Advice: Ask Natalie on long-gone love

“Dear Natalie,

I've had a crush on this guy since last September. I immediately fell for his exuberant personality but the problem is that he was an exchange student and now he is back in his country, which is far, far away from Canada. We were just friends but I really liked him. I know that things cannot work out between us, but since I'm still keeping in touch with him it's so hard to forget about him. There is not a single day that I didn't miss him ever since he left Vancouver....

Since I still stay in touch with him I feel like he is still in Canada and I can see him whenever I want to. But the reality is I don't even know when I'll be able see him again. I try to keep myself busy so that I miss him less but I cannot deny that he is always on my mind nevertheless.... How do I wake up from this dream?”

I’m so so sorry that this happened to you. Being stuck in love with someone who you know you can’t have is a rough feeling. But you can’t let him hold you back from what’s out there now and, you know, actually in the same country.

I’m not saying forget about this guy because you clearly care for him and anyone who’s really cared about someone knows how hard it is to just “let them go.” That’s bullshit. But, you do need some time emotionally apart. You need to come to terms with the fact you aren’t in the same country and you aren’t in a situation where a super long distance relationship would work.

When you see and talk to someone every day, in person, through texting or video calls, you allow them to become a big part of your everyday life, which is why even after your friend has left you still think about him, send him silly jokes and wonder how his day is going. You have to force that to stop. That sounds really harsh and I know how little you probably want to hear it, but it’s necessary.

You can’t just continue on, and you know that I’m sure, because you’ll end up just liking him more and it will hurt every day; every thought you have of him will be touched with less happiness and more sadness. It’s not a path you want to continue on.

You pretty much need to break up with him.

While I’m not an expert on breaking your own heart, I can give you some ideas on how to get through this.

Tell your friend honestly why you need time apart. It may seem like a weird time to talk about your feelings, but you have to let them know why you need this so when you do arrive in a better place they will be more willing to accept you back. It’s a lot easier to understand 'I know this might be coming out of left field, but I have feelings for you and I think we need some time apart so I can cool my own jets' than radio silence for what seems like no real reason.

Then, you have to commit to some good old fashioned no-contact. You know yourself better than anyone so decide on a minimum time period where there’s no texting, chatting or video-calling. None. Even if you think you’ve moved on and want to reach out to him, continue your no-contact. You can reassess after your no-contact period is over.

In the meantime, focus on anything and everything else. Throw yourself into studying, but also keep yourself busy outside school work. Actively do not think about him. Every time his name pops up into your head, acknowledge that you thought about him, tell yourself he is only a friend, remind yourself of something you don’t like about them, and continue on your way. You have to stop your own feelings, which is way harder than getting new ones.

You have to take stock in yourself. How am I feeling today? What are my plans for today? How often will I think about him? Do I need to be around other people to take my mind off him?

When you are ready, when your heart stops hurting, and when you have accepted that he is not physically, and cannot be romantically, there, then reach out to him again. But you cannot go into a friendship hoping for a relationship. That’s just a roundabout way to the path you need to leave now.

You CAN do this. I know it seems hard but you have to do this. You’re young and beautiful and wonderful and you should be able to live your life without someone dragging you down.

If you need more tough love, let me know.