How I Moved On From A Heartbreak – Part 3: Forgiveness, Closure and Moving On
This is part three of my five-part series on how to move on from relationships.
- How I Moved On From A Heartbreak – Part 1: My Journey With Love
- How I Moved On From A Heartbreak – Part 2: Heartbreak and Sadness
- How I Moved On From A Heartbreak – Part 3: Forgiveness, Closure and Moving On
- Top 12 Signs It’s Time To Move On From A Relationship
- 10 Steps To Move On From A Relationship
Note from Celes: Hey guys! Thanks so much for your beautiful comments, emails and private messages the past few days regarding parts 1 and 2 of the series. Every single one of your messages has brought a warm smile to my face. Due to requests from some readers, I’ve opened up the comments section for this post. Feel free to drop a comment after you’ve finished reading part-3. I’d love to know your thoughts on this new series.
My Journey in Moving On
Thinking About Him
After we parted ways, I focused on living my life. Staying away from G made it easier to move on. No more confusing signals to throw me off track. No more mind games. No more ambiguity. While I was hurt on the inside, at least now I could focus on the path of recovery rather than be left hanging in the middle of no man’s land. I was sad and disappointed that G was not the one, but I remained hopeful that my special someone was out there and I would meet him someday.
Yet, a part of me still thought about G. This tended to arise in certain moments, such as when I was by myself, when my friends talked about guys/relationships, when I saw couples together, or when I was down. I would think back about the past, and the times we were together. Thinking about him would trigger different emotions. Sweetness and nostalgia from the happy times. Confusion over why exactly he acted that way. Frustration, sadness and disappointment from how things turned out. Regret over what could have been. Anger and hatred for how he dealt with the situation and breaking me on the inside. Over time, these emotions had dried out into numbness.
When I was down or out of sorts though, I would feel an urge to contact him. I remember there was a time in 2006 when my mom was in the ICU after a surgery. It was the worst period of my life – I thought she was going to die and I was going to lose my mom forever. While I was crying my eyes out at the hospital, I wished he was there with me. However, I held myself back from contacting him because I didn’t want him to see me in this state, especially not after what happened between us. Thankfully, my mom recovered a few weeks later.
There was other times when I felt troubled and wished I could seek solace in him. Each time, I stopped myself, reminding that staying away was for the better.
Occasionally he would sms me, to wish me happy birthday, share a festive greeting or on something random. Sometimes I didn’t reply, other times I just responded with a courteous message. I figured talking too much was pointless, since I wanted to draw a clear line from him. I tried to keep communication with him minimal to protect myself.
Living In A Loop
I wasn’t exactly able to maintain the distance with him though. Over the next 3 years between 2006-2008, there were two times when I contacted him. The first time was in 2006,when I just started work and I felt bogged down. The second time was in mid-2008, when I wanted to leave my ex-company to pursue my passion and I was contemplating how best to deal the situation. Looking back, these were times when I was less sure than my usual self, when I needed support. It wasn’t surprising he came to mind then, since I saw him as my pillar of support in the past.
Each time I contacted him, we almost immediately clicked like in the past. This was despite not being in close contact for almost a year each time. None of us mentioned the awkward incidences that led to me breaking away back in school. For the next few months, we quickly grew closer and closer, talking late in the night, emailing, meeting up frequently and just hanging out. And again, he would treat me in the same special way that was more romantic than platonic.
In all honesty, I removed the possibility of us being together when I made the decision to stay away in 2005. I had contacted him because I just wanted to talk to him, not to see if we could be together. Thus, when the whole romantic vs. platonic behavior began, I was skeptical of his intents. I kept him at an emotional distance while enjoying the friendship as it was.
However, as we talked more and went out more often, I thought perhaps things had changed since the last time. Maybe this time, he was serious. Maybe this time, it was real, you know? Maybe by not reciprocating, I was closing myself out in love. With renewed hope and faith, I decided to give this another shot. I began to respond in kind.
Yet after the initial pickup, things reached the exact same point as before. The same point of ambiguity – a friendship-bordering-on-relationship-but-not-a-relationship relationship. I was engulfed with the same confusion and second-guessing. Same questions, same hypotheses, no concrete answers. It was incredulous. I thought it had to be some kind of a joke. It was like living in a loop – repeating the same actions and experiencing the same outcome, again and again. Like the same scene in a play that kept reenacting itself, except it had no ending.
Once again, I was saddened and hurt. When it became obvious nothing was going to change, I broke away – silently this time. They say once bitten, twice shy. And third time is the charm. When this happened the third time in 2008, it finally sunk inside me that nothing was ever coming out of this friendship/relationship. I had given it (the relationship) one too many opportunities to play out and it didn’t.
With a heavy heart, in Dec 2008, I decided to move on for good this time.
