BRENT STOLLER

Writer. Advice giver. Peanut butter and chocolate enthusiast.

Healing a Broken Heart — While Hanging Out With the Person Who Broke It

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Sad woman sitting in the forest

(Question has been modified for space and clarity.)

I’ve been interested in a girl for some time now, and I’ve imagined a future with her. I’ve made her aware of my feelings, and she responded that she doesn’t see me in that way.

Unfortunately, we are in the same social group, with just a few other people. These are the only friends I have, so not seeing her regularly is not an option.

Every time we hang out, I end up feeling awful, because I end up thinking about how we’ll never be together. I don’t know how to manage this misery.

The worst part is that she could be marrying a someone of her parents’ choosing in the next couple years. I’m not a very good looking person, but it sucks that she’d rather be with a stranger than with me.

What can I do to get over her?
–Amit; Chicago, IL

In the year-plus I’ve been writing this column, I’ve written multiple articles about how to get over heartbreak. (Here and here, for example.)

And each time, I’ve included the same piece of advice:

Sever ties with the person who broke your heart.

I’ve offered this because doing so is the most effective way to move on. When you can’t cut the cord, you needlessly imprison yourself in romantic purgatory.

Unfortunately, Amit, cutting the cord isn’t an option for you.

You’re isolated from your family, and the only friends you have are the friends you share with this girl.

To delete her from your life would mean sacrificing the life you’ve built. And that wouldn’t make anything better.

But while your road to closure is more difficult, it’s not impassable.

I know, because I’ve driven it.

A couple years after college, I got a job working on a philanthropic program called the Ultimate Drive for the Cure, a collaboration between BMW and the Susan G. Komen foundation.

At dealerships nationwide, people would come out and test-drive BMWs. And for every mile that was put on the cars, BMW donated a dollar to breast cancer research.

I was part of the eight-person team that traveled to and ran these events.

Every morning, we’d show up at the local BMW center and oversee the festivities. And every evening, we’d pack up, hop in our staff station wagon and drive to the next city, where we’d do it again the next day.

We were like a rock band, minus the fame, fortune and groupies.

Over six months, we discovered the eastern U.S., serpentining our way from Maine to South Florida.

We watched July 4 fireworks over the Charles River in Boston; sat in the bleachers at old Yankees Stadium; went whitewater rafting and drank moonshine in Tennessee (though not simultaneously); and pooled our per diems for Bloomin’ Onions at countless Outback Steakhouses.

It was one of the coolest experiences I’ve had.

But at times, it was also one of the toughest.

That’s because before we’d notched our first test drive, I’d developed a crush on one of my coworkers.

Like you, I eventually found the nerve to tell Amanda (not her real name) how I felt about her.

And like you, I was told she didn’t feel the same way about me.

While I’d suspected she was already hanging out with one of our team members, having it confirmed was crushing.

Not only was I going to have to see her every day, I was going to have to see her with another guy.

This felt like an unscalable wall.

But with each passing mile, it became a little more manageable.

Amanda and I got to be good friends. And soon enough, I got over her.

You can do the same. Here’s how:


EMBRACE THE SUCK

Dating your coworker and dating your roommate are dangerous for the same reason:

When things go wrong, there’s nowhere to hide.

Well, Amanda and I were coworkers and roommates.

We spent almost all our time together. We worked together, we commuted together, we ate together, we drank (too much) together.

And though I didn’t always handle this well (more on that in a minute), in a surprising turn, this became more blessing than curse.

Forced into survival mode, I found a way to face my fears and feelings at an accelerated pace.

That’s the beauty of total immersion therapy’s brawn: The pain is relentless initially, but with the right mentality, it can dissipate quickly.

Right now, your Band-Aid has just been ripped off, and the cold shower is washing over you.

But you’re stronger than you think.

And steadily, as the hurt/sadness/disappointment cycles out of your system, you’ll adjust. You’ll reframe your perspective, and you’ll reestablish your equilibrium within this new reality.

Because you’ll have no choice but to.


BUILD YOUR CONFIDENCE

Nothing strikes at your self-esteem like romantic rejection.

As much as it hurts to, say, get turned down for a job, you can rationalize it’s because of who you’d be as an employee.

But when you get turned down for love, it feels like it’s because of who you are as a person.

My guess is your confidence is low right now (your need to declare that you’re not good looking supports that hypothesis), meaning the last thing you want to do is depart your comfort zone.

But the best way to become a confident person is to do what a confident person does.

Take on a new hobby, try to make new friends and experiment with experiences you’ve convinced yourself are out of reach.

Until I was 24, I’d spent nearly all my time in Texas. I grew up in Houston, went to college in Austin and started my first full-time job at an office within an hour of my parents’ house.

It was by definition a sheltered existence.

But working for BMW changed that.

Traveling from town to town, eating Hampton Inn breakfasts, appeasing crazy customers who wore racing gloves for city-street test drives — these experiences shattered my safe space and dared me to grow.

Which helped me cultivate the confidence to get over Amanda.

This confidence was overflowing by the time we went to a bar in New York City, and I deemed it a good idea to brag into Amanda’s ear, “You don’t know what you’re missing.”

So what if I sounded like a douchebag?

So what if my idiocy was fueled by an indeterminate amount of beer I’d had on an empty stomach?

And so what if, in the cab back to the hotel, I threw up the street-vendor hot dog I’d bought outside the bar?

As the saying goes: A drunk man’s words are a sober man’s thoughts.


KEEP HOPE ALIVE

Part of what I loved about my BMW experience was there was always something to look forward to.

We’d be in one city one night, another state the next. The scenery was constantly changing.

For me, this kept hope alive, both in terms of getting over Amanda and getting on with my life.

If I didn’t like where I was, I knew I wouldn’t be there long. Whatever suffering I endured was temporary.

Your suffering will be temporary too.

I know it doesn’t feel that way at the moment.

But eventually, your scenery will change as well. Eventually, the future you imagine won’t belong to this girl anymore. It will belong to you.

And you’ll be more capable than ever to make of it what you want.

*****

This originally appeared on the Good Men Project.

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