Call it unrequited love, loving and losing, missed opportunity or timing that never worked out – what do you do with the one that got away?

The One That Got Away
Source: Katy Perry/Capitol

Love can be an amazing thing. I’ve recently had a flurry of friends either start dating, get married, celebrate anniversaries, or get engaged. It’s a happy time, full of new possibilities, shared memories, and the joys of romance and intimacy. And it’s not even Valentine’s Day yet! For many, love is a wonderful thing in their lives.

But for every person in that boat, there would be another person who does not exactly have the same sort of happiness around the love in their lives. Maybe they’ve faced a breakup or some other form of heartbreak. Maybe they’re still awake late at night thinking over coulda shoulda woulda. Maybe the idea of loving again is still a painful idea.

Because on their mind is the one that got away.

You know the one. If you’re in that boat, it probably didn’t take you that long to instantly put a name and a memory to that expression. For you, thinking about love isn’t a joyous or a happy time – it’s one of regret, doubt, loneliness and pain.

At one point or another, many people (not all, you lucky kids you) face the implications of the one that got away. I thought it’d be worth talking about since so many people are still trapped in the memory of what could have been, but never eventuated.

Loved and lost

They say it’s better to have loved and lost than to have ever loved at all. I wonder who actually came up with that expression. Some people swear by it. Others swear at it. How is heartbreak of benefit to your life?

Love is one of the most powerful forces in the universe, and as we’ve looked at quite a few times, love is a choice. It’s a personal decision to make someone the subject of your attention and of your affection. Sure, they may do a few things to help getting the ball rolling. The way he looks out for his friends, the way she turns her head in the wind, the times you’ve spent together. The words, the thoughts, the dreams, the feelings that are brought up are entirely powerful.

In some ways, you may have loved them as much as anyone else did or has, maybe even as much as anyone will. And when it doesn’t go your way, there’s the desperation of Beiber having your first love breaking your heart for the first time, the cry like Taylor Swift that you’re the one who understands them, and the confusion of Perry wondering about another lifetime.

And man, some people have been stuck on this person for years. Still waiting. Still hoping. At the very least, still hurting. Still wondering how things could be different.

You did all you could… right?

And it doesn’t make sense to you because you did everything you could to let them know the way you felt… right?


You know, 21st century Western society is incredibly guilty of leaving things unspoken. We don’t always apologize, we don’t always ask for help, we don’t always say what we mean…

And often, we don’t always say how we feel or what we think.

I wonder how open you are about what you want. I wonder how honest you are with others, and with yourself? If you are so in love with someone that you would jump in front of a train full of lead if only that they may be spared and be willing to adore them to death in your diary and to tell all your friends constantly how amazing they are… I wonder if you take that same honesty and, you know, tell the person you’re interested in?

Even if it isn’t to that extreme of love, many times opportunities pass us by because we don’t say or do anything about it.

It has to start somewhere. You don’t go from zero to married overnight. It takes time to build love that lasts.

But then there’s the other extreme, where you really have poured your heart out. The late night chats, the long phone calls, the difficult conversations, the tears, the awkward tension, and the resolution. You literally put it all out there, but you weren’t able to win them over. The other extreme where you’re super hard on yourself and questioning every sentence you communicated and everything else you could’ve done better.

Either way, it’s a burden to carry, but if you’ve put yourself out there, that’s all you can really do.

The advice you need

So what do you do? Do you keep holding on? Or do you let go? This is the advice many people are looking for when they find themselves in that boat.

And here’s the best answer I can come up with on that one…

There’s no guaranteed rule that wins the day.

I know, usually you’ll either get the firm “stop waiting around” or the sympathetic “love will find a way”. The truth is that for many people, both approaches have worked, and both approaches have failed.

I know heaps of people who have successfully won someone over after keeping on them, continually putting themselves in their world, increasing the levels of romance, or sometimes just even being annoyingly persistent, and they’ve won the girl’s (or guy’s) heart. Other times that approach leaves you as an uncomfortable stalker or a friend who can’t be as close as they used to be because of what’s been communicated. The same is also true of the people who decide to move on – sometimes in that they meet the person of their dreams, sometimes the person they’ve moved on from changes their mind, other times moving on doesn’t really seem to change that much for them.

The bottom line is that people can do exactly the same things that others do – pursuing or letting go, praying for guidance and getting direction and all the rest of it – but ultimately, you are at the mercy of the other person’s choice. That’s the reality of humanity. No one can be forced into loving you – they have to choose for themselves.

It’s funny, Jesus’ disciples came up to him once and asked about whether or not it was better to be married. He answered by telling him that not everyone could accept that statement. He said that some people were born with no desire for relationship, some have decided to make themselves that way so they can focus on other things, and here’s the killer – some people are made that way by other people. In other words, even Jesus was acknowledging here that it is possible for heartbreak to affect your relational status for the rest of your life.

Moving on

At the end of the day, there comes a decision to move on. If they really are the one who got away… and they’re away, whether by relationship to another or appropriate closure to the relationship, then you shouldn’t tie your life to them any longer (in that way at least). It may be the end of that dream or idea or thought or fling or whatever level it was for you, but it’s not the end of you.

And your life is able to continue moving forward. You shouldn’t stop being you because you didn’t get to date the person you wanted to date, or marry the person you wanted to marry. Your future is bright, there is so much for you ahead, and there are so many opportunities for you to be a blessing to others… but only if you decide not to let the romantic aspect of your life from keeping you depressed and bound up.

Because you’re special.

And you are wonderful.

And you are loved.

And I think the real journey in dealing with the one that got away (or the ones if there have been several) is in discovering who you are and continuing to be that person in all seasons. That no matter where you find yourself in life, you’ll live with gratitude, contentment, and purpose. That your life will continue surging forward.

And hey, if marriage is a part of your calling in life, then it’s probably an important part of your future. If you stay faithful, vigilant, keep being the you you were born to be, keep growing in wisdom, and stay open, you’ll be exactly where you want to be.

But those are just one guy’s thoughts on the matter. What do you think? How do you deal with the one that got away?

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