Recently, I got some upsetting news that I knew would come eventually but could never fully prepare for: My ex-boyfriend James is engaged. James was the boyfriend that I most saw myself settling down with and had the hardest time getting over. And now he was getting married to someone else. It hurt. But why?
Maybe I was still clinging to hope that eventually we would get back together. Or perhaps I didn’t want to believe that he could ever really move past “us.” Or maybe it was that nagging question: Why did it work out between she and him but not the two of us?
I was reminded of that book written by Greg Behrendt (yeah, the He’s Just Not That Into You guy) and his wife, Amiira Ruotola-Behrendt, It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken. The book argues that in order to move on, and, more importantly, be okay with your ex moving on, you have to remind yourself that what you had wasn’t a fit. As the book says, “At the end of the day, it’s about whether YOU like yourself enough . . . to recognize that [the romance] wasn’t giving you what you needed and deserved.”
I know that’s a lot easier said than done. When you look back on the relationship, it’s so easy to remember the good times and gloss over the problems. Take James and me. We got along great from the first moment we met. We had similar interests, and we shared a love for the finer and funnier things in life. We could go to a five-star restaurant and enjoy a highly rated bottle of Cabernet, or we could go see a Jim Carrey movie in our sweatpants and eat ridiculously buttery popcorn that left our pants covered in grease.
He was a great boyfriend: funny, attentive, great with my friends and family, and I liked who I was when I was with him. I loved him. But love was never the problem. As we talked about what we wanted for the future and how we wanted to raise our kids, religious differences separated us. We wanted different things and neither of us wanted to ask the other to give up what they wanted. Once we knew the future was marred, it took its toll on the present. I decided it wasn’t working and that we should break up. It was awful. I cried all the time. Every time I saw him I just wanted to go back to when things were great. But that would have been a mistake.
Once you love someone, I believe a part of you always will. I believe James is happy with the woman he has chosen to be his wife. And, because a part of me will always love him, I want it to work out for them. And, as far as what the future holds for me, I believe happiness awaits me as well.
So the next time you hear that an ex of yours is engaged, or even just dating someone new, remember you broke up because the relationship was broken. Wallowing in self-pity and ice cream will do you no good. Life goes on, and yours won’t if you stay glued to your past. The hardest part of a breakup is letting the other person move on, but the best part is when you move on yourself.