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When you can’t stop thinking about the person who broke your heart, what should you do? What if you’re not sure how to move on, even after you’ve broken up and you know you want to get over it? These are the sorts of questions Heather Havrilesky explores for the brokenhearted who write in to the Cut’s advice column Ask Polly seeking sanity and comfort. Below, seven columns offer advice about how to get over a breakup.
A reader who broke up with a man she once believed was the love of her life writes to Polly wanting to know how she can let go of a man who didn’t seem ready for a serious relationship. Polly says it’s no wonder she’s having trouble moving on: “You’ve spent a lot of time trying to wrestle this unyielding man into something that loosely resembled a partnership, so it’s not surprising that you’re still invested.” In the end, Polly reminds us, a capacity for love can bring this kind of pain — but it can also bring incredible joy.
Drowning writes in to Polly after a breakup, wondering how she can crawl out of a deep, dark pit of despair. As Polly puts it, “The simple problem is that you’re just three months out of a breakup, and you’re someone who strongly prefers to be part of a couple.” Polly urges Drowning to remember that life requires reaching, and that we are all our own saviors.
A reader writes to Polly to express a deep fear she’ll be broken up with. “It’s hard,” she writes. “This sucks. I’m a mess.” Polly points out that because these anxieties will last long after any guy does, this reader needs to learn to deal with them. Taking care of ourselves, she reminds us, also means taking full responsibility for our own happiness.
Backward Girl describes feeling derailed by the news that her cheating ex-boyfriend is having a baby with his new girlfriend. Polly reminds us that happiness isn’t an absolute, that it doesn’t mean an escape from feeling bad. “The big challenge,” she says, “is not to make meaning around those bad days.”
A woman who went on a date with another woman for the first time writes in to describe feeling bereft after getting ghosted. Was what she thought was a big step forward — meeting someone she really liked — actually a huge step back? Definitely not, Polly says: “Be grateful for what she made you feel, and charge forward in search of something better.”
Haunted by a Narcissist tells Polly about her terrible ex-boyfriend, whose rejection still haunts her. After explaining that her feelings are completely reasonable, Polly describes what should come next. “You’ve got to shake off this impression — this delusion, this drugged up, confused, junkie hallucination you have — that your ex lies at the center of all of the magic in the universe,” she writes, “that he’s some demigod who controls the horizontal and the vertical, that he holds the key to your happiness and also dictates whether or not you are good and special and worthy.”
Whiny McWhinerson describes not being able to get past her awful ex-boyfriend’s seeming happiness with his life without her. Why does someone who treats people so badly get to have such a nice life? Polly points out that not much would change if she knew her ex was unhappy. “Your feelings and ideas and nightmares about him,” she writes, “are a manifestation of some bigger issues you’re afraid to face in your past and in your present.”
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