It will happen to us all, at some point. So negotiating the pain with a measure of reason belongs to the art of living. A number of tips suggest themselves. Firstly… don’t attempt to minimize what’s happened. Being ‘brave’ has no place here. Allow your sadness so much room, so much time, so many melancholic songs, hot baths and indulgent meals you eventually bore yourself back into an appetite for life. Secondly… believe them when they said it. Don’t imagine that their past sweetness and kind words provides any covert indications of future commitment. Kill any remaining hope yourself, if they didn’t quite have the courage to do so themselves. Don’t imagine that anyone can love on command. The capacity to feel attracted lies outside the will. It isn’t a question of them not trying hard enough. Remove morality from it: they were not being ‘bad’ for not loving, and nor were you ‘good’ for wanting them. You were both on search for pleasure that took you down different and conflicting routes. Our conscious minds ride like tiny boats on the swells of unconscious psychoanalytic and biological seas. So don’t turn this into a morality tale. They acted weirdly around the break up not because they were bad or – indeed – unsure. They just felt terribly guilty… because they’re nice. Which doesn’t, though, mean that they want you. Many of us are predisposed to think especially well of people who don’t want us. It feeds into our reserves of self-hatred. But this isn’t romanticism, it’s an illness. The true challenge is to stop being so revolted by people who do in fact want us and so admiring of those who don’t. Think back to when you rejected people: you didn’t hate them or regret them. The chief emotions were embarrassment and pity. Don’t connect up the rejection with everything you fear and hate about being you. Don’t accuse them of cowardice. Don’t exaggerate their qualities. Don’t insist on their uniqueness. Don’t offer them sex in the hope of changing their mind. Don’t imagine that people can fall back in love with someone out of pity or of guilt. And don’t defensively maintain that they had a ‘fear of intimacy’. Just try to laugh. And have a few rounds of casual sex, if that helps. But above all, don’t keep thinking of the end of this relationship as tragically sad. The only good relationship, the only relationship worth mourning, would be one to which two people desperately wanted to belong. And this wasn’t – in the end – despite all the promising signs – that kind of relationship… at all.