1. There’s no closure.
Humans crave closure. There’s an inherent desire for it — all the stories we never learn the endings to, the movies we never finish, the seasons of TV shows that leave us with more questions than answers so we turn to blogs and the internet to vent our frustration. We need closure in order to shelve things in our head and move on. But when you don’t get closure — when they drop off the face of the earth or suddenly spring a new significant other on social media — what do you do?
It’s hard to create your own closure, to grasp for signs that really don’t mean anything at all but to which we assign meaning. And it might seem ridiculous at first, like believing in magic or fairies, but sometimes, it’s the only thing we can do. We have to find meaning where there is none. We have to write our own endings and create closure ourselves. It’s hard, but it’s possible. And you’re able to have a happily ever after all on your own, with just yourself. You deserve that.
2. Just because you weren’t owed anything doesn’t mean there weren’t expectations.
It’s all the unsaids and implieds, all the times they called you baby and were cute with you around your friends — but then there’s the fact that nothing ever followed through. This is what enables us to feel so torn in admitting that no, you didn’t date, but you still kinda feel like you ought to call them your ex. Maybe not an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, but an ex-something. An ex-maybe. An ex-almost.
None of us ever like to think that we have to lick our wounds when we’ve put all our eggs in one basket, bet all our chips on one hand, decided to be all or nothing (whatever metaphor you prefer, really), only to have the other party cut and run with your heart just before they were all-in, too. But it happens, and though it’s not fair to us, chances are good the other person never asked for our hearts. We just gave them freely. Sometimes you risk and lose.
(Why do we keep risking, then? Well, I guess on the off-chance that just maybe, this might be the time we win.)
3. You’re only ever left with your side of the story.
What you did, what you didn’t do, what you could have done, what was wrong with you, what was right with you — you never get these answers, so you wind up speculating. And we are our own worst critics, so we wind up thinking that everything was our fault. That is and isn’t the case — you’re only ever responsible for your actions, no one else’s. Rationalizing what you did against what someone else did, then, is an effort in futility. It’s not your responsibility to understand them — after all, they’re not in your life anymore. Sometimes you just need to know that you tried, and that was all you could have been expected to do.
4. Your friends can never keep track of what is going on.
They will ask where that one person you were talking to went, have you seen them recently, what is up with you two, are you official yet — the whole nine. And because they’re so used to things being on-again-off-again, unsaid, and implied, chances are they’ll think this is just another ebb and flow in the roller coaster that is your romance. But you’ll have to relive the pain that things fell through every time, and though this never gets any less difficult to admit to them, you will become stronger and soon enough, they will forget that the almost-person ever existed. (And the best of friends will tell you that if they knew what was good for them, they shoulda locked it down. Best friends believe you deserve all-in commitment. Because you do.)
5. It’s hard to reconcile what is with what could have been.
I think, at our cores, no matter how jaded and cynical and bitter and burned we might claim to be — we’re optimists. We like to believe in love and happily ever after, and we like to believe that something is out there waiting for us. And so that is why we hold onto the could have beens, and all of the futures we painted in our heads but were never brave enough to admit. It’s hard to reconcile the fact that maybe, deep down, the way to get what we wanted was just to have The Talk with the other person before the cut-and-run. And that’s on us, and will ever be.
When you’re given cute words and quiet moments together, it’s very easy to see that inch and take a mile, but unless you follow through and ask for what you want to receive, you can’t blame anyone else when you’re not given it. But at the very least, if we are all constantly floundering through these almost-relationships together — because after all, it seems like everyone these days has an almost in their history — we can collectively learn, and be a little braver, and say what we want next time. Because after all, we’re optimists. We have to believe in love to survive. There will always be a next time, if only we can lick our wounds and find the courage within ourselves to try again.
Ella Cerón is a writer and editor based in New York. For more, follow her on Instagram.