Each week, I’ll be publishing a reader question about anything – love, dating, being a 20-something, New York – you name it! If you have a question you’d like to ask, please email me (you can read more about Ask the Addict here).
Y: How do you know you’ve really let someone you loved go and that you’re ready to move on? Is there a time frame, a sign or something?
When I received this question my initial reaction was: that’s a fantastic question, I’m still wondering the answer myself. But after mulling over it for a week or so, I realized that though I’ve had trouble letting go of exes (cue Mr. Possibility’s dramatic plotline), I have learned a lot in the past few years about the moving on process.
For me, I knew I had finally let go of Mr. Possibility when I no longer felt the need to contact him when I was in trouble. It sounds silly but I kept him tucked away on a comforting shelf where I could pick him up and hold him close if I was ever stressed out. And honestly, for more than a year after we officially called it quits, I would still text him when I was upset. Or sad. Or frustrated. Or needed advice. Or simply to be held or told that I was truly fantastic.
Then one day, when something terrible and scary was going on, I didn’t want to call him. I didn’t want to text him or unblock him on Gchat just to see if he was there. I didn’t feel the need to have him in my life to fix anything or to rescue me from something that felt bigger than I could handle.
Instead, I convinced myself (and actually believed) that it was within my control. And that I had an incredible support system of friends and family that would drop everything to be there for me, so why would I want to invite this toxic relationship back into my life? No matter how handsome Mr. Possibility is or how much I depended on him when I first moved to New York, I’m not that girl anymore and we don’t have that connection any longer.
And for once, that was okay. In fact, it felt really, really good to not long for him anymore.
There is no definite time frame or a period that’s long enough to get over someone – it is really up to you and determined not only by the length of the relationship, but the importance of it. I didn’t date Mr. Possibility even half as long as I dated Mr. Faithful – but Mr. P meant more to me than any other man I’ve met, apart from my father. Letting go of him wasn’t just about getting over the relationship and the love we had, but also releasing him from the best friend role and finding my way in the city, without his guidance and support (even if his advice was often manipulative). It wasn’t easy and it took probably a little longer than I (and everyone who knows me) would have liked, but I did it.
My best advice is not to rush it but to also to not drag your heels. As long as you’re still talking to an ex (and let’s be honest, sleeping with your ex), you’re never going to let go. Even if you think you can have no strings attached and one day be friends, until you cut the chord for a while, you never will.
Try not talking to him for six months and even harder, not talking about him. The more you invite the conversation of a past love into your life, the harder it is to find a new one. Don’t keep reminders of him around your apartment or home, and utilize the block feature on your iPhone that not only keeps you from knowing if he contacts you, but prevents you from reaching out, too. Ask your friends to keep you balanced and level-headed and put things in perspective when you get lost in the what-if thoughts that plague you. (Because I assure you, they will.)
If you can put him out of your present, he’ll stay the past – as long as you let him. And then you have a chance of really moving on and finding that future that you so dream of. Your sign might be different from my sign – but you’ll know when it comes. How? Because the freedom is so, so incredible.
It’s like riding in a car in the hot, but not-too-hot summer, your hair whipping behind you and nothing but an open road — and an open heart — before you.