Step one: Watch all of your friends go through bad break-ups and comfort them while they try to mend their broken hearts. Refuse to properly deal with the divorce of your brother and his wife and how it’s destroyed you because you thought they were the perfect couple and all your ideals about love were molded after their relationship. Let your heart harden to stone. Make a sweeping declaration that you’re not so sure whether you believe in love anymore and mean it.
Step two: Go to a social gathering with no intentions at all of meeting someone special, and actually meet someone special.
Step three: Convince yourself that all you feel for him is platonic interest and friend-love. He reminds you of a close friend, and that’s probably why you can’t stop talking about him and your face lights up like a Christmas tree when he starts a conversation with you. Get to know him and let him get to know you. Talk to him about your favorite songs, your favorite movies, and anything and everything under the sun.
Step four: Admit to yourself that you have feelings for him after talking to him every day for weeks. Feel crushing disappointment the day he suddenly doesn’t start the conversation. Tumble around confused for a while, and when you’re finally starting to feel okay again, find out from someone else that he has feelings for you too. Analyze every past conversation, every gesture, everything exchanged between the two of you. Let yourself believe them. Let yourself believe in him, but don’t let him know that you know he likes you, because you’re not completely sure yourself.
Step five: Do nothing and go with the flow as your feelings for him flicker on and off repeatedly as he talks to you on and off and constantly sends mixed signals. Subtly flirt like teenagers and fight like an old married couple. Get jealous when he talks to other girls and miss him when he’s gone but feel nothing when he’s around. Let this go on for a year and a half.
Step six: Have a huge fight, which pushes him to finally confess his feelings for you, after going back and forth for so long. Stay mad at him but tell him you like him back anyway. Talk about how both of you like each other but don’t want anything serious. Try to figure out what you guys are and give up, resolving to have The Talk later on.
Step seven: Talk on the phone until 3 AM, send cheesy “I miss you” texts almost every day, go ice skating, and continue to confuse everyone (including yourselves) with all the couple activities that you’re doing together, but remain convinced that you’re still not a couple. Remain oblivious to the fact that he’s taking it more seriously than you are and fail to realize that he’s too scared to directly say that he wants to be something more, something definite, and something with a label. Feel irritation as he grows clingy and possessive. Have more fights and notice your feelings for him gradually decrease with each passing day.
Step eight: Believe him when he says that he’s fine with you just wanting to be friends after you’re finally forced to have The Talk after months of avoiding it.
Step nine: Repeatedly listen to Sam Smith’s ‘Lay Me Down’ and cry the whole time because you’ve finally realized that he was lying when he said he wasn’t hurt or sad. Feel guilty that you may have broken his heart, but remain completely unsure about whether or not you still like him. Talk to him and agree to compromise. Ignore the nagging voice in the back of your mind telling you that this is not what you want when you tell him that you’re willing to give a relationship with him a try. Tune out that voice as it gets louder and louder, reminding you how tired you are and that you want out already. Suffer through the exhaustion because, in a way, you do love him, and you don’t want to hurt him again.
Step ten: Keep lying to yourself until you’re absolutely miserable. Feel the fight go out of you completely. Accept the fact that you can’t do it anymore. You would if you could, but you just can’t.
Step eleven: Put your foot down and tell him (again) that you just want to be friends. Try to ignore the way his face crumples and how awkward he is when he gives you a goodbye hug. Watch him walk away and walk out of your life. Feel nothing but relief, at first. Tell yourself that you did the right thing and hear your friends and mom confirm this. You would have just caused him more pain if you had let it go on longer.
Step twelve: Go on with your life, happier than you’ve ever been and indifferent to how you’re not friends anymore with someone who used to be one of the most important people in your life. Tell yourself that it’s okay; you always knew that your “friendship” with him had an expiration date. Let months pass and put it behind you. One day, realize that you can’t completely put it behind you, since he hasn’t yet. He’s still bitter. He’s still avoiding you. And he’s still showing you every chance he can get that he’s still hurting and angry. Feel the guilt come back. Grow indignant at the unfairness of it all, because you’re over it, but can’t completely feel fine because he keeps dragging you down with his negativity.
Step thirteen: Realize that there is nothing you can do to help him anymore, but resolve to help yourself by cutting out all the unnecessary drama and negativity in your life. Learn that sometimes, the absence of closure and the accumulation of time is all the closure that you need.
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