On Being The One Who Can’t Move On

On Being The One Who Can’t Move On

The love of my life was a serial monogamist.

You know the type. Completely, entirely and wholly engaged in one person for a year or two at most. Then suddenly, without warning, head-over-heels for someone else. In love with the experience of loving. Caught up in the whirlwind of intimacy and commitment.

I’m not here to bash the orientation.

Who we are and how we love is an impossibly intricate kaleidoscope – full of shifting emotions and complex precedents. What comes easy about loving to one person comes incredibly difficult to the other.

It just so happened that when the relationship with the first person I ever deeply cared for fell apart, the moving on came easy for him and difficult for me.

For him, moving on meant packing up his boxes, deleting our photos from Instagram, and finding someone new to commit to. The ineffable space that I had carved out in his emotional atmosphere was up for lease again, almost immediately. The space that was left behind in mine felt polluted. It was hazy and difficult to breath in for years.

I am not a serial monogamist.

The end of missing someone has always felt less like cleansing a palate and more like letting a bathtub drain out to empty. Sometimes excruciatingly slowly. Sometimes with its fair share of clogs and of accidental refills. Nothing about moving on has ever been hasty or immediate for me.

For a long time, I perceived this to be a personality flaw.

For a long time, my failure to move quickly from one romantic relationship to the next felt like a glitch in my fundamental humanity; the inability to let go without first grieving and aching. It was an entirely unenjoyable experience, to feel that at odds with my own desire. To be able to watch others shift and rearrange their hearts while mine remained fixated in place.

For a long time, I wished I had access to a fast-forward button that would catapult me through the process of missing someone at lightning speed. I wanted to be someone I wasn’t. I wanted to be the fast-moving, uncaring ‘cool girl’ who needed nothing more than a solid night out and a new body or mind to indulge in. I wanted to be the one who could move on with swiftness and precision – who had their next love interest targeted and cornered before the last one even completed.

I wanted to be the person it seemed easier to be.

I wanted to be my ex – happy with one person one day, another the next. Quick to close an old chapter. Quick to let a new one begin.

But the person I wanted to be is very much not the person I am.

I have never understood how to want one person, but be with another. How to miss someone but properly invest in someone else.

I have always felt wholly dishonest trying to move on before I am ready – before the last lingering traces of affection have drained away completely, before I can stand in front of someone else and tell them, with absolute honesty, that I’m exactly where I want to be. That I can offer them the whole of my heart.

I am never the first to move on. And it’s a trait that I am learning to accept in myself.

I’m not here to preach the romanticism of loving someone who has left. I’m not here to tell you I’m a martyr or declare that I’m inherently superior for being slow-moving and reflective. There is nothing romantic or noble about loving someone who has stopped loving you. But sometimes, it’s simply the reality.

Sometimes the falling out of love takes work. Sometimes the letting go comes anything but easy. Sometimes you are the one who keeps loving, far longer and far more deeply than the person who loved you. Sometimes that hurts. Sometimes it takes a massive, painful bite out of our self-esteem. But it shouldn’t have to.

There should be nothing inherently shameful about having loved someone longer or more pervasively than they have loved you.

It doesn’t happen because you are flawed. It doesn’t happen because they are shallow. It happens because it does. Because sometimes a chemical reaction impacts one element more than the other.

It happens because some people learned – from a young and impressionable age – one thing about relationships, while other people learned something else. It happens because we have different coping mechanisms. It happens because we move at different speeds.

It happens because while one person loves rapidly and consumingly, the other loves patiently and deeply. It happens because there’s no right or wrong way to love, there are just different preferences and hues. It happened because you loved someone of a different hue.

And that’s okay. It’s okay to not always know which color you are radiating.

It’s okay to have to learn it the hard way.

To me, love is not, and never will be, a casual endeavor. Intimacy does not come free. Emotional investment does not have a quick turn-around time, and the kaleidoscope that makes up my affections moves slowly. It shifts and changes less often. It wants to admire each pattern longer. It remembers them more fully once they’re gone.

I’ll probably never be the one who moves on first or lets go quickly. And that’s okay.

The kaleidoscope shifts slowly, but it shifts.

And when a new picture eventually takes form, I can be certain I’ll admire it fully.

Heidi Priebe

Author: Heidi Priebe

Author. Blogger. Speaker. Founder. Person.