One of my friends obsesses over his ex-wife. Almost every day, he shares tidbits about who she’s dating, or where she’s planning her next vacation. He says “Can you believe that?”
He pays more attention to her now than ever.
Not that I can judge…
I’ve been there myself, giving too much thought to an ex, getting upset when they move on with their lives — just because I couldn’t. Some of us have a talent for rubbing salt in our own wounds.
Schadenfreude isn’t the route to recovery
You don’t get the life you want by wishing misery and misfortune on your exes. They say pain looks good on other people. But nay-wishing never suits anyone, unless you’re a super-villain.
Schadenfreude brings second-rate fulfillment.
Plus, toxic thoughts have a way of blowing back on you, regardless of who they’re directed at. After you lose someone’s love, the best thing you can do is start showing some for yourself.
That means not doing the following…
1. Trying to understand why they ditched you
If they didn’t tell you, then you’ll never figure out why for certain. You can play breakup detective for the rest of your life. Maybe they fell in love with someone else. Maybe they got cold feet.
Maybe they thought you were terrible in bed.
The guy or girl who stomped on your heart might have no idea why they did it. They could be dealing with their own problems. They might be the least qualified person to tell you what went wrong.
It probably wasn’t just one thing. But all of the possible reasons do point in the same direction. They decided there was someone else out there who could make them happier.
Or they wanted to be on their own.
There’s no end to the faults you can find with yourself in the wake of a bad breakup or a divorce. What matters is what you want to start building for yourself now. Want a better body, a better job? Go get them. While you’re at it, reconnect with your hobbies. Spend time with your friends. The more you ruminate, the more you tunnel under yourself.
2. Talking about them all the time
You’ll be thinking about your ex for months, even years to come, a little less each day if you focus on your life. That doesn’t mean you have to tell your friends every time your ex comes to the front of your mind. Talking about your confusion and pain is a good thing. But eventually, you cross a threshold where it doesn’t make you feel better anymore.
Trash-talking your ex is a dangerous drug.
Memories float up. You‘ll try to make sense out of everything that went wrong and why. That’s fine as long as you take responsibility. Don’t put every minute you ever spent with them under a microscope.
Don’t try to make everything their fault.
Every time you talk about your ex, you’re dredging the corpse of your relationship out of the deep and showing it to everyone. This doesn’t help you move on. It stinks up the place.
Your friends aren’t your therapists. All they can do is listen and show a little sympathy. At some point, that doesn’t help anymore either.
3. Making them a nemesis
Breakups and divorces hurt worse than just about anything. It’s natural to think of your ex as an enemy. It’s natural to want to punish them for what they did. You want to make them the villain of your story.
That way, you get to play the hero — or the victim.
This narrative doesn’t help anyone. In truth, your ex didn’t do anything to you except a favor. They ended a relationship they didn’t want to be in anymore. They made a choice you didn’t like.
It hurts, but you know the one thing that would’ve been worse? Staying in the relationship, and drowning you both.
The sooner you stop blaming your ex for the breakup, the sooner you can start to rebuild yourself.
4. Racing them to a perfect life
We did this even before Facebook made it so easy. We turned each other’s friends into double agents. We asked if they were seeing anyone, if they’ve gained weight. We hoped they fell apart.
Now we can torture ourselves anytime. We can browse their photos for a taste of all the fun they’re having without us, and peak at their current soulmate. We can compete with them for a gold medal in happiness. We can compare our revenge body to theirs.
Except you forget, they’re not working on a revenge body. If they ever think about you, they probably remember the good times you had — not all the pain you’re feeling right now.
You’re a memory to them. You are past tense. Nothing you do now matters to them, and that’s a good thing.
5. Trying to be friends with them
Sometimes friendship can rise from the rubble of romance. When that happens, it’s organic. It’s unexpected.
You can’t force it.
You might still swirl through the same social circles. You might run into them every now and then. If you have kids together, then you’ll be seeing them a lot at baseball games and PTA meetings.
You still have a family to manage.
There’s lots of ways to be nice and civil to your ex, without trying to turn them into a friend. Just because friendship works for a handful of people, that doesn’t mean you have to make a pretzel out of your emotions. If you don’t want to be around them, then don’t.
Stop waiting for them to regret it
Who hasn’t fantasized about an ex calling one day to confess they made a huge mistake, and everything was their fault? Their life just isn’t the same without you. They let you get away.
That kind of validation almost never happens.
When it does, it never feels as good as you think. You can’t do anything practical or productive with that information — unless you decide to start dating them again. Sure, reunions happen. Two people deal with their problems and meet later in life, stable and mature. More often, it’s just a daydream we indulge in to puff up our egos.
That confession from your ex isn’t coming. The sooner you stop waiting for it, then sooner you can actually get on with your life. Waiting for validation or apologies from an ex gives them all kinds of power over your future, the kind they probably didn’t even ask for.
It’s about more than your ex
The power you give to an ex isn’t unlike the kind you give to a bad boss, a lazy friend, or a neglectful parent. You’re holding yourself in suspended animation, waiting for someone or something to change. But the only person you can ever change is yourself.
It starts with rewriting your script. Your ex didn’t ruin your life. Why they separated from you doesn’t matter. They’re not your enemy. Talking about them all the time only makes things worse. You don’t have to be their friend, and you don’t have to beat them to life’s milestones just to make them feel bad, because they won’t.
They say the best revenge is living well. But that’s the catch. To live well, you have to stop caring about revenge.