BRENT STOLLER

Writer. Advice giver. Peanut butter and chocolate enthusiast.

This is How You Heal

Sunset over a river

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(Question has been modified for space and clarity.)

I’ve been seeing this girl for over a year. A while ago, when I first told her I was starting to develop serious feelings for her, she responded that she wasn’t emotionally available.

So I gave her space for bit, but eventually, we started hanging out as friends. Not surprisingly, my feelings resurfaced and grew stronger and stronger.

Recently, we had another conversation about my interest in her. She responded with quotes like, “Please don’t wait for me,” and, “I only see us as friends.”

I respect her feelings, and I’ve tried moving on, but I can’t get past how happy I am around her. What should I do?
–Frustrated and in Love; Gurnee, IL

Like drafting an NFL quarterback, dating is an uncertain endeavor.

There’s no telling who’s worth your time, who’s teasing you with their talent and who’s capable of putting a (marriage) ring on your finger.

Approximately 98.7634 percent of my single life was spent in a haze, unsure of where I stood and what my chances of survival were with whatever girl I was interested in.

That’s a rough estimate, but it’s a percentage that could’ve been reduced had more of those girls had the courtesy to be honest with me.

Fortunately, the girl you’ve been seeing has been.

Unfortunately, though, the truth wasn’t what you wanted to hear.

In instances like these, my advice is always the same: Give yourself time.

I stand by that — and reiterate it here — because that whole thing about time healing all wounds is cliché for a reason.

But an addendum to that advice would be to make the most of this time in order to expedite your recovery process.

And the way you do that is with what I call the Stop-Start Strategy.

It’s as simple as it sounds:

Stop doing what’s causing you pain, and start doing what will help you feel better.

Granted, some might also deem it the No S#*%, Easier Said Than Done Directive.

But what feels impossible emotionally becomes more manageable when broken down objectively.

Don’t get me wrong, getting over heartbreak is not, nor will it ever be, easy.

But it doesn’t have to be that complicated.

STOP

Stop seeing this girl.

You don’t have to stop being friends with her, but I’d stop hanging out with her, at least for a little while.

If you were trying to lose weight, would you keep Oreos on your nightstand?

The same principle applies here. You’re less likely to be tempted by what’s not there.

Besides, being around her has to be a twisted form of torture.

Every time you see her smile, or smell her perfume, or laugh at an inside joke, you’re reminded of how incredible it would be to be with her.

Which is immediately followed by the reminder that you can’t be.

This emotional see-saw is as distressing as it is confusing.

Your mind can’t make sense of what’s going on, while the hopeless romantic inside you locks onto all the special times the two of you have had, and the moments you’ve shared, and how even though things haven’t worked in the past, they could still work going forward.

And before you know it, you walk away thinking there’s a chance.

Stop thinking there’s a chance.

That hurts me to type, because I’ve been in your shoes.

In my younger days, I had a few different friends with whom I wanted something more.

But that something more never developed.

I was convinced that, despite the fact that they were interested in someone else or had expressed zero interest in me, all it would take was for the moonlight to hit me at just the right angle, and out of nowhere, they’d see me as they hadn’t before.

Unfortunately, those reversals of fortune are restricted to Hollywood, primarily to high school outcasts who finally take off their glasses and let their hair down.

These girls had made it clear how they felt about me, just as your friend has you. But it took me far too long to believe them.

Don’t make the same mistake I did.

Stop holding yourself back.

This girl has said everything she can say. She’s explained that she’s not emotionally available, that you shouldn’t wait for her and that she doesn’t see you being more than friends.

She’s set you free.

Yet you hold yourself hostage.

For over a year, you’ve been convinced she’s who you’re supposed to be with, that she holds the key to your happiness. And that’s tough to let go of.

But being with her is not an option.

And though that may be hard to hear, the good news is that it’s also OK.

It’s OK to surrender. It’s OK to move on. It’s OK to chalk this up as a hard-fought defeat.

This one didn’t work out, but that doesn’t mean your work is done.

There are new adventures awaiting you. You just have to let yourself explore them.

START

Start expressing your feelings.

Not to this girl (you’ve already done that), about this girl.

You can express yourself to a friend or confidant, or in a journal, or even out loud in your car on the drive home from work. Just get your emotions out.

Doing so might feel difficult at first, even pointless.

But you have to fight through that for the sake of the big picture, both of your past and future.

Rejection, heartbreak — these things are emotionally traumatic. You have suffered a trauma, and you have to process the resulting sadness, hopelessness, anger and anguish.

So you can finally be free of it.

Start moving.

You can do this on both a smaller and larger scale.

On the smaller scale, find a way to get the blood flowing — hit the gym, play pickup ball with your buddies, go on a walk while listening to music, anything. These types of activities will benefit you as much emotionally as they do physically.

On the larger scale, take this newfound time to broaden your horizons.

Is there a hobby you’ve wanted to try, or a career move you’ve wanted to pursue, or a goal you’ve wanted to achieve.

Every moment spent focusing on yourself will be a moment not spent focused on this girl.

This ordeal has caused you tremendous pain, but if you can make the best of its fallout, you can emerge from it a better person.

Start dating.

This could be the hardest thing to do, because it makes you feel like:

-You’re betraying this girl. (In your mind, you’ve been a couple.)

-Things are actually over.

But it’s arguably the most important thing you can do, because it’s one of the most effective.

Few things will help you get over one girl quicker than the affection of another.

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This originally appeared on the Good Men Project.

 

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