I was lying on my couch studying when I got a text from my mom saying: “call me.” I dialed immediately, when your mother sends you a text like that, you don’t just ignore it. “Hey, mom? Is everything okay? Did someone die?” I ask. “No. But I have some news. Someone got engaged,” she replies with a dissatisfied tone. “Who?” I replied, and at this point I honestly had no idea. “Guess. It’s an ex-boyfriend.” Oh jeez, I thought to myself. My first guess was my first boyfriend from high school but my heart dropped when she said “think more recent.”
Nine months previously, my boyfriend at the time had broken up with me. (In reference to the cinematic masterpiece, When Harry Met Sally, let’s call him Joe.) The relationship ended not-so-peacefully. He broke up with me over the phone and I said some very hurtful things in response. Since that night, I have remained single, never taking on another romantic relationship. As time passed, I got busy, made new friends, devoted to my faith, and matured immensely. Objectively, Joe breaking up with me was the best thing that had ever happened to me in my early adult life. However, the news my mom had just seen on her Facebook newsfeed still threw me for a loop.
When my mom had told me to “think more recent,” and the cogs in my brain began to turn, so many thoughts and emotions rattled in my head. I felt like I was living that scene in When Harry Met Sally where Sally finds out her ex, Joe, was getting married. “All this time I’d been saying that he didn’t want to get married, but the truth is, he didn’t want to marry me. He didn’t love me,” Sally sobs. No other words could have resonated with me more.
Recovering from a breakup and recovering from the news that your “Joe” has moved on come with two separate sets of grief. While the split itself is quite painful, there is nothing that reveals the painstaking reality of a breakup more than finding out that your ex is dating, or marrying, someone else.
The comparison game is the most difficult part of facing this kind of news. Wondering: “Is she prettier than me?” “Is she more emotionally stable?” “Is she smarter, more charming, or nicer than I am?” “Does his family like her better?” I pondered every single one of these thoughts, but then I realized the truth of the matter: I had no way of knowing the answer to these questions. Who was I to judge a relationship I knew nothing about, a relationship I wasn’t even a part of, and that had absolutely nothing to do with me?
Of course it is painful to see Joe moving on, getting married, and living a totally different life, especially with only nine months in between our breakup and his engagement, but there is no reason for me to be angry at him either. I am not writing this to bash on him, or for anyone reading this to get angry at him and have sympathy for me, but I am writing this because I am not the only one who has or will face this reality, and there is definitely good that comes with the hurt.
The truth is, since our breakup, I had always held on to this tiny bit of hope that we would both get our crap together and reunite. I had held on to the delusion that he would see how good I was doing and want to get back together with me. I even imagined that he would show up at my dorm or my work wanting me back. But truthfully, my life is not a romance movie where the couple miraculously makes up at the end and lives happily ever after; and I think hearing the news of Joe’s engagement helped me realize that.
Even though it still kind of stings, I now know that it is time for me to move on. That doesn’t mean it is time for me to get a boyfriend right away, but it means that I need to mentally and emotionally let go of Joe. I need to stop letting my thoughts wander to the possibility of reconciliation, but instead concentrating on what is yet to come. He will take his own walk through life and so will I. It was a privilege that our paths happened to cross at all, even if they never ended up merging. I do not hate him or wish him the worst for his marriage. His choices are his own and I have no control over his life, and as time progresses, I will become more and more at peace with knowing the truth.