led me to move (not very far) away.
Four years later, I’ve deleted every long-winded email from either of them and avoided seeing them at parties and our friends have (mostly) stopped updating me on their lives.
I am in a two-plus year long relationship with The One (A). A is marvelous, the love of my life, the real deal, the butter on my bread. I’m happy, and successful, and making plans for a future, and would be devastated if anything happened to endanger that.
so why when i do hear news about X and Z that I go immediately to that old place of anxiety and helplessness? How do I get over this feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever i hear either of their names? How do I stop googling them late at night? this is all coming up for me right now because I heard through mutual friends that Z is pregnant. And i want more than anything for that to be No Big Deal.
I need a spell. Or a pill. Or something. I cannot live the rest of my life under the shadow of a failed relationship. Ugh.
Dear Over It:
Your letter reminded me of two movies. The first is Young Adult, where finding out that her ex has had a baby is the inciting incident for the main character to return home and try to wreck everything. The news sets off a time bomb of old unresolved feelings and she handles them very, very badly. It’s a cringeingly awkward movie and Charlize Theron is amazing in it. Side note #1: There is a scene that breaks my heart where Mavis tries to tell her family that she might be an alcoholic – this is a huge understatement – and they breeze right past it. I think this happens to so many people when they try to break the news to loved ones about illness, especially mental illness. Side note #2: This movie will provide no emotional payoff or satisfying resolution. It’s all Uncomfortable Middle. But watch it and then congratulate yourself: You’re not going to do any of the things she does.
The second movie your letter reminds me of is Closer, where I want to yell at all the characters that “There are more than 4 people in London. FIND THE OTHERS AND DATE THEM instead of making each other miserable in your horrible emotional feedback loops!” So you might watch that and find it cathartic, in that it used to be you, and then you broke out of the feedback loop.
It comes up over and over here that closure isn’t something other people give you – it’s something that you decide to give yourself. I’m going to straight-up channel my therapist when I say this, but is there a way you can be gentle with yourself around this?
Can you forgive yourself for being weirded out by news of the pregnancy? I can totally see why it’s one of those weird things that catches the mind and holds it. Some things trigger surprise emotional time travel.
Can you forgive yourself for not knowing everything about how things would turn out back when you were first involved with these people, and for going where your heart/pants told you to go? Being loyal and optimistic and whole-hearted and in love are good things about you, even if they felt like a “kick me” sign on your forehead at the time.
I know we said the other day that therapy is not transitive, but the other thing my therapist taught me is that it’s wicked hard to process a feeling when you’re simultaneously beating yourself up for having the feeling in the first place. It takes twice as long or longer to get over it because it’s always eclipsed by your Jerkbrain using it as an excuse to be mean.
So maybe the ritual for you goes like this:
1. Give yourself a defined time, like this weekend, to fully feel weirded out by the news that Z is pregnant. Go read your old diaries, Google them, call up all the memories, and dig fully into it. Use a journal and write down every single thing you’re feeling. Write them a long letter and fully lay out how they hurt you and how weird and upset you feel right now, and then light the letter on fire or put it through a shredder or bury it in your garden. Do everything short of actually contacting them.
2. Sunday night or Monday, decide to be done with it forever. Block them on all social media if you haven’t already. Hide the feeds of anyone who is still in contact with them (they won’t know and it won’t matter). Insulate yourself from the topic coming up acccidentally, in other words. If you find yourself thinking about them, have the thought or feeling and then say “Self, okay, sure, but I’m done with that” and try to change the subject on your brain. Visualize yourself physically zapping the thoughts where they pop up, shooting them out of the sky like in a video game.
3. Be really nice to yourself. Watch your caffeine and alcohol intake. Take naps. Read or watch good, comforting things. Eat good food. Take one of those “I have exposed an entire new layer of skin from head-to-toe” baths or showers. Hug people you like. I know that seems so basic that it’s ridiculous, but it’s actually a Life Skill to say “I’m feeling a little fragile right now” and building in self-care and recuperation.
That’s the best I can offer. You’ve done the rest yourself by having an awesome life with someone who loves you the way you deserve.