‘I keep thinking about what could have been’

Letters to [email protected]

Also, did you move in with a partner just before all of this happened? I'm still looking to talk to people who just started living together before lockdown. If you started a lease or moved in during the fall or winter, email me at [email protected] with "love letters" in the subject line.

Dear Meredith,

During this time of quarantine, I can't stop thinking about my ex. I broke up with him last year because he said he wasn't sure he could fall in love with someone who didn't want kids. The kid thing was a complicated issue that dealt with medical history. Every time I tried to take a step forward in our relationship, he pushed me away, so I ended it.

We were only together for about six months, but we had known each other for years. There was a lot of back and forth during those years before we started dating. I'd been in love with him for years before we gave a relationship a chance. We never fought, and I had more fun with him than anyone I'd ever met. I have a history of the anxious(me)/avoidant(partner) relationships, and repeated that pattern here. This relationship is over and I realize that. I think he has a new girlfriend, and I've dated several people since our relationship ended (nothing serious).

Since I can't meet anyone new to distract myself, I can't move on. I keep thinking about what could have been. We tried to stay friends, but the anxious/avoidant pattern ended that as well. I've been doing a lot of teletherapy, but I still just can't let this go. What do I do? How do I move on when there is nowhere to move to?

- Anxious In Love

You make it sound like the only way to move on is to find another partner. You mention one kind of distraction – another human who can take this ex's place.

But it's possible to get over this on your own. Part of your strategy should be keeping your brain busy with other activities, and setting rules about how much time you spend on daydreams about what could have been. If these thoughts are haunting you for more than a few minutes a day, give yourself a schedule. Every hour, there should be a task, even if it's calling a friend or watching TV. Idle time can put you back on that hamster wheel. Learning how to pull yourself off that wheel is a skill that will serve you well in the future.

One thing I did to pull myself off my own hamster wheel during this emotionally complicated quarantine was learn to make chili. The recipe takes me hours and I can't help but be present with the food in front of me.

Try to remember that "what could have been" was more of the same. Anxious. Avoidant. Wash, rinse, repeat. You were not a romanic match, and you both chose to move on. Try not to blame yourself for that. You did the best you could and learned lessons you'll bring to your next important relationship.

By the way, this sentence stood out to me: "I had more fun with him than anyone I'd ever met." It would be great to have some fun right now. Think about other friends/family members who tell you stories, make you laugh, play games, and never run out of things to say. That's the kind of phone/text companionship you need right now.

– Meredith

Readers? How do you get over someone when you're isolated like this?