Moving On

When a friendship or relationship ends, “moving on” is often a difficult and slow process. If there was a large investment of emotion, effort, time, and physical resources, a vacuum is left which must be filled by something, be it solitude, other people, work, or idle sadness. If the relationship was roughly equitable, part or all of the vacuum might be filled by the tasks and responsibilities previously shared with the friend or partner. However, the end of a relationship where you gave far more than you received in return is especially challenging, because now you have so much free time and energy but don’t know what to do with it. It is very easy to succumb to sadness, self-pity, and idleness.

The circumstances under which a friendship end can make it easier or harder to move on. Separation due to drifting interests or a required move may be easier, because the friendship ends on good terms and may even continue through long-distance communication. Far harder are friendships that end with fundamental corruption. Examples of fundamental corruption center around betrayals of trust and expectations, i.e. infidelity, failure to keep secrets, or rampant disparities in value—for example, a friend you volunteer your services to expects to be paid handsomely when you request his or her help. Unfortunately, it is very easy to blame ourselves in such situations; usually, the other person’s true colors were evident but overlooked or ignored by us. I feel it may be a worthwhile recommendation for mindful and conscientious people to actually start blaming others rather than themselves in these cases. Just because someone had no obligation of kindness or fairness to you does not mean they should have a license to shameless pillage your attention, resources, and services.

Likewise, forgiving others may be overrated for mindful and conscientious people. It is not necessarily essential or even conductive to moving on. Consider the friend you have supported and encouraged for years who feels justified in repeatedly berating you (under the guise of “constructive criticism”) and choosing and siding with new friends or acquaintances over you—yet does not notice this is an issue, and declares it is “not [his or her] problem” when confronted. There are a lot of possible ways to move on from such a friendship that have negative consequences for one’s mental health, such as self-loathing, low self-esteem, distrust of others, and a general lack of faith in humanity. However, if we instead categorize the issue as being with the other individual or a class of individuals (i.e. sociopaths or narcissists), we can move on more quickly without challenging fundamental self-beliefs. We can still realize that we are attracted to people with horrible qualities and adjust for it—but with the understanding that the brunt of the faults truly are with our prior friends rather than ourselves. Victim-blaming and guilt by association are barbaric holdovers in a world of progressive social dynamics.

Life is so short; most significant friendships will have existed for at least 1% of your lifespan, which is 9.6 months if you live 80 years. It is difficult to move on after realizing our understanding of someone was fundamentally corrupt, because it has a finality that completely supersedes the temporal nature of the friendship. It is impossible (short of brain damage) to recall a friendship that ended in an act of conniving back-stabbing in the same light you saw it in at the time. Everything turns rancid. Compounding this with the fact that a significant portion of your life was lost is a recipe for suicidal depression. Consider instead that it could have been worse, that you were accomplishing other things during this “lost” time, that the former friend made you feel valued or happy (at times and for a time), or whatever you need to do to cope. Time moves so fast that the hurt may soon subside, although it will not be forgotten until your death (or descent into dementia, possibly).

I believe an essential part of moving on is the complete integration of the belief that the former friend or partner is NOT thinking or caring about you. If you fantasize that the friend is still thinking of you, feels bad about what he/she did, or even carries a piece of you with him/her, you haven’t moved on. Considering that people generally think others give them far more consideration than the harsh reality, it is more likely the other person has moved on far quicker and more easily than you and does not give two shits about you. That you are still reading this essay is evidence of this fact (unless you skimmed or skipped to this paragraph). Trying to force yourself to move on is likely to have maladaptive consequences, however. Recognizing that you care and put more mental energy into the former friendship than your former friend does is a more appropriate first step; it is far superior to believing the former friend is similarly inclined, and with time will allow you to reclaim that energy for your own use. Being that email, Facebook messages, text messages, etc. are readily available, more evidence than ever before is available to indicate your ex-friend does not give two shits about you—if he or she did, you would be receiving an apology text message or at least a simple “hello.”

I am not sure what to do, say, or believe when presented with the idea that other people only care what you can do for them or how you can make them feel. This idea does explain friends who jerk you around and crush your spirit for their personal satisfaction or gain. However, it is often presented with a decidedly “us versus them” feel that implies holders of this belief are different; that they are gifted (or cursed) with the ability to actually care about others, unlike the vast majority. An alternative exists for those who subscribe to subjective reality: for them, the possibility exists that an idea can simultaneously be true AND false. For example, the idea that others only care about what you can give them is true if it helps you be cautiously guarded and avoid being taken advantage of. On the other hand, it is false if it leads you to withdraw from others and be far less happy than you were with your “naïve” beliefs in the goodness of others.

In closing, consider that anyone can be made to do or say betraying things when tortured. If your best friend or closest family member was told he or she would stop being burned with acid or having toenails ripped out if he or she tells the torturer where to find you, you can bet your life the value of your friendship would go to zero. No friendship in life is completely concrete; they are all built on the shifting sands of time, proximity, serendipity, convenience, stimulation, tension, opportunity, and a million other factors. Consider that betrayal might be based not on malice, but a desire to be “right,” to be liked by everyone, to appear completely neutral, etc. But don’t give too much thought to it. Think about yourself and where you are going, and take action based on those thoughts. According to a wannabee author at 2:30 AM, that is the key to moving on.

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