Some years ago, I found myself in the situation that I had to end a relationship that had never really been one. It consisted in a few intense encounters and great amounts of hope from my side. At one point, it became clear that we would never become a couple. However, this was not a turning point that enabled me to move on. It took me longer, much longer and the time that passed formed the question

How long is “normal”?

How long does it take to let go of someone you’ve never really been with?

I searched for a rule, something to cling to, an orientation.

Google had no satisfying answer.

There was still this old rule sticking around that said it takes half of the amount of time you’ve been with someone to let go of them—it was annoying and untrue. I had been two years with someone, and it took me one week to be emotionally free. I had been six weeks with someone—and it took me half a year. And now there was this: a few encounters that were about to last two years.

When I started working on a book about the transformational power of almost love stories, I began to ask others about their experiences, how long it took them to let go of their almost lovers. Time frame and each story was different, but there were some elements that we all shared and that seemed to determine the duration of letting go.

So here is a rule for how long it takes you to go through a separation with an almost lover. It is rather a formula than a rule. It is highly personal. Its variables can only be felt, and the only person who can do so properly is each single one of us.

duration of letting go =

the intensity of the encounter + unexpressed feelings + projection

1) The intensity of the encounter

How deeply did the other person touch me at the heart of my being? Did this person remind me of how it feels to be my true Self? The Self I long to be? Did I suddenly remember parts of that Self that I had forgotten about? Did I feel truly seen? Did I see the true Self of the other person? Did I feel at home?

Create an intensity barometer by writing down these questions longhand on paper and rate your answer on a scale from 0 to 10. Then acknowledge and accept that the other person matters to you.

2) Unexpressed feelings

Did I clearly communicate my feelings? Did I act and speak true to my feelings, true to my Self? Or did I create the gap of the unsaid? Do I have those two questions looping on my mind: “What if I had shown up for my feelings? What if I would have clearly told the other person what I feel for them?”

Are you avoiding the pain of rejection by creating hope?

Hope hurts, too. And it hurts longer.

What can you do to close the gap now?

Some years after my initial almost love story, I could cross-check this variable by applying it to my own life. Again, I met a man who touched me at the heart of my being. There were some encounters, leading to nowhere and without me clearly communicating what I felt for him. However this time, I was more afraid of being stuck in hope than I was afraid of a No. I decided to show up for my feelings. He did not want to be with me, and this hurt a lot—yet, it did not hurt long. I had to deal only with his No—and not with me being untrue to my own feelings.

3) Projection

How intensely did I entwine my almost lover with my general hopes and dreams? Does it feel as if I have only to let go of this person? Or does it also feel as if I have to let go of all of my hopes and dreams concerning a romantic partnership? Do I have to let go of future moments and experiences that I had been planning to share with this person?

Write these moments, experiences and the qualities of your desired romantic partnership down.

What it takes to move on

Honestly answering these questions opens you to getting to know and accepting your status quo, the beginning of letting go.

To let go, it has never worked for me to focus on letting go. The more I did try to work on it, the more I held on. Letting go is a process of becoming free to, well, be free—and to enable oneself to move on.

So I find it more helpful to ask a question that points into the future, towards moving on.

“How long shall my unavailability to others and love last?”

Because this is another way of putting: not letting go of someone.

This question then demands a second question. “Am I willing to become available to others and love? Open to someone who is actually available, too?”

For moving on, it is important to phrase the question precisely like this.

The question is not: “Do I want to be with someone?”—because yes, you want to.

The question is also not: “Am I available to be with someone?”—because at the moment, no, you aren’t.

“Am I willing to become available to others that are available, too?”

If your answer is the tiniest yes, then next turn this question into an intention.

“I am willing to become available to others who are available, too.”

By setting this intention, you are turning a past orientation into a forward movement.

Your very individual next step will present itself to you, you follow.

Letting go happens as a byproduct on the way.

This feature was submitted by Mirjam Grupp 

Mirjam Grupp is a writer. She explores femininity today, and what it takes to open yourself up to romantic relationships and real love. With Wearable Poetry, she creates feelings to wear.

As Mira Roth, she writes crime series. Since 2011, they are frequently televised across Europe. Her episodes are love stories in disguise.

Mirjam currently lives in Berlin and loves Paris, especially in August when it is empty. When in nature, she follows the smell of pines and the sound of the wild sea. Eager to truly learn through living life, her main interest are transformational processes. With her work, she contributes to the creation of a world where people can live with open hearts.

Mirjam Grupp is working on her first non-fiction book An Almost Love Story – that is about how and why one-sided romantic relationships help us to develop real love stories with ourselves and our lives – if we let them.

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