Hump Day Crush: The One That Got Away

Everyone has at least one. That oh-so-special other that was with you in the perfect relationship until you screwed up and they bolted, changed their number, and/or took out a restraining order.

OK, maybe it didn’t end that badly. Sometimes it’s just circumstances or distance that get in the way. But it ended. And every now and then you get drawn into the “what if” and “if only” games.

What if we’d worked harder on the relationship? What if I hadn’t had to move for work? What if college hadn’t ended? If only I had called more often. If only I hadn’t cheated. If only I hadn’t killed that stripper in Vegas… Well, you get the idea.

It’s one of those games we all play when we’re bored and lonely. That person is the one by which we measure our other partners. That relationship–or, rather, the relationship that we think could have been–is the yardstick we use to measure others.

She’s the one the got away and we still think it could have worked.

We’re all wrong.

Relationships come and go. That’s the nature of things. They bloom, flourish and die on a regular basis. This is especially true of most of the romantic relationships you’ll have in your life. They run their course and they end. It may not be the end of your dealing with the person, but it is the end of the romantic interaction with them.

And that’s OK.

It’s OK to miss that interaction, or that person. It’s OK to be sad and lonely for a while or to go out and party like there’s no tomorrow. I’d go as far to say it’s even OK to go out and have a raucous one night stand with a willing other participant. Those things all happen. In moderation, they’re all healthy.

But our minds constantly do things that aren’t healthy for us.

We obsess. We run through all the “what ifs” again and again and again. We beat ourselves up over things we didn’t do before. We demonize our exes so we can make sense of how the relationship ended. We sink into depression thinking that there’s never going to be another like them.

Well, one of those things is true. There never is going to be another relationship like that one. Not for any deep, dark and mystical reason, but simply because each and every relationship is different. Sure, there may be some similar trends running through them–after all, you’re involved in all of them and you have your own patterns that you bring to each relationship–but that other person is always going to be someone different. Even if you get back together with an ex years later, things will be different. (As long as you’ve both grown as people, at least.)

By demonizing or deifying our exes, we only do a disservice to ourselves. It is much better to accept the cycle of things than to fight to keep something going long after it has bled out.

To quote song lyrics: You can’t go forcing something if it’s just not right.

So what do you do?

You take the relationship as the learning experience it was and keep moving forward.

Hold on to the good parts. Learn from them. Dredge them up when the doldrums of single life have you thinking that you’re never going to be happy again strike. Remind yourself that if it happened before, it will most likely happen again. If you’ve been in a bunch of relationships, look deeply at the parts of those relationships that made you happiest. What did you do to help things be that good? What did your partner do?

Move past the bad parts. Every relationship has its ups and downs. Don’t get stuck in the low parts, they’ll only keep pulling you down to their level. Instead, learn from them just like you’d learn from the good parts. Note what you did that helped things get–or stay–that bad. Know that you are capable of making changes to avoid more of the bad parts the next time around. (Though don’t think you can avoid all of them–no real relationship is going to be all wine and roses, there’s always going to be some thorns and headaches.)

Your partner is just as much a real person as you are. She grows and changes just like you do. If you’re not growing and changing at the same pace or in the same direction, it’s only a matter of time before one or both of you aren’t the same people who started the relationship.

There’s no shame in letting that go.

I’m not saying “Don’t fight for it!” Heck, no. If you care about the relationship and the other person, make your case and work toward making things better. But don’t forget that they have to feel that way, too.

When it comes down to it, the best thing you can do to prepare for the end of a relationship is to really know yourself. You have to know how your mind works and how it’s going to deal with the end of something you cared about.

If you’re well-practiced at the Grown-Up Crush, you’ll probably already have a decent idea.

Every now and then we should dedicate some time to wrapping up one of our crushes. Imagine how the relationship will play out and end. Pretend you’re actually going through the separation. It is far from the most pleasant fantasy, but the key here is that it is a fantasy and that you are in control.

