An especially treasured reader has submitted the following question for our group advice column, Help A Sister Out. This is from catmom, who asks:
"It's been over a year and I'm still not over my breakup. We were together for eight years, and the breakup was pretty unexpected, even though I know we were having problems. I've been doing all the things I'm supposed to be doing (like 'dating,' which is a drag and not producing any good results), but I thought after all this time I'd be over this. Any advice?"
Yes, but it's horrible, horrible news: You're not going to get over it.
That was eight years of your life you spent loving this person, being their partner, expecting that love and partnership to continue indefinitely. Then suddenly you break up? And you're supposed to "get over it?" It's like a death, the loss of a primary relationship like that, and you will move past the worst of the grief in time, but the loss really fucking lingers. And what does "getting over it" mean, anyway? Being in a new relationship? Thinking of the ex without pain? I've been with Bill for eight and a half years now, and I still think of my ex with pain, because that's how we left things. You may fall in love again, but the pain of this loss will remain.
Aren't you kind of sorry you asked?
There are, however, things you can do to mitigate the pain. Writing down everything you wish you could say to the ex is a good start. It will help get it out of your head, if you get it onto the page. Plus you will be prepared for any conversation that might happen to arise between you and your ex in the future. Your mood in writing this (ten or twenty page, at least, considering the length of the relationship) letter may veer from sentimental to homicidal, which is why it's usually best not to send this document to your ex.
Also, self care is primary. Fuck dating for now; if it's not making you happy, then FUCK IT. Go out with friends instead, or stay home and luxuriate in the comforts of your home and cats. What's that saying, "Friends is better than mens?" (I just made that saying up.) Trying to impress strangers with how lovable you are is maybe not what you need right now; you need the comfort of being loved for who you are by the people who already appreciate you. And, since I know you personally, I know there's a lot of them.
Finally, success is the best revenge. Nothing chaps a guy's ass like his ex succeeding professionally in her field, especially if it's his field, too. If you can channel your anger into activity (cue montage of you angrily learning to surf, vengefully woodworking at a lathe, furiously writing a screenplay), you will find it a lot easier to live with than if you channel the anger inwards against yourself.
In Russell Simmons' eminently mortal words, "Do you." You gave a lot in your relationship, now give that to yourself. You're an awesome girlfriend, as you will discover.
Readers, any advice for catmom?