DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: Long time lurker, first time writer. I met this girl back in April, before all this madness, and we really hit off. She gave me her number and over the next months we chatted almost daily.
We had a lot of things in common and we talked about many issues, some serious, some just chitchat, sharing memes and the music, movies and series we liked. Many times we spent all night long talking and having fun, even when be both had to get up early to work.
We had four dates before the outbreak of coronavirus and we didn’t see each other again because we both resolved to stay at home until this pandemic died off. So for the last months we only texted each other and nothing changed, we still talked a lot and things were cool. However, I began to notice she became less and less engaged in our conversations, taking a lot of time to text back or even leaving me on seen many times. Suddenly we didn’t talk for days, but then we would talk for three days in a row and then radio silence for a week. One day, I sent her a text and she left me on seen. I thought it was the new normal and she would reply a few hours later. But nothing. She was online almost all the time but she didn’t reply.
I asked a couple of days later if she was ok or if something happened (she told me before some health issues within her family and I got worried) and she left me on seen again. I didn’t bother her anymore, because maybe she was really busy or had something going on in her life or just didn’t want to talk to me anymore. A few days later I checked and her profile picture is gone, meaning she deleted me from her contacts. So, after solid three weeks, now it’s certain that what we had is over.
The thing is, we didn’t have a relationship and we weren’t really friends. Maybe we could have been. I’m highly inexperienced with girls and this was my first time getting to know someone. It was my first time sharing time and feelings with a girl and also the first time someone was interested in me. I guess I became too attached and more emotionally involved that her. Maybe I scared her away because of that. I liked/like her and this was the first time I had a crush or feelings for someone and I actually could get to know that person and like her for how she was.
I’ve had experienced infatuation, Oneitis, crushes and all that, but it was always based on speculation or idealizations, never by discovering the personality of a girl, with her positive and not-so positive traits. This was the first time it was ‘real’. As I said, I know it wasn’t a relationship, but it feels like a breakup. Or what I imagine a breakup is like. It hurts so much. I’ve been crying a lot since things ended and I can’t even work. I only want to lie in bed all day and cry myself to sleep. Or just be there staring at the ceiling.
I feel also so ashamed for allowing this to affect me this much. She moved on easily, while I’m still mourning something that never existed. And to tbh, as the song says, I’m still crying, waiting and hoping she would text me back and things we’ll be normal again and each time I get a notification, my heart beats faster hoping is a text for her.
Is this normal for someone absolutely inexperienced in dating and relationships or I’m showing how immature, childish and overly emotional am I and that’s the reason why someone would leave me? It will take more time to get over her?
Heartbroken for No Reason
DEAR HEARTBROKEN FOR NO REASON: Alright, HNR, there really isn’t anything that anyone can say that’s going to make what you’re feeling hurt less. This is one of those times when, unfortunately, the only way out is through. While there are some best practices that help speed up the healing after a heartbreak, unfortunately, the pandemic means most of them are off-limits or too risky to pursue until after you’ve gotten the vaccine and the antibodies.
But while nobody can stop the pain for you, I can, at least, explain a few things for you that will help you get some perspective.
First and foremost: you’re feeling this way because it’s your first serious brush with heartbreak. You invested a lot in the idea of this woman and the idea of a relationship with her and then had it yanked away with no warning. When you haven’t had much experience with relationships, it’s all too easy to over-invest in someone; you’re so caught up in the rush of this new and novel experience that you don’t realize that you’re giving too much to somebody you barely know. And to forestall what I can already hear you saying: no, you don’t know her nearly as well as you think you do. Much of what has to do with that eagerness and excitement; you’re rushing to fill in the blanks without realizing it because it’s so new and exciting and you’re getting high as balls off oxytocin and dopamine. But after only a few weeks… you two are still virtual strangers to each other. You’re seeing the very polished version of them and vice versa. This doesn’t mean that you’re not that person or that they aren’t who they seem to be. It’s more that this is the version that you and she are hoping to live up to.
Now that’s going to make that first serious rejection hurt like a motherf--ker in and of itself. But this is also happening during the COVID-19 pandemic, which means that everyone’s working with seriously reduced emotional bandwidth. All of those feelings are much closer to the surface and much louder than they would be otherwise, so it makes everything much more intense… especially those negative feelings of heartbreak, despair and loss. So yeah, this sort of thing is gonna hurt a lot more than it would otherwise. While knowing this doesn’t make it hurt less, it’s important to keep in mind that these aren’t normal circumstances. You’re basically dealing with having been dumped during a once-in-a-lifetime event, a perfect storm of suck that’s the emotional equivalent of pouring lemon juice on a paper cut.
