We've all been there. We've fallen in love with somebody who just didn't love us back. We've heard a variety of exit lines: "I think it's time we started seeing other people," "I love you, but I'm not in love with you," or "It's not you. It's me."
It's hard to accept when the other person just stops returning phone messages, but it's even worse when they keep calling after the break-up. Running into the object of affection in a public place is also a killer, especially if he or she gives mixed signals by making persistent eye contact. It doesn't help when they send an email every so often to see how you're doing, either.
Instead, it makes it really easy for you to lie to yourself. You tell yourself that this person really does love you but is afraid of being hurt. The poor thing! If only you could convince him or her that you are a gentle soul utterly incapable of causing pain. If only you could prove your trustworthiness, your dedication. You will win him over! You will make her see! You will!
You lie awake at night replaying the happy scenes between you. You remember the tender way she looked at you while you recited your lines from the Third Grade Christmas pageant over a candlelit dinner. You bring to mind the yielding fullness of his lower lip as you kissed him on the beach. Surely this person loves you! Why must they live in such terror of loving and be loved?
And so it goes. You become caught up in believing that someone who doesn't love you really does, blinding yourself to opportunities to meet a person who will truly make you happy.
You cannot move on until you stop obsessing, but that's easier said than done, right? Here's what worked for me:
Tell the person to bug off. Just as you must cease contact with the object of your affection, he or she must cease contact with you. Tell this person you're not ready to be friends and you don't know if you ever will be. Any patronizing emails they send inquiring to your well-being will be left unread and marked as SPAM.
Write down all the things that bothered you. After being dumped, it's natural to idealize the dumper. We remember the happy events and tender moments, but we forget about the time he was chatting away with a blob of scrambled egg stuck to his lip, or how mascara used to crumble in her eye sockets. We forget about the stack of Victoria's Secret catalogs he kept on his night table, or her fondness for using four-letter words in 4-Star restaurants. Nobody is perfect. Everybody has faults, so write down a list of the object of your affection's worst traits and pull it out every time that scene of the two of you fooling around at sunrise pops into your head. Tape a copy to your bathroom mirror while you're at it, so you see it first thing in the morning.
Throw out all reminders. It doesn't even have to be a gift. It could be a book you discussed, a bottle of wine you shared that's still on your kitchen counter, or the sheets you slept on together. Treat yourself by replacing everything. Start fresh.
Turn off the radio. You're minding your own business, doing quite well, thank you, when all of a sudden some song comes on the radio that reminds you of the object of your obsession. Change the channel. Snap off the radio. Act fast, or in an instant you will be back where you started, treading the cycle of being in love, jilted, depressed, hopeful, and delusional.
Picture the person in a repellent fashion. It didn't matter that the object of my affection didn't even own a baseball cap, an effective technique I used to "turn myself off" to him was to imagine him wearing a baseball cap in a restaurant. I really hate a guy who wears a baseball cap in a restaurant. Surely there are things that turn you off. Imagine the object of your obsession doing them.
Make the commitment. The reason we obsess about people who hurt us is because it's comfortable. Heck, sometimes it's even fun. But to move on to the love you deserve, you have to make a commitment to stop obsessing. So make it. Remember, the opposite of love is not hate. It's indifference. When you're indifferent to the person who hurt you, you will truly be free and on your way to genuine happiness.
Terry Hernon MacDonald is the author of "How to Attract and Marry the Man of Your Dreams." Visit her website at http://www.marrysmart.com