Make It Stop: “How Can I Get Over This One Dude Who Keeps Telling Me That I Deserve Better?”

I’ve been on and off with this guy, let’s call him “George” for nearly two years. We met in college and dated for three months when he suddenly ghosted on me just as things were starting to progress. We’ve kept in touch on and off ever since. We’ve both dated other people, he more seriously than I have, but I can’t seem to find someone to replace him. This past year I confronted him about his hot/cold behavior and I told him I loved him and wanted to be with him. He had a girlfriend at the time, but he told me that he still liked me, which I had suspected all along. His response was he thought I was a wonderful person who deserved better than him, and that he couldn’t be with me because he didn’t want to hurt me. He confessed that he has major commitment issues as a result of his parents’ separation and his own struggles.

I’ve had a bit of a rough year and he has helped me through a lot of things. He has even been occasionally flirtatious, but as soon as I show him any affection he pulls away. I need him to be there for me as my friend, but even our friendship is on and off. I know I shouldn’t stick around as this dynamic is so unhealthy for the both of us, but I don’t know how to get over him and move on without losing him as a friend or if the friendship is even healthy to maintain. I’d like 2016 to be a fresh start but I can’t seem to let him go. Make it Stop!

Can we talk about how asinine the phrase “you deserve better” is? What does it really mean? At face value, it sounds like he’s exalting you, like you’re some magical goddess who deserves some fabulous gent who wears pocket squares and can fill out a New York Times crossword puzzle in pen. But when you examine the phrase more closely, it isn’t intended to lift you up, it’s intended to excuse his bad behavior and lower your expectations of him. “You deserve better” really means I’m not up to the task of being there for you in the way you need me to be because my heart’s not in it. Fuck this phrase in the face forever. It’s bullshit.

Stop being friends with him. Immediately. I’m not kidding. It will never work and the sooner you accept it, the happier you’ll be. Today is the day you accept that your friendship with George has to go the way of Hannibal on NBC—cancelled! Go ahead. Say it out loud. “Our friendship is over as of today.” I’ll wait.

Here’s the secret: getting over a person is a big choice followed by lots of little choices. First, decide you’re through with his bullshit. Delete his phone number, erase his emails, and hide all pictures of you two together. Don’t explain yourself or your decision to him. Don’t be dramatic about it. Just accept this is about you and what you need to move forward. That’s the big choice. The little choices are everything else. What steps do I take to reclaim my sense of well-being? Choose to shoo him away when he pops into your brain. Choose to ignore his text messages, should they come in. Choose to gravitate towards people who lift you up, not drag you down.

For so long, George had all the control. Yank it back. Yank it all back. Yank back your brain, your love, your curiosity, your passion. He isn’t allowed to have it any longer. What could you do with your time if you weren’t trying to figure out where his head was? Start a vlog reviewing Bath & Body Works scented candles? Run a marathon? Volunteer at a local shelter? Learn how to make Thai food? From today on, your #1 concern should be boosting your self-esteem. Watch whatever movies you want to watch. Listen to music that makes you happiest. Love yourself hard and often at all costs.

Once your heart’s healed a bit, regard your doomed relationship with a critical eye. Why did you stay in this pseudo-relationship for so long? What did you get out of it? Did you thrive on his attention? Were you just lonely or bored? What red flags did you overlook and why did you let them slide for so long? Be completely honest with yourself. Respect the answers you find.

It’s going to be okay, I promise. Once you get some distance from him, these answers will come. And you’ll not only be ready to date again, but you’ll know better what to look for in a partner. One day you’ll be grateful you made these hard choices and met the challenge of getting over George head-on. Then it’ll be your job to tell other heartsick people how it’s done, too. It’s a big choice followed by lots of little choices. That’s the deal. No shortcuts.

Make It Stop is a weekly column in which Anna Goldfarb — author of “Clearly, I Didn’t Think This Through” and the blogger behind the blog, Shmitten Kitten — tells you what’s up. Want a fresh take on a stinky dilemma? Email with the subject “Make It Stop.” She’ll make it all better, or at least make you laugh. Girl Scout’s honor.