Four summers ago, I fell in love for the first time. We were 18 years old and promised the world to each other. He wasn’t perfect, but in every way we seemed to match. In his arms, I felt like I was finally home.
But we were too young, and our brief summer fling faded away as I went off to college. We said our good-byes and vowed to be together again. But instead we broke each other’s hearts that fall, and spent three years breaking open the wounds we made on each other, trying to relive a past that refused to fit beyond the summer we shared.
And then last summer, after guiltily hooking up, we told each other we were finally done (as we would always say), and I left his house, uncertain that I was ready to move on.
But months went by and there was no phone call from him (as I half expected there would be), so I stopped checking his Facebook and slowly began to forget him. A whole year went by, until he became more like a far-off dream that I caught myself remembering in random flashes, than someone who was actually a part of my life for three years. I found myself happier without the added chaos he once brought and was convinced that I had moved on.
And then I stumbled upon his Instagram profile late one night a few weeks ago and saw a picture of him with a sweet-looking girl. The caption read something along the lines of him being in love. Immediately, I burst into sobs, surprising myself as I cried into my pillow. I couldn’t understand what overcame me. Why was I so torn up over a guy that I broke up with four years ago and had no interest in dating anymore? I am in a healthy, happy, loving relationship with a man now that I wouldn’t trade the world for, but I was unapologetically wishing my ex wasn’t in a relationship, wasn’t in love, and honestly, wasn’t happy. I hated the smiling pictures of him and his girlfriend, and hated myself even more for how I reacted to them. Wasn’t I supposed to be over him? Weren’t my feelings erased in the past year?
I don’t know if you ever get over your first love, that first sincere rush of excitement, that click of compatibility and companionship. I don’t know if I could ever see him again without getting tingles up and down my body and my eyes lighting up when he smiles. I think those initial feelings will always stick inside my heart. But they are matched with the knowledge that yes he was my first, but he wasn’t my last. There would always be something breaking us apart, no matter how close we got. Simply put, he just wasn’t the one. And while I thought that I had accepted that, my response to learning he had a girlfriend made me realize that I hadn’t. I know I need to learn to let go.
So while not checking an ex’s social media and sending texts is a step in the right direction, there is a whole approach in letting go of a profound relationship yet still keeping the fondness and lessons learned.
No matter how bad the breakup is, no matter how much it hurts, I think it’s vitally important to remember you once loved that person–and so shouldn’t you want the best for him? Extract the positive nature and compassion out of the lost love, even after the romance has died. I know I don’t want to get back together with my ex, so does that truly mean I don’t ever want him to date? Never want him to find happiness with another? Take yourself out of the equation, but not the happiness you two cultivated. Approach moving on with positivity. Be happy he is happy because anger and negativity just breed more pain (and mostly for yourself honestly).
Why was I crying? Why did I care he was seeing someone new? I was still attached to him and the relationship. You have to let yourself break free and not hold onto something if there’s nothing left. While this is easy to say, it is not easy to do. Detaching starts with acceptance and allowing space to form between you two. To move on, you have to understand he was a part of your life once, but is (and shouldn’t) be in your life now.
A whole year went by and I just tried to forget he existed instead of accepting we were done. Brushing away the feelings isn’t the solution, but that doesn’t mean you should dwell in the past. I’ve accepted that I am always going to care about him, maybe even want him, but our relationship was temporary and had its time already. Accepting a romance has lived its course is the hardest part when it feels like the flame won’t ever burn out. But it’s necessary to remind yourself that you didn’t fit, and that is okay. Someone else is out there waiting.
Don’t try to recreate those sweet memories in your head, but do carry the warmth you received from that bond with you. Be grateful for that first wave of love you experienced and the happiness it provided. While you are letting go of the relationship and of the person you were with, the experience and lessons learned will always stay with you and you should cherish that. Never regret.
Related: How to Get Over a Heartbreak
Photo: Hope via Flickr