‘It Was Only Three Dates, But I’m Devastated’

QUESTION: After a year of going on dozens of so-so dates, I finally met a guy I really liked. Our dates were lively and fun, and he was really cute. It had been ages since I’d felt that way about anyone, and I was so happy and relieved.

I was sure he felt the same way. We spent all three dates laughing and chatting, and when we kissed on our third date it was … well, it was just wonderful. Finally, it seemed like I was going to find the relationship I’ve been wanting for so long.

Then he disappeared. He sent a few texts about “being really busy at work blah blah blah” and then just stopped texting entirely. I’m devastated. And what makes the situation worse is that some of my friends are saying things like, “Oh, come on. You only went on three dates! Shouldn’t you be over it by now?” I’m not over it. Not even close. Am I completely weird for having such a strong reaction? – A

ANSWER: No, I don’t think you’re completely weird. Or maybe I’m just weird in the same way. During my single years, I was often chided to “just get over” some man who broke my heart. I was often presented with calculations based on the amount of time I had spent with this man, and the amount of time that had passed since. The math was never good.

When people say things like this to us, it’s because they find it frustrating to see someone they love so miserable over someone who, to them, is just some random jerk. It is very, very hard to watch. But what they don’t understand is that this kind of heartbreak isn’t simply about the management consultant you had dinner with three times. The devastation is about the hope that has been dashed. It’s less about the time that you spent with this one person, and more about the many months or years before that that you spent trying to find someone you liked this much.

But don’t get down on your friends too much—they mean well. Most likely, they’ve either never experienced longtime singledom or they have allowed themselves to forget. Either way, there is no point in judging how you feel, or even analyzing why you feel that way. You were hurt, so honor that. I don’t mean wallow in it by mentally rehashing the ordeal. I mean, just let yourself feel sad without judging that feeling. As Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron often says, “Feel the feeling. Drop the storyline.”

When you criticize yourself for feeling bad, it doesn’t make you feel any better—all you’re doing is adding shame to the hurt. But when you can allow those difficult feelings to have a little space, that’s when start to loosen up. In other words, if you want to “let it go” start by letting it be.