Accept the fact that it’s not going to happen. Force yourself to say it out loud, if necessary. Maybe this is precipitated by them moving on and being happy with someone who is decidedly not you, or maybe it’s just from a quiet, repeated demonstration of their romantic disinterest. But the point is that you are never going to be with them – not in the way you want to, not in the way you’ve dreamed about and made elaborate plans for whenever you found yourself unable to sleep at 3 AM. Make yourself understand that sometimes things don’t have a happy ending, and that this is one of those times.
Erase them from your day-to-day life as much as possible — delete your text history, mute (but don’t unfollow) them on every social medium. Take their number out of your phone, so you cannot be tempted. Put them on the “never show” list on your Gchat. Give yourself the fewest possible opportunities to be confronted with their name, and the extreme feelings of inadequacy and sadness that will inevitably follow. Be ruthless about removing them from your digital space, the same way you would when cleaning out a closet at the changing of seasons. If something doesn’t fit, you throw it away.
Go through every plan you had made with them — either centered around the two of you being together, or casually involving you as a couple — and mentally erase them there, too. Re-write that little house with the garden where you can grow flowers and peppers, the trips you take with just a backpack and a map, the nights spent curled up in front of a good movie with a bowl of popcorn and M&Ms mixed together. You can still have those things, just not with them. Not the way you wanted it. Know that, even though remembering all the things you used to plan now feels like touching a hot stove, those dreams aren’t gone forever. This is still your life, and you are not half of some imaginary whole.
Let days pass, then weeks, then eventually years. Realize that when they are no longer in front of you every day – in your classes, on your social media, in your dreams – that it’s easier than you thought to keep on living. Keep on living. Move, change your phone number, change your wardrobe and your favorite weekend activities. Feel yourself becoming an adult, a more full and happy version of yourself, by small increments and little victories here and there. Stay in because it feels good, not because you’re broke. Date people who are good to you, and love you back, because you have no time for someone who doesn’t see how great you are. Stop pining after people who don’t because you get a rush from scrambling to keep up.
Be so far away from them in every way that entire seasons will go by without thinking of them once, and understand that this is what really means to be “over it.” It seems so obvious, now. Not caring at all. You used to think that hatred was the opposite of your obsession, but it was just another symptom of the same sickness. And now, on the rare occasion you do remember them, you laugh at the caught up version of yourself you used to be. Because, really, it’s all pretty silly when you think about it.
See, one day, that they’re getting married. You’ve grown up enough now that marriage is no longer a totally foreign thing, something that only happened between the super-religious kids from your high school. No, now is the time when people are really getting married, that mid-to-late-20s stretch of magical time when every weekend seems to bring an exciting new announcement from a long-forgotten couple on your Facebook. And one day, it’s them. See their picture taken outside, in front of a museum in a city they don’t live in, and understand that it’s real. Read the happy caption, see the hundreds of likes, add your own to the long list of well-wishers. Feel taken aback for a minute, and accept that this really means the end of a potential life you had long forgotten about, but once dreamed of every day. Feel the death of that life, a small shudder that only comes when you close a book for the very last time.
And then smile. Because it isn’t even over. Because nothing is. Because there never was an “it” to begin with, and in so many ways, that’s much sweeter. There was never any time to fight, to get bored, to live the many small, unintentional disappointments and slights that couples can inflict on each other. There was no breakup, no painful separation, no cheating, no anger. And sure, there was never all the good stuff either, or that potential, distant happy ending. But your life is just fine now, and it’s not because everything ended up exactly the way you want it. Sometimes that’s how life ends up, with us getting over and getting on, and things working out anyway. And sometimes, the only thing you’ll hear from a person you used to know so well is a distant, joyful announcement from a totally new version of themselves. And all you’ll be is happy for them, and that will be the biggest victory of all.