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Breaking up is hard to do

If you move too quickly, they’ll get scared off. If you move too slowly, you might miss your chance. It’s a game of luck. You happen to be in the right place, at the right time and – wham! There they are.

All relationships are games. Those who deny it are fools and those who claim they shouldn’t be have obviously not been winning. It’s sad but true – we follow certain guidelines and rules to make relationships successful.

Three-day calling windows, becoming “too busy” every now and again when the other calls for a date, and waiting a certain number of dates before sex (although the appropriate waiting time is still a variable) are all games we play. But in our competitive society, the worst part of the game is losing. Now, somewhere on campus is a player who won all your cards.

Running into the ex shouldn’t be a problem with 60,000 people on campus. Somehow, though, I can be at a bar, at a stoplight or picking out a movie on Friday night (the worse time he could catch me), and he’ll be there.

My heart races and words fly through my head rapidly as I search for something witty to say. “Boast about how great your life is,” I think. Will he see through it? Talk about your job, new friends or that awesome party last week. Will he be jealous?

But to my amazement, our eyes lock and he turns the other direction, ducks and takes off. This was a man whom I believed to be confident, someone who said we had a good relationship. And to top it off, our relationship seemed like ages ago. So why is it so uncomfortable to face the ex?

I was told that an adult would try to be friends with an ex and that it’s mature to want good things for our old partners. Clearly, I have not grown up yet because that idea completely eludes me. When you’ve seen that person naked, when you’ve woken up next to him without makeup, when he’s taken care of you when you’re sick, when you promised to love each other forever – how can you possibly turn this person into a friend?

A lover is difficult to classify as anything else but an ex-lover. Perhaps time could turn this person into a friend, but in my situation it didn’t. Four years didn’t do it for one of my exes and four years doesn’t really cut it for me, either.

Hearing the quote, “The hardest part of moving forward is not looking back,” has helped me at one point or another, but I now see the falsity in this statement. I do believe it is good to look back on relationships and remember the lessons we learned. Travel down memory lane to recall what was good and bad in that relationship for you. But if you get stuck remembering how good it was and want it back again, stop yourself quickly and think of why the two of you weren’t compatible. After all, the relationship did end for a reason and having an explanation makes moving on easier.

I have done an excellent job of forgetting my past relationships by dating someone new right away. To me, he’s not the rebound guy – he’s the reassuring guy. As long as I didn’t plan to get serious, dating again could’ve worked, but it didn’t. This is where the post-relationship rules come into play.

Avoid places where you two went and you know he goes regularly. Distance yourself from mutual friends. Put away all pictures of you and the ex, especially the ones where you look happy. Write out all the reasons you’re glad it’s over and store it with the pictures. And the most important – one I can’t seem to follow – don’t date for a couple of months and spend quality time alone. Ultimately, there will be a feeling of closure – the last step in letting go of a past relationship. I always try to find ways to get closure quickly and earlier than time would allow it. Not only will I try to follow the post-breakup rules, but I’ll also hope for justice. When I moved on and found happiness in my life, what felt the most satisfying is when the dumper comes to the dumpee and said he made a mistake.

There is no simple answer to find closure and let go of an old boyfriend or girlfriend. Sometimes the bitterness or the sadness or the regret feels like it’ll never end.

I try to think that “every exit is but an entrance to somewhere else,” as I heard it once said. No matter how many times the heart gets broken, it can be pieced back together with time and the knowledge that love will come again.

Courtney Lewis’ monthly column usually appears Mondays. She welcomes comments at [email protected]. Send letters to the editor to

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