In Response to The Ex Factor: Point|Counterpoint

They say there’s some equation that calculates the "acceptable" grieving period after a relationship ends…something like one month for every year you were together. I love that "they", whoever "THEY" are, that nebulous throng of miscreants that determines societal norms, can dictate what we (the opposite of "they", apparently) feel. Anyone besides me feel that this is starting to sound like an episode of "LOST" with "The Others"?

Anyway, that’s well documented. You date 3 years, you break up, and after 90 days you should wake up one day magically over the other person, rejuvinated after some anger and tears and "woe is me"-ness and voila! All is right with the world. Birds chirp around your head Cinderella-style and the sadness in your heart has vanished. YOU ARE MOVING ON.

Except you’re not. That concept is bullshit. I’ve gotten over some people I’ve dated for a LONG time in mere days while others, a relatively short-term relationship, took the same amount of time that we dated for me to finally stop wondering what they were doing when they clearly weren’t with me (nor wanting to be, for that matter.)

To make matters worse, advice runs rampant. My friend has put up a Wiki page to try and compile this; everyone has a different opinion on what you should do. Some people ride the hard line and say you should delete them from your life entirely; after all, they’re not into you even if at one time you were nearly overwhelmed by their affection. Others opt for the "time heals all wounds – and wounds all heels" sort of advice, acknowledging that it does take time. As for me? I fall somewhere in between because I don’t think there is any ONE way to get over someone.

But at some point you will. You will because basically, you just have to, because he’s not moving/you’re not moving/he’s never going to change/you’re not changing either/ he’s not falling back in love with you. That pie-in-the-sky solution that can make things go back to the way they were is NOT HAPPENING and you can’t change it. Because one day, it just gets to be too much, gets to be too tiring and it takes too much effort to continue down the "What if?" path, takes too much effort to just care anymore.

Nothing is ever as good as it was

And what’s good for your soul

Will be bad on your nerves if you reverse it
– Jenny Lewis, Melt Your Heart

Until then, whenever that day comes, it’s not easy. You can’t will it to happen – try as you might – can’t wake up one day and say "Today is the day I am getting over John." Sure, there are things you can do to help that day come sooner – perhaps stop bringing him up in nearly every conversation as a way to remember and validate that there once was an "us", that he once did play a significant role in your life, a way to numb the pain resulting from the fact that those days have passed. You can take down pictures, delete his number from your phone, try to distance yourself from him. You can tell yourself and your friends how much better you are without him – You can wear heels now! You have the whole bed to yourself to stretch out! No more boring conversations about legal jargon you don’t quite understand nor could care less about – wahoo! But, like any habit, it’s hard, it takes an active effort, takes patience and strength for it to finally abate. But that’s just your body, your actions; your heart is on a different trajectory.

We sometimes have a hard time letting ourselves get over something, letting ourselves move on, because of the things that remain unsaid. I’d guess that few breakups actually provide you with the closure you need, at least at the onset, thus leaving you both unsettled and often times wondering ‘why?’ At this point, as much as it sounds harsh and cold and caustic and unfeeling, it doesn’t matter. I know, I know, it DOES matter to you – but it doesn’t matter in the healing process; if anything, it’s hurting you. And at this point, it’s time to be selfish, to just go with the details (IT’S OVER) instead of the reasons why. For all you know, he got The Ick™, he met someone else, he’s still in love with his ex or maybe he realized he’s gay. I’ll say it again: IT DOESN’T MATTER, the end result is the same. IT’S OVER.

I think it all may come down to desire and intention; both yours and his. This can be the biggest barrier because while you SAY you want to be over it, a part of you doesn’t really; it’s your subconscious grasping onto that feeling you had when things were good and continuing to associate it with that person. You may believe – really, truly believe – that you’re ready to move on, but in doing so you have to honestly admit that it is over. DONE. FINISHED. Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200, and do NOT, never ever ever, allow yourself for one second to think that there is any chance of getting back together. Until you can say that with 100% unequivocal confidence, you’re not going to be over the other person. The problem here is that you may – secretly or not so secretly – WANT to be over them because there’s some bizarre part of you that thinks that it could somehow work out. Again, until you’re ready to make this break, you’re not getting over him.

The other person can easily play a role in this as well; for all of us, attention is flattering. And as long as your ex isn’t acting crazy, doing stupid things like trying to make you intentionally jealous by hooking up with all of your friends, it’s still somewhat comforting and flattering to know that they still have feelings for you. If you, as the instigator of the breakup, are really certain you’re over it and positive that you’ve made the right decision, let them go. Let them move onto someone else and you go get your attention elsewhere in good conscience. You may not even know you’re doing it, but when you act the same way – even occasionally – as you did when you were together (and this includes flirting with them while drunk even if THEY are being flirty themselves) you’re sending mixed messages. Stop calling them. No more texts – even snarky mean ones. Birthdays, as hard as it may be, are off limits. Basically, if it’s over, let it be over. Let them go and move on…otherwise, neither of you are truly going anywhere.

So what’s the answer here? I don’t have it. You probably don’t have it. But suffice it to say that it’s not cut and dried, that time does help, that (some) distance does help, that even the old raunchy saying that "the only way to get over someone is to get under someone new" can sometimes help. So until they invent a breakup pill (or "Eternal Sunshine" becomes a reality) hold steady on the course, and join me for happy hour. At the very least, we’ll leave with a good story or two.

2 thoughts on “In Response to The Ex Factor: Point|Counterpoint

  1. Nicely written – no two post mortems are alike; I’ve had them last twice as long as the actual relationship (pitiful) and about five seconds (also pitiful in its own way).

  2. I’ve heard of that “month per year” thing, but not as an “equation” but just as a “rule of thumb.” Not supposed to dictate anything, but just give you a rough idea of what to expect. Useful, cuz most people expect the grieving process not to take as long as it actually does.
    But damn, I sure hope it doesn’t take 8 months.

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