The one that got away is a beautiful archetype in our romantic, dating -- not dating -- culture.
Sometimes, we're consumed by the chase. Other times, we're comforted by the backup. Sometimes both.
The one that got away can be an ex, a friend and/or a former lover. I chased mine for years. He was a friend, lover but never an ex.
The moment I realized I'd never catch him came like winter's first frost: quickly, but predictably. I saw it coming, but I was still frozen.
Acceptance came slowly. Here are the stages of grief I went through before the thaw.
I denied the truth.
It could happen. I could make it happen. It's meant to be.
I reached new lows in desperate measures. I threw myself at him. I seduced him. I guilt tripped him. I told him every thought that crossed my mind; how much I loved him, how much I hated him, how much I couldn't accept “no" and how much I was hurting.
I believed that if you loved someone enough, that love would be undeniable; for a while, it was.
I felt like my life was a rom-com, and this was just a rough patch. We were supposed to end up together.
While I'm most embarrassed of my actions in this phase, I'm also proud. I left nothing unsaid. I tried everything. I will not regret anything I left unsaid because I fully and completely expressed myself.
Since we had been friends for so long, he wanted to try to preserve our friendship.
We didn't have a labelled romantic history, and he thought we could be platonic.
But, we were never really friends. For years, we were two people who never dated, but hooked up when we got drunk and flirted. I couldn't turn off my feelings for him.
Time with him ended with my crying or us hooking up (usually both). I believed he still had feelings for me. Attempted friendship was just a tease. It gave me hope, but it didn't last.
Pain and heartbreak
Ending things with him hurt more than any breakup I've ever had.
My grief was larger than life. I cried because I knew I lost a friend and a lover. I lost the future I had been wasting my time chasing for years.
My sadness was overwhelming and all-encompassing. I lost my appetite. Obligation to my dog was the only thing getting me out of bed. My body ached. I couldn't sleep.
It wasn't just about him; it was about me. I lost him, but more importantly, I lost my heart. I stopped believing in love.
Everything I learned from literature taught me that it would work out. How could life let me love someone so much for it to not work out?
I've had serious breakups before, but I have never questioned my belief in love. But there I was, questioning if love exists, if I would ever find it — if I even deserved it. I felt irreparably broken.
I told him not to visit or text me.
I deleted his number. I unfollowed and unfriended him on all social media. It was liberating.
Until I did this, I never noticed how much I internet-stalked him. I counted the minutes between text replies. I knew the second he opened my Snapchat.
I was always waiting for him to pay attention to me. I was drowning in him, and cutting communication was like cutting off the weight pulling me beneath the waves.
Avoid, avoid, avoid
Did I mention avoid? I stopped going to his regular bar. Instead, I used the opportunity to explore different clubs around the city. I had a lot of fun spicing up my nightlife. I cleansed my apartment of any pictures or reminders I had of him.
I deleted Timehop because it reminded me almost daily of memories we shared. I did my best to avoid him in person and in my own mind. I wasn't always successful, but it helped.
It gave me back a sense of control -- control of my thoughts and actions
Distract yourself by making plans with friends
I forced myself to be the most social I have ever been.
I went out with friends from school I barely knew and people I wasn't even sure I liked. In doing so, I made a few new friends. Forcing myself to hang out with people who weren't him also gave me back a sense of control, even if it was just over my social life.
I reached out to friends I hadn't spoken to in years. I found comfort in my best friends, who (bless them) took turns entertaining me and distracting me.
Avoidance is hard, and nearly impossible without distractions. Sometimes thoughts of him crippled me, but I also learned I could have fun and be happy without him.
Move TF on
The hard part about moving on, is that you won't do it until you're ready. You may have to repeat this list several times before it sticks. Chasing the one that got away is a special kind of addictive drug; I didn't want to let go.
I didn't want to move on. I had to detox and struggle through relapses and withdrawals. But, after completing all these phases, it was over. Cue "Clean" by Taylor Swift.