It is a funny thing being in love, and an even funnier emotion when you are in love with someone and they don’t feel the same.

I wonder why there seems to be two classes of people in these situations: the one who feels the deepest, and the one who has no problem quickly moving on. The deeper feeling person is stuck in a mode between denial and confusion and outright fear. I was talking to a friend about this a few days ago, remarking that people like this tend to embark on a fact finding mission, replaying conversations and looking for the subtle signs and hints that lead up to a breakup. You’re trying to make sense out of a senseless action and bring order from chaos. The cold fact is that the relationship is over, and you can ask yourself an endless series of “whys” but the fact still remains.

Maybe it’s a defense mechanism, or at least, a coping one. Yet there is no small measure of desperation in it, because in looking for the clues, you’re bound to get stuck into a series of “I should have known” statements. People don’t want to trust their gut; they prefer to ignore it which is why in relationships (and in other areas of life) you gloss over the bad things and focus strictly on the good. If someone were to say, “You’re really spending a lot of money on this person and I don’t think it’s a good thing,” your first reply is, “I really want to help him,” and it adds to your sense of self-worth. By being important to someone else (“Who else will do this if I don’t?”) you’re telling yourself that your partner can’t possibly see it any other way, and will make him love you as well.

If it really works on Earth, I don’t know of anybody who’s claiming the prize. You pour yourself into something because you truly believe in it, and you make yourself invaluable because not only is it an expression of your love, but you hope it finds favor in the eyes of your beloved, whose love will soon grow boundless like yours. Be prepared for disappointment; it’s never going to happen. You will give everything only to be left empty-handed. And while you’re left drowning in your changing emotions, your partner has gone off and pursued other interests, because he never promised you anything, right? Or better, “I tried to tell you, but you wouldn’t listen” which deftly places the blame on you, with just enough superficial guilt on the part of your partner to make it seem like a heartfelt confession. It’s not.

In your despair, you almost will events to happen. You can be sitting in a public place eating lunch, and you notice with alarming clarity certain details around you. You look at a couple and you see your partner with someone else. Having a life with someone else. You quickly avert the eyes and tell yourself it’s just a coincidence. But you find other odd moments that unnerve you, and if you aren’t religious, you suddenly turn so because God must be speaking directly to you. When you bring God into it, you’re lost, not because belief in God is erroneous or stupid, but you’re now going to try and bargain with a higher power. Or perhaps you’ll see it as some kind of a test and it will steel your resolve to be faithful. You might as well just say aloud, “Please come back to me” because that’s what you’re saying on the inside.

So, you break up with someone and you go through those common steps we all know about: shock, denial, anger, bargaining and finally acceptance. If it sounds like an abbreviated pattern for dealing with death, that’s exactly how you wind up treating the breakup. It’s a form of small death, and it’s no less devastating when you’ve willingly invested so much time and emotional effort into the relationship. As someone pointed out to me, you can ask your “whys” until you’re blue in the face, but it won’t change the reality of it. And one day, you aren’t asking yourself that question anymore because it no longer is important.

But how we cling to the idea of love, that reason for living best expressed with someone else! To the person who feels deeply, fidelity is not a concept or a selection that you fill out on a form describing an important characteristic for a partner. It is something organic, growing and living. You practice it almost daily, you find new ways of expressing it and making it more profound. Even when it gnaws at your that your partner may not be quite into you as you are into him, you more than make up for it. You see a burden, and you willingly bear it because that is what true love is about.

It’s true that you can’t make somebody love you, and you certainly can’t make them “loyal” to you in the way you are to them. And there’s no small amount of anger in those long moments of solitude because it’s apparent that you are not only left twisting in the wind, but have to clean up the mess. It’s like the proverbial scenario where person A puts person B through med school only to be dumped at the end. All those years of sacrifice are met with “I really appreciate everything you did" (if you even get that much) and a glib "I’m sorry it has to be this way.” And so, there you are, alone.

Self-pity may not be a charming trait, but it’s okay to feel that. Well, at least for a while. If you become mired in it, then you’re doing yourself a disservice because you can’t formulate what to do. The endless repetitions of conversations become a fresh hell, offering no perspective but even more confusion because you’re still trying to connect dots and solve the mystery. There is none; there are no answers. There is just the fact. You tried, you gave, and you got screwed. Holding yourself up for an emotional autopsy isn’t going to solve anything. This isn’t to suggest that you can never have those feelings: on the contrary, you have earned yourself a pat on the back because you’ve proven the depth of how much you can love. It may read like a cliché shot at your beloved (“You’ll get yours!”) but the less-than-sterling performance on his part isn’t going to bode well in his future relationships.

Don’t hang around to find out. Treat it like a death, remember the good and loving memories and keep going. Know that it’s okay to have that sense of loss on those quiet, unexpected moments of synchronicity when they enter your mind’s eye. Pretty soon, you’re going to tell yourself, “Well, that’s that.”

And indeed, that’s that.