I hate it when people call her "the one that got away." She didn’t get away; she simply didn’t work out. The wiser among us understand this very well, while the rest allow themselves to dwell in the past and recount memories.
This, however, is not to say that the wiser among us ever actually get over that one special person -- the one person who has set the bar for all future love affairs. I don’t believe any man ever fully gets over her. Although we know she isn’t "the one," and we know it wouldn’t work out if we tried again, she remains the fullest memory we have of love; for this reason, she will never be entirely forgotten.
Even though the girl I personally have in mind was my first love, that isn’t necessarily the case for everyone. It’s not being the first love that makes the shadow haunt you long after she’s moved out of your life; it’s the love that cuts the deepest, leaving an irreversible scarring. The relationship was very emotional, fluctuating from intense love to intense distaste, to a certain feeling that can only be described as numbing.
She was literally your everything for what was most likely a year or more. The relationship bordered on obsession and it was difficult for you to distinguish between yourself and this new you that you have become. She was the girl who made everything feel right.
Unfortunately, as most love stories go -- in reality -- things ended. You both moved on sooner or later, and yet, assuming you meant the same to each other, you never really let go of each other. It’s difficult for me to speak for the women in such situations because I’ve only experienced this from my own perspective, but I am assuming that men and women don’t differ greatly in this aspect.
Guys don’t ever completely let go of "that girl." It’s not because we don’t want to -- we do; we just can’t seem to. This doesn’t really differ between men. The only thing that differs is the level of love that one has experienced. Some guys have never even experienced love, yet are convinced they have. They are only awakened when love finally finds them.
Regardless, these girls remain a part of us for the rest of our lives. They are what we base and compare all subsequent relationships to. They are whom we compare a potential new partner to when considering a new relationship. They are the standard that all men live by as far as love and relationships go. The reason this doesn’t change is because the woman we can’t let go of no longer actually exists. Who we remember is not the woman she now is, but rather, a woman she once was.
Who she is now, we usually don’t really know because most of us had no choice but to cut her off from our lives completely once the relationship went south, or we would risk repeating the same mistakes. She is a ghost we keep alive and go back to when things get difficult -- the hope for better days that keeps us going.
Men never let go of her. Until she is replaced, that is. Every time guys meet someone new they automatically remove "her" from their minds; they have someone else to occupy those thoughts. Of course, this usually doesn’t last forever because the interest, and inevitably the relationship, won't last forever -- until the one time it does.
If we manage to find a deep love once again, then the woman will be the new "her." She will take the place of our past love and fill all those cracks and crevices that our deepest, truest love left behind. She will then become your new reality, rewriting all the past rules. If you can make it work and things last, then you’ll be the happiest man alive. If it doesn't work, the process repeats.