Step 1. Hate them. Hate them mercilessly. Choke on the palpable detestation that clouds the space between. Feel that slow, growing, steady burning that rises from the darkest part of your stomach when their name is casually mentioned. Feel the resentment singe the inside of your cheeks, turning them a hateful red. Imagine a hundred times over the first situation you casually bump into them, then realize you are inadvertently reliving a scene from American History X.
Hate is love inching its way out of your heart. It lingers to cause you a pain that only time will be capable of healing. So feel it. Every excruciating second of it, until all the love is gone.
Step 2. Relapse with them. Get high on their apologies. Indulge in their late-night calls. Go on an all-night bender with loneliness and find solace with a body you once enjoyed regularly. Answer their sultry cries for comfort and understanding when their world is falling on top of them and can’t think of anyone to call but you.
While falling off the wagon will be laced with self-loathing and personal disgust, in the quiet moments of the morning after, when you slowly slide away from their arms and look back at the bed that was once yours, housing the person who was once yours — you’ll remember why neither are yours anymore.
Step 3. Delete them. Erase them from your life. Edit them out of your contacts, unfriend them from once-love-covered social walls, and refuse to follow them throughout the Twittersphere and beyond. Forget their predictable Wednesday routine. Refuse to ask them how that one thing went on that one day you knew they had been planning for weeks. Find yourself incapable of knowing how they are doing, what they are feeling, and where they are going on the daily basis you used to be scheduled into.
Living in a world in which they no longer exist is the only way you’ll eventually find them again. In all reality, the person you love has died. Your perception has shifted, a fundamental entity of their being has been revealed, and they look completely different to you. So live without them, so you can be introduced to the new them again one day.
Step 4. Redefine them. Meet someone who makes the old them nothing more than a romantic blip on your dating radar. A new “them” has emerged, and their shadow has left every other tryst in the dark. Realize that while they will forever hold onto a corner of your heart, they no longer own every breaking, brittle piece. Stop allowing them to be the “them” you think back on with regret, longing, and a subtle hint of sorrow.
You have redefined the word “lover,” and it no longer involves a stunning picture of them and a heart wrenching write-up. While they were a quintessential piece of this puzzle, they are not the cornerstone anymore. They have given you an invaluable clue that has aided you in discovering 17-down for a crossword that has haunted you.
Step 5. Thank them. The next time they inevitably get a hold of you, do not scold them. Do not sit on your high horse of relationship status and romantic happiness. Instead, welcome them back as you would an old friend you haven’t seen in 20 years. They are different, but you see hints of the playful child that kept you company on the playground. Laugh with them. Joke with them. Thank them.
With each lasting chuckle or thoughtful echo, you will be thanking them for leading you to someone else. With each understanding sentence and kind word, you will be telling them it is ok. You are ok. They are ok. We’re all ok.
And it is ok to be friends again. Your broken heart is fixed and, hopefully, so is theirs.