We all like to keep tabs on our progress when it comes to moving on.
We reward ourselves at unofficial checkpoints: the first time we go a whole day without missing them. The first date we go on with someone else. The first time we run into our ex and we can actually keep our cool through the encounter. We look at getting over lovers like a game. But the overarching question is: how do we know when we’ve won? What really counts as moving on? And when can we honestly, triumphantly declare that we’re finally over an ex?
It’s a question we’ve all asked at some point. But it’s one that we needn’t ever pose.
The ironic truth about getting over someone is that you won’t notice it happening at all. It won’t be the day that you delete them off Facebook. It won’t be the day you stop walking past their house on the way home from work. It won’t even be the day you go on a date and make the conscious decision not to compare your new date to your ex. The day you remember to forget someone is not the day that you have truly forgotten them.
The truth about being over someone is that once you get there, you will not feel anything at all. You won’t feel smug or proud or as if you have won the breakup and can finally move on. You won’t go to bed each night priding yourself on not thinking about them all day. You won’t avoid their social media presence like the plague. When you’re finally over that person, you won’t think about them at all. You won’t remember to forget them. You simply won’t have to.
Because that’s the truth about love – it’s not nearly as dramatic as we’d like it to be. It doesn’t pack up its bags, slam the front door and storm out when a relationship goes south. Love stays. It lingers. It hides in the corner and it waits for a chance to re-emerge. And love is patient – it can wait for a very long time.
Love is there every time we consciously think that we are over someone. It is there when we creep their Facebook and declare ourselves indifferent. It is there when we walk past their house because we’re ballsy and brave. It is there when we go on that date with that new person to prove to ourselves how over someone else we are. Love feeds off the defiance of it and it grows stronger with every attempt to prove it wrong.
The truth about love is that we cannot force it away – we can only crowd it out with bigger, stronger love. We can only fill up our lives, our hopes and our hearts with the new and let it fearlessly mingle with the old. Let the old pain ache and fester and fight for its place while the new takes over. We can’t force it to leave before it’s ready. We can only hope that someday, in the wake of bigger things, it realizes that it’s no longer needed. That it will pack up its bags up and slip out quietly in the night. That we won’t even realize it’s gone until the day we go deliberately searching for it.
Until one day when we run into our ex on the street and are genuinely surprised to see them – as though some part of our brain had ceased to remember that they existed in real time and space. Until a post pops up on social media indicating that they’ve found someone new and our heart doesn’t skip a thousand beats. Until we actively brace ourselves for all the pain of missing them, only to find that it never hits us. That instead of bombarding us with sadness, the part of our hearts that once housed them has strangely and unexpectedly vacated. That we feel peace where we used to feel panic. And that we cannot for the life of us pinpoint when or where that shift took place.
The truth about realizing you’re over someone is that it’ll happen when you need it to least. It will happen when you’re growing, when you’re changing, when you’re moving on with your life in a way that has nothing to do with the person you used to be in love with. The truth about how you’ll know you’re over someone is that you may never know it at all – because it happens when your brain altogether ceases to fixate on the relationship that you used to have. And it turns its attention to all that you have now, instead.