Driving Forward: How to Let Go of That Ex You Can’t Get Away From

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My friend Dave might be a genius, specifically when it comes to giving advice about guys. I think as humans, and further as women, that we have a tendency to want to “talk things out,” especially when they are very good, or very bad, or boring or… well you get the point, girls like to gab.

I like talking my things out, particularly “guy things” with Dave. Whenever I need guy advice, whether it be sexual or emotional, Dave is my go-to guy. I am a lover of quotes, and one that has resonated with me for years is from Dave. “Katie,” he said sweetly. “There’s a reason we don’t drive in reverse.”

“Um, what?” I asked.

“You cannot keep going back to this douche bag. Call it back sliding if that makes more sense, but there are reasons you broke up, and you need to remember those reasons whenever you miss him and think that getting back together is the solution, because, simply put, the only thing that getting back together solves is you not being apart.”

I would like to say there was this world-shattering moment as soon as those words departed from his lips. I would like to say that it hit me in the face like a two by four much like David Spade hitting Chris Farley in Tommy Boy. But alas, it did not. And I did back slide. I went back to my ex after the 3rd time he cheated on me (disclaimer: 3rd confirmed instance of him cheating on me, I’m confident there were more).

“Driving in reverse” — aka backsliding — aka disrespecting yo-self — can easily be defined as “a relapse into error.” This happens in many areas of life, but for the purpose of this article we’ll stick to the topic of dating.

Let’s start from the beginning, shall we? Or should I say the end?

The Breakup

Step one: You officially decide that you are going to leave your significant other.  The decision has been made and you’re out, home free and feeling great about it! You have never felt so powerful and strong. You are a new Woman, you will make this stick, you will take up a new hobby, maybe knitting or running, and you will grow and learn about yourself.

Speaking of yourself, you realize that you deserve someone who has the same goals, desires, and outlook as you do.  You convince yourself that you deserve more — AND YOU DO! And you will find that person, but until then, you will just be single.

I always tell all of my friends that if you can make it past the 3-week mark of a breakup with no contact with your ex, then you can make it. I’m not sure why three weeks seems to be the magical number, but it is. They say it takes 21 days to make a habit, maybe that’s why.

Step Two: A caveat of step two is that it is entirely up to you whether or not you graduate this step. Step two is a real bitch, and she creeps in at night when you’re alone and drunk or on your period. She is a relentless optimist and reminds you constantly of the occasional, sweet things that your partner would do for you. “Remember when he remembered your favorite song?” “Remember when he went out of his way to take you ice skating?”

She will keep reminding you of these scenarios. She wants you to miss him, she wants him back,  and she is needy and not the strong powerful woman who left him in step one. You will fight with her, you will remind her of the top ten most horrible things he did (write these down and post them somewhere); you will plead with her to let him go. You will cry and maybe wear his old hoodie that has a hole in the arm pit, and though it does not still smell like him, you will keep smelling it anyway in hopes that it will. She will not stop. You will have to shut her down or you’ll end up back with your ex and having to go through it all again after a short period of “we’re so glad we’re back together.”

If you believe her, you will text your ex, you will call him, show up to his house or maybe “accidentally” bump into him at a casual event. You will go back. Which is why you have to try to keep yourself busy. My personal method of getting over a guy is actually a pretty simple idea.

Anytime I want to text an ex or call him, I use my best friend as a proxy. When I left my last serious relationship, I told her I was going to be trying this.

I said “Darling, I need you to be Richard. I need to be able to text him and say the horrible and embarrassing things that I want to get off my chest whenever I need to. It may be 3 pm or 3 am, but you will have to be Richard whenever I need him.”

You see, we get comfortable in relationships; we are more scared of the unknown than we think we are. So even if we aren’t necessarily happy, we know the situation and what it is. If we leave, it’s all up in the air. So we form these attachments and habits of talking to someone about everything every day and it is hard to stop. So instead of stopping, transfer it.

