The break-up equation

Dear Meredith,

I am a long-time reader, first-time writer, like many. My first significant relationship started when I was a senior in high school (he was older and already in college) and lasted up until about a year ago. I am now in my mid-20s. (He was my first, I wasn't his.) We had it all -- the house, the dogs, the big family backing, the wedding planned, and the non-existent kids named. After many downfalls and growing apart, we called it quits. It was a very long, painful break.

Now here I am two years later still thinking about him all the time (daily). Sometimes it's good, sometimes I'm angry and confused. We still live in the same town and for financial and job-related reasons, I must stay. We try to stay out of each other's way to minimize the pain and awkwardness, but it doesn't stop me from staring down every car I think is his when I'm driving.

We have both dated others since the breakup and both are in relationships now. They say it takes half the time of the relationship to get over someone, or you never forget your first love and it always hurts. I guess I just want to know how or when I'll just be normal again, get rid of the bitterness and go weeks, months, or years without him crossing my mind. Is it normal to be hung up on this after two years? So many questions still cross my mind, like how can he just start a new relationship in the same bed in our house? Is he feeling the same way?

Thank you for any advice you may have.

– Small State for Confusion, RI

I don't know who came up with that ridiculous, "one-half" break-up equation, SSFC, but I don't endorse it. It doesn't make any sense. What if you're married for 20 years and go through an amicable divorce? Are you supposed to mourn for a decade?

Forget the equation, and forget normal. There is no normal.

I get a lot of letters from people who want to know when they'll become the person they were before their awful the breakup, as if that's possible. We don't change back to our old selves after a loss. The pain doesn't disappear. The experience stays with us forever, for better and worse. Some people call it baggage, but I prefer to think of it as life experience.

You'll probably never go years without him crossing your mind, even when you've really moved on with someone else. For now, your goal should be getting through minutes, hours, and days. I promise that at some point, your new memories will start trumping the old ones. You'll forget to notice his car, or maybe you'll smile when you see it.

For now, you're on the right track. You're dating, thinking about the future, and asking yourself whether you're doing as much as you can to stay happy.
You almost married this guy, so please, give yourself a break. There are no deadlines. You just have to keep living it.

Readers? Is she ever going to stop thinking about him? Is this taking too long? Thoughts on that old equation? Tips for this letter writer? Help.

– Meredith