‘I fell for a woman who’s now gone from my life. How can I stop imagining a future together?’

Tell Me About It: ‘I feel sick inside and miss her so very much. I just want to be with her. What can I do? She FaceTimes me every night’

PROBLEM: I ended a relationship I was in almost a year ago. I have no regrets about having done so and both my ex and I acknowledged that it was the fairest thing to do for both our sakes. Our break-up was respectful, but tough on my ex.

Two months ago, I met a new person for whom I fell head over heels. She is as close to my dream (as well as realistic/plausible, ie also gay) partner as I’ve ever felt. We saw a lot of each other over the past two months, but she has now ended things suddenly but very respectfully, citing the fact that she came out only relatively recently and doesn’t feel she is in the space mentally yet to embark on a relationship. While I respect her perspective and actually recognise it from my own earlier experience, the news has nonetheless hit me very hard. I feel bereft and lonely, notwithstanding that, in the grand scheme of things, we were a flash in the pan.

My difficulty is that I let myself run loose mentally and go to a nice, safe, happy place where I imagine a future together that I know I have no right or reasonable expectation to imagine so early in a “relationship”. Having to unravel all of that now is what I am finding so painful.

While I would desperately like to cling to the hope that the timing might be right for her in the future (she knows I was sad our “relationship” was ending), I am also aware that this is potentially a fool’s hope that stems from wanting again to rush to that nice, safe, happy place. It is easier than facing the more likely reality that she is now gone from my life and I am back to square one – alone, having had an incredible person fall into and out of my hands – and scared that nobody I meet again will compare.

How can I stop myself going to that space mentally where I take such comfort in imagining a future together and/or the possibility of reconnecting, when I recognise that it is so destructive and it is that imagined world that ultimately ends up being the source of such pain?

ADVICE: You are a very self-aware person and that is half the battle: you know exactly what the problem is but that does not stop the heartache or pain in the experience of loss.

What you speak about is a common experience, that we are in the early stages of a relationship, but our minds go to a much later stage and start planning and reacting from there. Thus, the loss we feel is not just for the present time, but for all the future expectations and joy that might have been. We also tend to have a romantic view of our new loves, where they embody all the goodness they have potential for with no downsides, and so the loss is compounded by our idolisation.

Added to this is the fact that your new love may have helped you deal with the loss of your old relationship and there may be left over processing yet to go through on that one. The fact that the desired person is not actually gone, and might change their minds in the future, also acts as a block to acceptance of the loss and impedes healing. You obviously felt that the perfect partner had arrived in your life, and of course want to grab the relationship with both hands, and it still remains tantalisingly possible but the adult thing to do is to let it go and respect her decision to end the relationship.

You seem to know this already so there is nothing to do but to accept it fully and go through the process of loss and grieving. The risk we take in becoming involved in any relationship, or close friendship, is that we will be rejected and so we must engage in the full knowledge that this is a possibility. That we continue to take this risk is a testament to the power of our belief in enduring love and so we dust ourselves off and head out again in the hope of meeting someone for whom there is not just mutual attraction, but the timing and other factors are also perfect. You clearly value relationships and enjoy sharing your life so when you have recovered enough you will no doubt head back into the fray of dating again.

However, next time, you must work at keeping your mind where your body is, that is in the present and not in the future. Your good judgment comes from having your intelligence available to you in the moment and not blocked by a fantasy of what might be in the future. Start practising this by deliberately keeping your mind on your everyday life, focusing on your friends and activities.

However, loneliness is also a fact of your life now so that too must be experienced and endured.

Accept this as part of the price of love and know that you will overcome it and that one day you will again take the risk of falling in love, but next time with a mind that is more present for you.