Still devoted to my ex

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Dear Meredith,

I am a 21-year-old girl recovering from COVID and heartbreak. I’m grateful the former is manageable, but the latter, not so much. My time in isolation has left me insatiably bored, so what better to do than stalk through my ex-boyfriend's mother's Facebook account in search of old photos of him? Please tell me you have done the same – maybe not under the same set of circumstances but I'm hoping the experience is a shared one. We met when I was 16. It wasn't until the next year that I would actually hang out with him on a regular basis, and the following when I realized he liked me. A year after that I realized l liked him.

Between all of the unspoken mutual affection for one another, we shared a deep friendship built on being outdoors, movie nights (all of which were frustratingly platonic and never ended with a kiss), letter writing (he went away to bootcamp), and laughter. Our friends would joke about us getting married in the future and I always thought, "Yeah, if we can ever admit how we feel about each other." When we finally did – after he was stationed with the Air Force – I had moved back home, almost across the country. Long-distance was daunting and risky. I was naive and figured, how bad could it be? So we loved each other from 1,000 miles away – through FaceTime, letters, surprise packages, and flowers. We visited, mostly me visiting there. It was good. It was hard. I resented other couples for being able to have a "normal" relationship.

It only took a little over seven months before the distance got to me. I broke things off. It was, and still is, the hardest thing I've ever had to do. It didn't end because we didn't love each other – that would have been much easier. Looking back, it's hard to put into words why it ended, even though I was the one who did it. Was it because I was scared of doing long-distance for an unforeseeable amount of time when it was already so hard? Was it because I thought we were different people who wanted different futures? Was it because I was trying to pursue a higher version of myself, which necessitated letting go of people and things I had outgrown? Whatever the reason, I have since spent my time bouncing back and forth between regret and acceptance.

I understand that I lack perspective and years of experience. I've tried so hard to open my mind to the possibility that there's someone else out there, that this could just be my first heartbreak, and that he’s not actually the person I'm supposed to end up with. Is it bad that I’m in this space where my heart is hopelessly devoted to him? I'm asking because I really don't know. And I know we don't always get answers to these kinds of questions, but I'll still wonder nonetheless.

– Not Over It


"Was it because I was scared of doing long-distance for an unforeseeable amount of time when it was already so hard? Was it because I thought we were different people who wanted different futures?"

Probably.

Those are two very good reasons two break up with someone, even if you think they might be your one. We can have more than one one, and it sounds like you'd like a partner who can be in your life, beyond FaceTime. That rules out this man.

The trick is to appreciate the memories without second-guessing the decision. You can acknowledge the loss without feeling devoted to him. It's time to trust your gut, call him a first love, and let go. Stop trying to do emotional math to figure out what might have happened had you kept the relationship going.

He was important. He still is. But he's not here. Look for someone who is, and be patient with them. Not everyone will feel like a soul mate, but that doesn't mean they're not worth knowing. Understand that love might feel different, now that you've learned to admit feelings and ask for what you want. A new relationship might not feel as fraught – there won't be that "I've had to wait four years for this" narrative – but it can be just as important over time.

Things I did when I was quarantining – because no, I never searched my the mothers of any of my exes (although I do hope they're all doing well):

1. Borrowed a friend's keyboard and played some songs.
2. Watched "Alias," which is a good TV show to lose yourself in.
3. Made turkey chili.
4. I did google an ex or two at some point, but what they were doing was nothing on my path. So I went back to "Alias," because it was more interesting.

I hope you feel better soon.

– Meredith

Readers? How does one snap out of rethinking past decisions and an ex? What does it mean that the LW is second-guessing the decision"