Adapted from a recent online discussion.
When the romance dies, sort out feelings before moving on
Philadelphia: Tips for getting over it when a nascent romance with a friend fails to pan out? If I carry on as if nothing happened (his default), I'm just going to pine, which will indirectly kill the friendship. But if I say I can't have anything to do with him, I worry it'll directly kill the friendship.
I'm especially hurting because I wasn't the primary enthusiast in the first place — he was interested in me, I spent a bunch of time and energy revising how I thought of our relationship, ended up feeling pretty invested in the new version . . . only to have him go AWOL.
Carolyn: I ugh for you.
You talk about "the friendship" as if it's some kind of independent organism unrelated to your feelings for each other. That's a good way to make yourself crazy. Instead, try to think only in terms of what you and he share now, and what you want to do with it.
Starting with: the time you spend together. Are you enjoying it? Yes/no. If the answer is "yes and no," then ask yourself, is the good outweighing the bad? Yes/no. Yes you tough it out, no you pull back.
I can see why you'd want to think strategically; when you have a history with someone, it's natural to dwell on where you've been and where you'd eventually like to be.
But when your feelings are raw, it's often better to accept that you're not in a position to think strategically. Deal with the raw feelings in whatever way makes the most sense to you now; for most people, it's to take a little time off from the ex, but that's not true for everybody. Once your feelings about him are a little less chaotic, then you can get to work on the friendship, if you still want that.
Moving On II: How can you tell you're ready to date again?
D.C.: How do think a person knows when they've "moved on" from a past relationship, i.e., are ready to date again without being unfair to potential partners?
Carolyn: True on-moveage is when you wouldn't take a person back, even if s/he came begging.
Anonymous: Re: Moving on: I think it's more complicated than that. I broke up with a guy because he was starting to show abusive tendencies (throwing things, etc). I wouldn't have taken him back if he begged, won Lotto and we lived in different time zones. That being said, I still wasn't ready to move on for a while in a way that was fair to the other person — lots of stuff to work through.
Carolyn: Right. I was seeing it as a matter of being attached to a particular person. For the moving on you describe, the milestone you want to reach is one of accepting what you learned about yourself in the relationship. That pertains mostly to the ugly stuff you learn about yourself, but flattering news can take time to process, too.
All this can make your own life seem alien to you. Once that phase has passed, and you're not constantly aware of or reminding yourself of what happened — when you just "are" — then, you've moved on.