I would think of things that I wanted to say like, “The Royals are losing!” or “You’re an asshole” but I texted my friend instead of him, and I got it all out of my system. It’s almost as if I was able to transfer all of the time Richard and I spent talking to each other to my best friend. Not only was this good for me but it was also good for our friendship and helped us grow closer.

Step 3: Acceptance. Congratulations, you have made it past your emotional roller coaster. You have slayed the optimistic backslider that lives within you and you have arrived at a never-ending fountain of chocolate and bottomless glasses of wine that won’t make you want to text your ex no matter how much you miss him. (Joking, but if you ever find where this place is please let me know)

In fact, by step 3, you’re hardly thinking of him at all. Occasionally someone will talk about his favorite football team, or a song will play and it’ll remind you of the time you danced in that dive bar, the one without an actual dance floor. But the other 98% of the time, he’s wiped from your memory.

You are actually “over him” and you are at a level of such self-confidence that you no longer desire him reaching out first, professing his undying love for you from the ground floor while you stand on a balcony in a Victorian dress with Debussy playing Clair de Lune, in the background – or whatever weird scenario you’ve built up in your mind. You all know you have one.

During step 2, this scenario will be something you think of often. BUT DON’T REACH OUT!

Step 3: “Wait, wait, wait, Katie, we’ve already done step 3.”

Yes, you’re so perceptive; we HAVE already talked through step three. But while you were going through your “women’s empowerment, I don’t need no man” stage of step 3, he will be going through the men’s version of step three called “why the hell hasn’t she contacted me for three weeks”?

I find it to be almost comical, how women and men are wired so very differently. This shows up in other areas of life, but it is painfully obvious during a breakup.

The first three weeks for a man are party time and the first three weeks for a woman are pure heartache. Because of this, it should, in theory, be pretty simple once you hit that three-week mark to shut him down when he finally does reach out. And he will reach out. Because do you know what makes a man want you back more than anything  else in the whole entire world? Ignoring him. That’s it. No games, no weight loss, no body language to learn, or hidden secrets, it’s just one simple thing: Cut off all contact. No phone calls, no texts, no emails, no drive-bys. No social media stalking, running the risk of accidentally liking a picture that’s 97 weeks old.

Men are hunters, and even if your man’s biggest conquest while you were together was resetting the modem, they like a challenge, and they absolutely cannot resist chasing a woman who has made herself completely unavailable to him. Don’t mistake this for love.

The good news is this. By the time you reach a point where he wants to get back together, you’ll have listened to T. Swift enough that “We are never getting back together” will be your mantra.  You will have been apart long enough to see him for what he truly was and maybe that was a great guy that just simply had different goals than you. Or maybe he was a manipulative, misogynistic, ass-hat that was inconspicuously abusive. Either way, you will be over him and moving on in your independent woman lifestyle or on the hunt for “The One.”

Good news is that either way, he will be but a faint memory.

It's never a good thing to backslide to your ex -- the one you actually want to move on from but never seem to do. This woman provides great tips and tricks for how to move on and move forward from your ex to a better life and love.

Katie Doherty
Katie is a freelance writer based out of Kansas city. Her writings are a satirical style of brutal honesty that can be tolerated only by those who are not easily offended. She is a full-time Human Resources Consultant, part-time world traveler, Mom to three strong, beautiful, independent daughters, and is a feminist who tries her best on a daily basis to help women feel confident and empowered. Her favorite quote is by renowned author John Green: “ What is the point in being alive if you don’t at least try to do something remarkable.”
Katie Doherty

Katie Doherty

Katie is a freelance writer based out of Kansas city. Her writings are a satirical style of brutal honesty that can be tolerated only by those who are not easily offended. She is a full-time Human Resources Consultant, part-time world traveler, Mom to three strong, beautiful, independent daughters, and is a feminist who tries her best on a daily basis to help women feel confident and empowered. Her favorite quote is by renowned author John Green: “ What is the point in being alive if you don’t at least try to do something remarkable.”

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