(Actually in that month, I experienced 2 huge disappointments – this incident with G, and another about addressing money barriers while pursuing my passion. In Jan ’09, I wrote about how I overcame the latter disappointment. I didn’t write about G then because I wasn’t ready to. Today, I’m finally ready to do so, having gone through the realizations below that have helped me move on.)
Realizations that Helped Me Move On
It took a long while, but I finally moved on 4 years after we first broke away in 2005. The funny thing about these past 4 years is that there were many times when I thought I had moved on during this period, only to find out afterward that I hadn’t. I’m glad to say now that majority, if not all, of this episode is now behind me. For sure, this didn’t happen overnight – it was through little steps, little realizations along the way that enabled me to finally put the past behind me.
Recognizing He Didn’t Want To Be With Me
Regardless of how his actions were romantic vs. platonic, ultimately I realized that if G was really serious about being together with me, he would have taken action long ago. There was no need to dance around at the sidelines, not after all these years too. Not in 2005, not in 2006, and certainly not in 2008. There could be one billion and one reasons why he didn’t take further action but the fact was he chose not to do so. It took me a while to accept this, but when I did I saw things much more objectively.
Realizing He Was Not The One For Me
During the times when we were close, I saw G as my soulmate. So when it turned out nothing was coming out of the friendship/relationship, I found it difficult to see myself with someone else. Even as I went out with other guys, I would often compare them with G. My preset bias made it difficult for guys to measure up against him, so as a result I turned my back on other guys.
But then I realized if G was my soulmate, these loops wouldn’t be replaying over and over again, each time culminating to the exact same ambiguity. No matter what I did, no matter how I tried to alter the outcome, it always resulted to the same end. To have it happen once was enough – but to have it happen three times, staggered across different time periods – it proved beyond any doubt nothing could come out of this. I kept trying to look beyond but it was a dead end. A dead end. There was nothing beyond. I finally realized that G was not the one for me at all.
Forgiving Him… and Forgiving Myself
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” – Lewis Smedes
Deep down, I hated G for the way he dealt with the situation. I felt he was irresponsible. If he didn’t like me, why did he even say all those things? Why did he keep quiet when I confronted him? Why did he continue on behaving that way even after I told him to stop it?
No matter how I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, a part of me still blamed him for what happened. He had played with my feelings and betrayed this trust. All the promises he made in the past were just empty words. I felt like his pawn in this whole game. I was angry at him. I was resentful.
Beyond that… I was angry at myself. If he was supposedly a jerk, then I was angry I even allowed myself to be fooled by a jerk. If he was irresponsible, I was angry I was blind enough to leave my heart in the hands of an irresponsible person. All in all, I was mad that I had not taken proper care of myself. I had let myself get hurt. I had let myself down.
Last year (3 months ago in Dec 2009), I realized if I wanted to truly move on, I needed to forgive him… and myself. I was dragging the past emotional baggage around like a dead carcass all this while, punishing myself. The hate was still inside me. Only by forgiving him, was I forgiving myself.
After I realized this, interestingly, I experienced some inner resistance in me. It was as if I didn’t want to let it go, like I didn’t feel it was fair to forgive him after what he had put me through. But then I asked myself “So do you want to carry around this whole baggage instead? And think that you are making him pay when you are really just punishing yourself?” Upon hearing this, it took a few seconds before I consciously decided to let go of the hate. The anger. The resentment. I suddenly realized I had been so silly, holding on to all of these for so long, never ever realizing that I was really just the only person suffering the whole time. When I finally let them go, I couldn’t help but smile. I felt lighter immediately, like some invisible weight was lifted. It was liberating.
Letting Him Know the Truth
A closure couldn’t take place if he didn’t even know what had been happening all this while. I thought he deserved to know the full story all these years. I felt I should bring to his awareness the implications of his actions, for his own journey of growth, and for the well-being of whoever is in his life / crosses his life in the future. What he decides to do after that is his personal choice.
So in same month of Dec ’09, I wrote a long email to him. For the first time, I shared my thoughts feelings transparently. I wrote about all the key events that happened between us, starting from 2005. From when I liked him, to breaking away, to living in a loop for the few years, to breaking away again in 2008. I told him how I felt he was irresponsible in his communications. I told him how I hated and resented him for what he had done. Finally, I told him I had forgiven him. I was ready to move on.
I didn’t expect him to reply. To be honest, it really didn’t matter at all because the email came from a moral obligation to let him know the truth of what had been going on, rather than to get an answer. Whether he answered or not, or whatever his answer was, didn’t matter anymore as I had put this behind me.
If you want to know, he replied within the day, expressing surprise at the contents of the email. He gave his side of the story, saying since we were in university, he really admired me, my passions, courage and my values. He said he also found me to be caring, smart and pretty. Because of that, he really liked spending time with me. Back then, he was unsure of whether to pursue the relationship romantically, but ultimately decided what he really wanted was for us to stay as good friends. He explained I always had a special place, which was why he always treated me exceptionally different from other people. At the end, he apologized for the hurt he had caused me.
