Who did you think of right away when you read the title of this article? What image popped into your head?
Was it a summer fling at camp when you were 15? Was it those 2 blissful months of work when a new person came to your branch only to leave again? Maybe it was someone you went to college with or a friend of a friend who was visiting for just a short time.
Or maybe … it’s the man or woman down the road. And a misunderstanding years ago made it all slip away.
Now answer a few questions: Do you immediately think about this person when you hear the words “soul mate”? Do they come to your mind as you fall asleep at night or when you see two elderly people holding hands? Do you silently compare your current partner with this person?
If you answered YES to any of these questions, you’re hooked.
And in psychology terms, being hooked—even if it’s on a beautiful memory you never want to forget—is not good.
You need to let go of the one who got away. And here’s why:
Why Thinking About The One Who Got Away Is Holding You Back From Everything
How many times have you read those two words and thought “Yes, I definitely need to start letting go of things! Out with the old! Out with the bad!”?
If you’re like many people, it’s a lot.
That’s because you’re smart. You always know what you need to do when you’re constantly turning over a stupid or useless idea, hope or dream.
But it’s still hard.
In the context of “the one who got away,” it’s hard because you love those memories.
And because …
You think it still could work out.
Admit it, come on.
Somewhere, back in those dusty drawers of your mind is a little bundle of hope—A little golden ray of sunshine that you have wrapped you’re the one who got away memories in because you really think that you might still get together in the end.
THIS is what’s holding you back.
And the reason it’s so bad? Oh, there are tons.
First of all, it won’t happen. I know, sucks, doesn’t it? But especially if it’s been years or decades since you two were together, you’ve both moved on. If he or she is married with kids now, they’re not going to leave. You might be with someone too.
Which leads us to our next reason why lamenting not being with your one that got away is bad: It won’t happen AND you probably shouldn’t want it to happen.
Who KNOWS what this person is like now! They could be a complete slob or jobless or living in their brother’s basement. Even if you know these things aren’t true, would you actually want to uproot your current life to be with them? What about their life? If they have a family, do you actually want to be a home wrecker?
Also … little acknowledged fact: Memories will lie to you. In other words, this person probably wasn’t really as great as you think they were. And it’s almost certain that in your mind, you have amplified the fun and passion you two had together.
So in a nutshell, letting go is wise. It is difficult … but wise.
There’s good news, though. Once you realize all of this, you will finally realize that your so-called ideal relationship is really just an average one from your past. And although you can remember it fondly, it will hurt more than help you to dwell and get stuck on it.
Here are some tips for finally getting over “the one who got away”:
- Sit down and think realistically about the relationship.
Try writing a few things down. What did you do together? Try to remember a little more than just what you think about on the surface. Did they have any ticks that bugged you? Did they click with your friends and family? Were they stable with a job and money? Were they wild? Moody? Think realistically, not dreamily.
- Find out about them now.
This is what Facebook’s for (within reason). Check out their page or do a little digging. Ask a mutual friend about them. What’s their deal these days?
- Pretend they’re going to leave their current place in life for you now and you are too. How do you feel?
Is this really something you could be okay with? What if they left their partner? What if you left yours? Have you even talked in years? What if it didn’t work out in the end?
- Do your religious beliefs, politics, careers and interests even line up today?
Check their stats. Do you two still even have things in common? If it’s been years since you’ve been together with each other, chances are you’ve both changed significantly.
- If you’re in love with a current partner, realize when you compare the two.
Probably the biggest negative to continually swooning over memories of the one who got away is not allowing yourself to fully be in love with your current (or future) partner. You have to stop comparing the two because it’s hurting your relationship. He or she is a different person. Let them be who they are and appreciate them for that, not who they are compared to an old fling.
- Give that old romance a place in history, but don’t make it something it’s not.
Lastly, remember that it’s ok to have that memory of your old fling. But the key is not to gild the lily and turn those memories into something they’re not. Because doing this … will only hold you back.