The next thing to understand is that this sort of thing happens. You and your crush had a relatively intense but ultimately shallow connection. I get that this sounds judgmental, but this isn’t about the quality of your connection, it’s about time. You and she simply didn’t have enough time to really explore things together, get to know each other and see if there was enough there for the two of you to build something together. This is part of why it’s important to not over-invest in someone when you’re still very much in the “getting to know you” stage of dating; you’re setting yourself up to be hurt because these kinds of connections are like shooting stars: intense, bright and brief.
This was exacerbated by the fact that, well, COVID happened. And while there’s literally no way to plan for an event like this, major events have a tendency to kill relationships, especially fairly new ones. Sometimes a major life event — such as losing a loved one — cause the person dealing with the event to reexamine their priorities and decide they need to make changes to their life. Other times, it’s a major disruption to their lives and they find that they simply don’t have the time, patience or emotional bandwidth for a lot of things they did before. In this case, the fact that you went from being able to see each other in person — even if you didn’t get together often — to a de-facto long distance relationship blew up the emotional momentum you had. It sucks… but honestly, that’s life. Sometimes life throws bulls--t in your path and the only thing you can do is try to avoid as much of it as you can.
Would this have happened if the pandemic and lockdown didn’t spring up? It’s impossible to say. It very well could be that you and she would’ve fizzled out anyway. But to be perfectly frank, there’s no point in speculating because in the end not only is there no way to know, but it’s a pointless exercise.
Here is the third thing you need to know: a lot of what you’re feeling is coming from your hurting your own feelings. You don’t know what she’s thinking or what she’s doing. You’re making assumptions about her motivations and actions because it hurts you and fits into a narrative you’ve created for yourself. It’s much easier to assume that this is all because you’re “unworthy” because you have full and continual access to the inside of your own head and no access to hers. So you create rationales and stories that fit what you are feeling right now; you’re feeling ashamed and pathetic and so you end up building up this idea that this must be why she cut ties. But the fact is that feels aren’t reals, my dude. Your feelings are intense, but they’re not the same as facts and they do alter your memories and interpretation of events. The real truth is: you don’t know and you will likely never know and that’s ok. Sometimes s--t happens and there’s nothing to do. There’s no lesson to be learned, just moments to be lived through, endured and put behind you.
Because the truth is that relationships end — sometimes because you got dumped, sometimes because you did the dumping and sometimes because it just fades like the fog in the morning. The fact that a relationship ended doesn’t mean that you did something wrong or that you were unworthy; many end simply because they reached their natural conclusion. Not every relationship is meant to be forever and that is fine. Not every love story is an epic poem. Some are meant to be short stories. Some are just dirty limericks. Some never get off the ground in the first place, and often because you and they weren’t right for each other in some way. There’s no good guy or bad guy or way you could’ve avoided it; it was just the story of two people who didn’t click the way they would need to in order to work as a couple. Even if one of them wanted to, very badly.
So for now, take your time to mourn and feel the f--k out of your feels. But you want to avoid wallowing; the more you beat yourself up about how you f--ked this up and how pathetic you are, the worse you make it on yourself. Instead, just accept that this sucks and it feels bad… but it’s only for now. I realize it is cold comfort in this moment, but this will pass. And it’ll pass all the faster if you don’t treat it as a referendum on you as a person — it isn’t. There’re things you could do better — not over-investing, as I said — but that’s the sort of thing that can only be learned through experience.
In the meantime: find the things that occupy your mind and keep your attention elsewhere. Find activities that are manifestly good for you — whether it’s putting that energy towards a couch-to-5k program, picking up a new hobby or taking time to read some really awesome books. Do things that feed your soul and help you feel like you’re becoming the version of yourself you want to be in the future, and the pain you’re feeling will fade before you realize it. This sucks, no question. But all of this is just a speed-bump. It’s a learning experience we all have to go through. You’ll survive this, you’ll come through on the other side and be a little wiser, a little more cautious and ready to try again. You’re not a loser, HNR; you’re just someone who loved not too wisely but too well.
You’ll get past this. You’ll be ok. I promise.
All will be well.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org