His answer helped draw light on the events of the past few years. I replied back, thanking him for the apology and that I had accepted it. I was thankful that the loop was finally broken. #14 of my key highlights for 2009 was actually referring to this.
Living For Myself
The final closure I needed was with myself.
Regardless of the multiple hypotheses I had on why G and I were not together, I had always concluded it was because I wasn’t good enough. If I was good enough, he would have wanted to be with me. While I stopped liking G since a long time ago, the fact that he didn’t want to be with me was a subconscious block. It was no longer about why G and I couldn’t be together. It became an issue with why G didn’t want to be with me. Was it something wrong with me? Was I not good enough to be with? This experience left a huge dent in my self-esteem.
This belief that I wasn’t good enough enveloped me like a quiet shroud. Consciously, I was sure of myself and my capabilities. Subconsciously, I kept thinking I wasn’t good enough, that I was not deserving of love, that I was ugly, fat, unworthy, critical, judgmental, not feminine enough, etc.
Because of that, I went on a marathon to improve myself these past few years. I kept thinking I was not good enough to be with someone. I worked on improving my temper. I cultivated patience. I became a kinder person, putting myself in others’ shoes and to be caring more for them. I tried to lose weight. I tried to be less critical and more encouraging. I tried to be more feminine, dainty, quiet and demure, against my natural demeanor where I was more open, forthcoming and earnest.
While “improving” myself made me feel better, it was just for a short while. I would feel inadequate after a while, being overly self-critical and pinpointing how I could be better. I never seemed to be good enough. It was only a month ago where I questioned myself – What exactly was “good enough” then?
I came up with a list of qualities I thought were “good enough”. Pretty, short, petite, demure, quiet, kind, reactive, feminine, dependent, relenting, etc…. It was then I realized these were the qualities I thought were “good enough” for G, or guys for that matter. What would happen after I acquire these qualities then? Would I be together with G?
Would G be happy?
Would I be happy?
The answer hit me with a quiet “thud“.
No.. I wouldn’t be happy.
It struck me that even if I became a girl that G would like or what I thought G would like, it wouldn’t matter – Because I wouldn’t be happy. I may be good enough for him then, but I wouldn’t be good enough for myself. This isn’t about the specific qualities itself, but the reason behind the desire to change. For what it is worth, that list is probably inaccurate. The point is, I was trying to change to fit into what I thought G or somebody else would like. Changing for that reason wouldn’t have gone anywhere far because I would never be happy that way. If I want to be happy, I myself need to happy, first and foremost.
Recognizing the Relationship Was Just a Mental Illusion
With the realization above, that was when it finally clicked that the relationship between G and me had been a mental illusion all along. Subconsciously, a part of me thought G and I would be together if I turned myself into Person X (with the X list of traits G was looking for). But the truth is, I can never be Person X. More importantly, I don’t want to be Person X. It is not what I see myself evolving into. This is not what I see to be in line with my growth, my life, my destiny.
Since the relationship between G and I can only exist if I’m Person X, in reality this relationship can never exist because I can never be Person X, nor do I want to be Person X.
It was a simple, yet powerful realization. When I realized that, it felt a veil that had been covering me all these years had finally been lifted from my head. I felt the fog around me was gone. I had finally freed myself from the mental shackles I had put on myself all along.
End of a Chapter, Beginning of the Next
Looking back, it has been a long journey these past 5 years. A journey filled with happiness, hope, sadness, disappointment, anger, self-doubt, self-hate, and at the end of it, deep revelations, growth, and an all-new self-awareness. I didn’t realize it then, but I had been living under the shadow of this relationship all these years.
Yet, I recognize everything that has happened has helped me become a better person. I’m grateful for that.
I’m glad to have finally gained closure on this and with myself after all these years. I have realized that whenever we refuse to move on, we prevent new things from entering into our life. The ones we are punishing isn’t the other person, but ourselves. When we let go of the past, we are in essence allowing new things to enter into our lives. If you want to attract new possibilities, you need to first release the old baggage you are hanging on to.
Right now, some of you may be in an ambiguous relationship and not know what to do. Some of you may be in broken relationships. Some of you may be thinking of whether to return to a past relationship which didn’t end off well. Some of you may be trying to move on from an unhappy past relationship.
Many of us are usually not aware when they should be moving on – I was in this exact same situation. Part four of the series is here: 12 Signs It’s Time To Move On From A Relationship. It’s over 3,500 words long – I’ve spent deep thought writing this and I hope it will help you find out if it’s time for you to move on in your relationship.
Update Sep 2013: About three years after I wrote and published this post, I found and got together with my true soulmate, Ken Soh, someone whom I met fleetingly when I was in university and only realized that he is my “one” 10 years later. Read our love story and how you can meet your true soulmate in life: How To Find Your Soulmate (seven-part series)
« How I Moved On From A Heartbreak – Part 2: Heartbreak and Sadness
Top 12 Signs It’s Time To Move On From A Relationship »