When I broke up with my last girlfriend, I made it my mission to never look at her Facebook page again. But lately I've found myself typing into the search bar, watching her name populate — lingering —debating whether it'd be okay if I finally caved and clicked.
I'm not over her, nor am I really over any of the girls I've dated.
I'm completely okay with that.
There's a common conception about breakups: That you've only completed the process when you've finally moved on. It's only until you are over someone that you can get going with you new life. Over. A word that's as abstract as it is irrelevant.
Alongside this is the related sentiment that it's not healthy to hold on. That it is wrong, destructive and dangerous to be continually consumed by the people who longer consider you remotely relevant in their life.
I disagree with that. I don't believe cavalier indifference for former lovers makes us stronger, more emotionally balanced people. It's entirely the opposite. The inured and the unavailable, those who can leave their past in the past, are the ones who are off-kilter.
I think about every single one of my exes every single day. They come flittering across my mind at various points. Recalled by emotions and experiences I can't explain. I don't cower in bathroom, sitting on the stall in a sea of tears the moment after it occurs, but almost every time it brings me to a complete stop. Which is good. They shouldn't be dismissed as the wanton flutters of a bouncing mind.
Because they mean more than that. Every meaningful relationship has a profound impact on us and to think those can leave, even in the simplest of facets, is an exercise in absurdity.
If I no longer cared about any of the women that entered my life, the ones I've wooed and dated, I can't imagine enjoying any subsequent courtship. If I didn't understand the payoff, the enjoyment, why would I put myself through that process? Why would you for that matter? Why emotionally expose yourself, risk harm and long-term damage, if you weren't aware there was potential positive? You do it because you haven't let the enjoyable experiences of past relationships dissipate. They are there. Permanently.
And by filing everything former, there's the notion that you are categorizing those as wrong. As mistakes. It makes you forget the fun. To enjoy the experience rather than looking at each next person as the potential culmination of your romantic odyssey. Because if you are constantly moving past people, it's as if you are chugging through life, only interested in finding the right mate.
That shouldn't be your modus. Dating, romance, it isn't some spiral staircase where you use each step to further yourself along while simultaneously shuffling it out of your view.
Keep them there.
And keep them poignant. Don't allow the past to become experiences viewed through a dispassionate filter. It's okay to be sad. To reminisce. To experience those unrequited pangs even after you thought they'd permanently stopped. To looking longingly at something no longer there.
Everyone lives life for its highs. Everyone needs to understand there's nothing wrong with appreciating and enjoying its lows. The world is not an experience in exponentially growing happiness. It's an ever fluctuating sine curve. With radical dips and unexpected downturns. And if you are so completely over those exes of yours, and inexplicably a low hits, you'll feel wrong. Like you have an inability to move on. Everyone will tell you that. But not moving on? You'll be honest with yourself when the emotional inflections hit. In both directions.
And knowing, experiencing and appreciating these apexes and nadirs keeps you emotionally invested. If you keep moving on, from ex to the next, there's no way you won't metastasize into some hardened shell of yourself, no matter how much you deny it. There's no way wherein, if you bottle up and toss every experience far into an ocean outside yourself, you can continually be affected by future experiences. You'll be constantly guarding, divesting from the satisfying highs and tumultuous lows, maintaining a stasis so that, down the road, when this thing fails, you'll be able to discard it without having to painfully rip it from yourself.
I'm okay with it hurting. And the more I try to make the past ones not hurt, the more the future ones don't. It's good to remember. Don't do it dispassionately, from a callous perspective. You need to recall the inexplicable forces that caused you to act and react certain way. Because you'll encounter them again. There's a reason many of us tend to make the same mistake again and again. It's because we move those previous behaviors on to a shelf, into a taped up box containing one prior girlfriend or boyfriend. It's one we tell ourselves not to open. But moving past something means you can no longer learn from it.
I still remember exactly what I did to end my first serious relationship, to bring about inconsolable sobbing in the girl I loved. I could chalk the mistake up to being seventeen and never let it tug at my heart again. But that's not an honest way to live. I did it regardless of my age.
Being over is fighting it. Constantly. We are not the emotionally devoid creatures we'd like to be. So stop acting like it.
Allow yourself to cry on a random Tuesday nearly five years after a fateful night. Be filled with regret because you didn't make the right decision a decade ago. Remember why they left and what you did to cause it.
Stop being over and stop moving on. Instead, be here. With everything that brought you.
Brett Hannons is the pseudonym of a guy in his late twenties who writes about relationships and dating in Washington, D.C.
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