Dear Miss Meghan,
My girlfriend ended our relationship after 3 years a few months ago. I am ready to move on, but am not sure what the next steps are. Help.
I read somewhere that it takes half the time you were in a relationship to get over said relationship. This theory would suggest it’s going to take you a year and a half to truly be ready to move on. The good news is that I think it read this information in Cosmo when I was a teen, so I don’t think we need to take it too seriously as a rule.
I’ve seen enough relationships end at this point in my life, and have a decent knowledge base on the scientific study of love, that I believe that when ‘everyone’ says “time will heal all wounds,” in this case the cliché is actually true. But we can speed it up a bit.
Recovering from any romantic relationship requires us to actually rewire the neuro-pathways in our brain. We have to shift our thinking from “we” back to “me.” The neurotransmitters we get from love are powerful and grow in strength over time. We form associations between “that person” and certain smells, sounds, words, places, etc. and when it ends, we have to get rid of those associations.
Some people (Cosmo) imply that you have no control over this process and that you just have to wait it out. I say you can do lots of things about it: Spend time alone. Go out with friends. Reconnect with people you enjoy. Go on dates. Be set up with someone. Commit to not dating or celibacy for a while. See a concert. Or forty concerts. Find new hobbies or re-start some old ones. Cook. Figure out what you want in a partner and what you don’t want.
All of these will help in the re-wiring of your brain to start thinking of “you” again instead of your ex’s needs/desires/concerns. If you find yourself falling madly in love with the next person to walk across your doorstep (do you have doorsteps in residence halls?) please ask yourself if it is just the same old pathway lighting up, or is it truly different and new. This is tricky to figure out and we don’t have a clear way of knowing (unless you have access to a PET scan), but the first step in moving on is learning to trust yourself again and figuring out what you want. After you do that, the rest is easy. Or, well, at least easier.
Also, “sorry” about my complete overuse of quotation marks. My bad.