It’s Time To Let Yourself Off The Hook

So years after reading the book, I recently saw the movie version of One Day. I frankly did not much care for either. While a cute concept (checking in on two friends, Em and Dex, on the same date every year), the plot is everything I fundamentally hate about romantic comedies. Girl loves boy, girl waits 15 years for boy while he screws around as boys do, girl meets someone else awesome when boy finally figures out he loves her, girl leaves awesome guy for boy.  I’ve already been through everything that’s wrong with this. And yet knowing what’s wrong doesn’t make the movie any more tolerable, nor does it make this an okay problem to have in my life.

There is nothing satisfying or noble about wasting your life waiting around for someone. Em loses 15 years of her life being “on the hook” for Dex.  The “on the hook” concept is covered in an episode of How I Met Your Mother.  Ted thinks he’s dating a girl but is actually just being led on in case things don’t work out with the guy she’s really into. Similarly, Ted keeps telling another girl he can’t be with her “right now” but keeps her waiting around in the event that he doesn’t end up with someone better.  This is a horrible way to go about relationships, stringing people along just in case you get desperate. People complain about how hard dating is, but a lot of that would go away if we were all just honest with each other.  Sure, no one wants to hear “Well, I’m actually just using you as a backup, but feel free to wait it out,” but at least knowing that allows someone to make an informed decision.

So let’s all make it a little easier on ourselves. It’s time for us to all let people off the hook. There’s a guy I’ve been on a few dates with that I’m pretty sure I never want to see again, and yet I have not conveyed this fact to him, just in case I get bored some night and do want to go to trivia with him and his friends.  This isn’t fair to him; I shouldn’t let him think that I might really be interested.  Awkward as it is, it’s time to send the text that says “hey, I don’t think this is working out” so that he can find someone who is really interested.  Sure, feelings might get hurt temporarily, but I’m a big believer in the fact that the truth will ultimately set you free.

Letting people off the hook is one thing; it’s a harder thing to remove yourself from the hooks you might be on.  You can literally say to someone “Look, I just need to know that you’re happier with your new girlfriend so I can move on with my life” and they can literally respond “Actually, I’m not, but I’m not going to change anything, and I hope you find someone, but just so you know, I hate the thought of you with someone else.”  And you can focus on the part where they say they’re not happier than they were with you, and then you will be on the hook and unhappy forever, because either this person is a manipulative jerk, or just an idiot, but either way, they’re not someone you should be with. You can’t ask to be let off the hook. You can’t spend your life waiting for permission to be happy and you can’t be responsible for anyone else’s happiness. You can’t worry about the other person and if they were happier with you.  Your only responsibility is to find someone who makes you happier than you were with them.

I’m not saying any of this is going to be easy.  We all have our romantic comfort zones, but if the choice is between being comfortable and being ecstatically happy, I choose the latter.  While it is an incredibly difficult thing to let someone go when you haven’t actually heard the words “I can’t be with you right now, or ever,” it’s also something that has to be done if you want to be open to finding someone who’s excited to be with you and vice versa, no strings or hooks attached.

Image via Focus Features.