We all know the concept of the one that got away, and some of us know exactly how it feels. Maybe you were torn apart because someone moved away or one of you was not ready for the next step yet. There are plenty of ways a relationship can end, but leave you still loving someone. Even years later you might find yourself still thinking about them, and wishing they were still around. Which raises the question: can you ever stop loving someone?
Sometimes we realize that we never loved the person, to begin with. In which case, getting over them is easy. Just listen to “The Moral of the Story” by Ashe on repeat for a little while and you will get through it. But many breakups are not that easy, especially if they were long term. Dedicating years of your life to someone, even if you don’t get along, and having it end can be heartbreaking. Even if you are glad it is over, you let go of an entire lifestyle that you were comfortable in.
When You Should and Can Stop Loving
It is definitely possible to stop loving someone. This is especially true if the person in question is emotionally or physically abusive. Abusers don’t deserve your continued love or affection. After all abusive relationships work because of emotional manipulation. So being free of that manipulation can allow your heart to process the pain. There is intense emotional trauma after leaving an abusive relationship, but you can stop loving that person.
But you don’t need such extreme circumstances to stop loving someone. Because not everyone deserves you. Maybe you fight all the time, or maybe they don’t get along with your friends. Some people don’t deserve your ongoing attention. If it wasn’t a healthy relationship, take your time to grieve and move on. This may be easier said than done, but it is completely possible. One day you will wake up and that person won’t even be on your mind.
Holding a Place in Your Heart
The people whom we truly love may always stay in our hearts even after they are gone. You may, years after a breakup, look back with only fond memories for your former partner. And in your nostalgia you may wonder “do I still love this person?” Maybe you do maybe you don’t. Answering the question “Can you ever stop loving someone?” is highly dependent on the people involved. You might look back and feel that you still love them, or you might only have a warm but distant affection.
But even if you realize that you do still love someone from your past, it is probably a different type of love. If enough years have passed you have probably had other loves and grown as a person. Loving someone and being in love with someone is not the same thing. You might have a new partner now who you are absolutely in love with. And your love for your ex does not invalidate your love for your current partner. More likely than not, you nostalgic love is one more of affection than romance.
Becoming Someone New
Being human is to be in a constant state of change. Every seven years you become an entirely new person, and so do your partners. So looking back and loving someone from the past is not the same as loving them now. Though it is valid to still feel love for what a person used to be, it is not who they truly are now. So you need to ask yourself “What makes the person I love them?”
Of course you can still be friends long after you have broken up and know exactly who they are in the present moment. And maybe you do still love them with all the changes that have happened over the years. But maybe your love for them is still rooted in the past. And you need to know the contemporary versions of yourselves are not compatible.
Loving More than One Person
Love does not have to be all about loving one person. Many people believe we should have one main love through our lifetime. But that norm is quickly changing. Love can ebb and flow through a lifetime, leaving and returning at different times. Sometimes people from your past return and sometimes they leave forever, you never truly know which will happen. Maybe your main love resides with different people at different times and can leave and return to them.
Furthermore, the idea that love belongs to one person in your life is becoming outdated. Many couples are polyamorous or have other forms of open relationships. One person does not need to fulfill all of your emotional needs. It is possible to love many people at one time, and your love for each of them is valid. So why limit yourself to one love across stretches of time. Love is not a finite resource to be handed out to one individual at a time.
Ultimately only you can decide if you spend you can ever stop loving someone. Maybe you can or maybe you can’t. But in the end, it is about rethinking how we think about love and reimagining relationships in the future.