There I was, standing next to him as he uttered the words that always made me cringe: “This is exactly what I’ve been avoiding, I don’t want this pressure, I’m not there yet” The weird part was that things had seemed to be going pretty well between us—even though it wasn’t really defined. But I’ve learned that in today’s disjointed dating world, there’s often a lot that gets left unsaid. Between the seemingly flirtatious emojis sent over text message and the communication level and closeness, it can be nearly impossible to see the end coming. But sometimes when things seem to be going well, they’re actually heading in the opposite direction.
It felt strange to fathom the idea of moving forward without the person I had imagined I could really be in a relationship with. The person who had similar interests with me and a comparable upbringing as me, who seemed to be my perfect match in every way, but in the end, was far from that. Looking back on our time together, I realize now that I was attached to the idea of him. I’d built him—and what we could’ve been —up in my mind.
According to Dr. Juli Fraga, Psy.D, “Lust is built mainly on attraction or fantasy, which means we don’t really ‘know’ the object of our affection. Love is more intimate and grounded in reality.”
Fraga says, “Projection is a defense mechanism in which we evacuate unwanted or scary feelings onto someone else.” The issue with projection is that it usually has nothing to do with the person we’re a dating. In fact, it almost always stems from a deeper emotional issue that can be really hard to face. “Whenever we project onto others, we unknowingly spin our fiction around how they’re thinking and feeling about us,” Fraga adds. When we’re caught in this narrative, we may misread people’s behavior—even if it wasn’t their intention.
When relationships have labels you’re either together or you’re not. You’re either single or with them. But when you’re emotionally invested in someone who won’t commit to you or give you what you need you constantly seek validation through lines that are blurry and rewritten time and time again.
You hold onto hope that one day it will be something.
But then you get hit with a cold reality that this thing you are so emotionally invested in has come to a dead end.
The hard part about endings is when there wasn’t a beginning to compare it to. Suddenly you were just emotionally invested in this person with no going back.
Then it’s over and you’re just expected to be okay.
You don’t have to date people to fall in love with them. And you don’t have to date people to get hurt by them. When your heart is invested in someone the pain feels exactly the same.
But the hardest part is trying to move on when they don’t realize you are hurting. When they don’t even realize how much of an emotional toll you took on them.
So you answer their texts. You try and be strong. You pretend that you accept the circumstances and you guys can be friendly and cordial.
But it’s destroying you every time they reach out because seeing them is this reminder of what you’ll never be. And you’re losing sleep over someone who is probably sleeping with someone else.
I know how much it hurts. I know what it’s like to replay everything in the past wondering what signs you read wrong. I know what it’s like to spend time with someone that you might not even have had a physical relationship with but emotionally it couldn’t have just been you that felt it.
And I know what it’s like to not be able to clearly articulate this pain that consumes you. You got your heart broken by someone who should be easy to get over. But when you love someone and you really wanted to be something more the pain you feel is something that will take time to get over. And that’s okay.
But what isn’t okay is you trying to be strong by keeping them in your life.
Maybe they notice as you pull away. Maybe they realize you aren’t talking as much. Maybe they call you out on it wondering if something is wrong.
And part of you wants to scream yes. I’m hurt. I feel completely broken. You destroyed me. But you stay silent because something about mourning an ending when there wasn’t actually a beginning makes you look like a fool.
But it’s not all on you. This person led you to believe something was there. Had they been completely honest from the start you wouldn’t have fallen so fast but they didn’t. Instead, they knew how you felt maybe they added fuel to the fire. Maybe there was a physical relationship there without a label. Maybe they told you everything you wanted to hear to keep you around because your presence boosted their ego.
Regardless of how it applies to you and your situation, someone let you fall for them when they had no intention of catching you. So don’t feel guilty for these pain you feel you have to repress just because there wasn’t some label attached to it.
Cry as hard as you need to. Feel things as deeply as you do. Pull away without an explanation because you don’t deserve this pain and they don’t deserve you.
But be sure that when you do heal and your tears dry you never allow them to make you feel this way again.
Because just as you deserved a relationship in all this, you also deserve time to heal even if they weren’t yours completely.
So regardless of how long a relationship lasted, or if you’d even call it a relationship at all, that disappointment can feel devastating. With this, it’s important to refrain from shaming yourself over your feelings because that won’t allow you to process them and move on. Try to embrace what you’re feeling and give yourself permission and space to heal in whatever ways you need. I really hope you find someone who would love you as much as you do them soon enough. Happy weekend by the way and make sure you have a good time.
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