Many years ago, I met a girl. We spent maybe a grand total of twenty minutes talking. I totally fell for her. She had to run off and I was left standing alone. I wrote songs and poetry for her. She never got them because I never saw her again.

But, for a while, she was my one who got away. After a few years went by, I’d bring the memory of her up less and less. Eventually, she was off the pedestal I had put her on and I decided it was time to let the crush go. And so, in my mind, I ended it. The imaginary her and I talked and realized we weren’t perfect for one another. We decided that it would be best if we went our separate ways.

Things ended well. She still runs through my mind every now and then. But I have had many crushes since then and I’ve been able to take each of them as individuals. She’s no longer the yard stick, no longer the gold standard, of my fantasy life. I changed and I decided it was bet if my memory of her changed in its own way.

All of that paid off when the end of my first long term relationship came around.

It was more emotional, to be sure–reality always is–but the seeds of acceptance and realization were there. I was able to step back and see how I had changed and how she had changed. I was able to extrapolate where our paths were going and discern that they were no longer intertwined.

And so that romance ended. But it ended well. Her and I are still good friends.

For a little while, though, she was the one that got away.

Who’s your One that Got Away? Was it a real relationship or an imagined one? Have you been able to let go enough to learn from it?

  • fiferjanis

    That’s hard to say. I’ve never regretted breaking up with any of the people I broke up with. It was never “right.” I suppose college guy is the one I hold a measuring stick up to, but even then, I can’t. We’re still friends, and we chat regularly, and he tells me he still loves me and I probably know him better than anyone in the world (even though he’s now married…), but I can’t say I feel the same. I feel very different than who I was then.

    I can accept him as a friend mentally, via IM, email, phone, etc., however I feel I was so traumatized by… something… that I can’t even conjure what it is without having a panic attack while trying to dig it up. I get physically nauseous when I’m in his (physical) presence. It’s not a pleasant nauseous, either. It’s a deep-seated distrustful ‘you hurt me like no other’ nauseous. I wish I could move past it and get on with a friendship, since it HAS been about 14 years, but the brain (and heart) is a funky weird thing.

    I miss the highs… but I recognize that they were the dangerous kind of hormone-and-mania driven highs… followed by the dangerous hormone-and-depression driven lows. I’ve often said that relationship was like staring into the sun.

    I miss having someone incite that kind of passion in me. Not just hormonal passion, but he made me think, feel and need like nobody ever had and nobody has since.

    I’m reasonably content now. It’s more that slow-burning longevity-driven comfortableness that comes with respect and common-goals and support in each other, but it’s decidedly safer. I hope that one day I’ll be able to soar close to the sun once again, but have the sense to use something other than wax to construct my wings…

  • fiferjanis

    That’s hard to say. I’ve never regretted breaking up with any of the people I broke up with. It was never “right.” I suppose college guy is the one I hold a measuring stick up to, but even then, I can’t. We’re still friends, and we chat regularly, and he tells me he still loves me and I probably know him better than anyone in the world (even though he’s now married…), but I can’t say I feel the same. I feel very different than who I was then.

    I can accept him as a friend mentally, via IM, email, phone, etc., however I feel I was so traumatized by… something… that I can’t even conjure what it is without having a panic attack while trying to dig it up. I get physically nauseous when I’m in his (physical) presence. It’s not a pleasant nauseous, either. It’s a deep-seated distrustful ‘you hurt me like no other’ nauseous. I wish I could move past it and get on with a friendship, since it HAS been about 14 years, but the brain (and heart) is a funky weird thing.

    I miss the highs… but I recognize that they were the dangerous kind of hormone-and-mania driven highs… followed by the dangerous hormone-and-depression driven lows. I’ve often said that relationship was like staring into the sun.

    I miss having someone incite that kind of passion in me. Not just hormonal passion, but he made me think, feel and need like nobody ever had and nobody has since.

    I’m reasonably content now. It’s more that slow-burning longevity-driven comfortableness that comes with respect and common-goals and support in each other, but it’s decidedly safer. I hope that one day I’ll be able to soar close to the sun once again, but have the sense to use something other than wax to construct my wings…

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