There’s a thin line between love and hate.
For those exiting a relationship, the phrase above is not just the hook from a famous 70’s tune, but a painful and real experience. The person you once trusted, cared for and thought you understood somehow becomes someone you don’t even recognize. All you know is it’s over. That woman or man has moved out of your life and what remains is an empty side of the bed. In their wake you’re left with rage, hurt, sadness and perhaps more unresolved…shall we say, stuff. So, how do you shake it off? You want to move on, but you also want to be real, and honestly, the hate you feel still remains. What to do?
You know the quotes that suggest living with the weight of hate does nothing to hurt your ex, but is your own one woman / man poison tasting party? It does nobody any good and yet, and on the real, there can be a contact high of getting in touch with that volcano inside you, recalling the horrible things that were done and/or said by the other party. This post isn’t about erasing your hate but honoring it. That wasn’t a typo.
How people act (up) in relationships can be wild to say the least.
Here are 3 tips the next time you find yourself in a hate fest over something your ex did or continues to do. This is like throwing out that flask of poison, removing the nasty aftertaste of rage then grabbing a Vitamix and making yourself a healthy smoothie. It’s not easy, but worth it.
When I work with clients, one of the phrases I hear over and over is “I just can’t let these feelings of hate go, Cory!”
I then say, “Congratulations! This means you’re a human being!” How to not hate your ex…as much, involves reframing how you talk with yourself. Here are 3 steps that may help you scale it down:
- Take one action of your ex that sent / sends you into a hateful tailspin and put it into observational terms instead of reactionary ones. This could look like turning your internal chatter like: “They’re such a jerk. They hit on my best friend right after we broke up!”, and switching it up into “when my friend told me that my ex sent them a text message asking them out for a drink two weeks after we ended our relationship…”. Got it? This is moving the energy from “They did this to me” to “This is what I observed”. This is extremely helpful because it often helps my clients get a sense of empowerment and distance from the pain they feel.
- Ask yourself how you feel about what you’ve now observed. “I feel sad, hurt and frustrated”, for example. Here’s the catch. It’s so easy to move blame onto our exes themselves. “They’re stupid, pathetic, bad”, etc. Unfortunately, labeling and name-calling will likely keep the fire of fury going. Step 2 gives people a chance to unpack their rage and hate into feelings and emotions that are less heavy. When meeting with clients, we work on translating tragic words and messages into, “what am I observing?”, followed by “what am I feeling about what I observed?”. This honesty and clarity of how you feel can move you toward step #3.
- Make a guess. Guess what that sadness, anger and/or hurt you may be feeling tells you about what’s important for you. So, back to our earlier example. Your past partner sent a text to your best friend inviting them out for a drink two weeks after you broke up. You may feel sad, hurt and frustrated…Now what? My tip? Guess what you would have liked. Let me be clear. I don’t mean what you would have liked your ex to have done instead, like never having texted your best friend to begin with…(“and by the way, how in the f@#% did they get my friends number in the first place?”). That line of thinking may give you another contact high of feeling alive temporarily, but not necessarily help you scale down the stress around all of this. I’m asking you to ask yourself, “What value would I have liked in that moment I found out about the text?” In other words, what would you guess is important to you in moments like this. In guessing, you may find that what you value is honesty, integrity, boundaries and respect. Here’s the fine line: If you make those qualities things that your ex must be or do, hating them less is not that likely. However, when I distinguish between what I wished my ex had done but didn’t do and move to taking them out of the equation completely and ask myself what I value, I’ve found that hate starts to disipate and healing enters the scene.
Go ahead and test these 3 tips out. Choose a circumstance where an ex did or said something that set you off. Are you up for recalling the event in observational terms? Searching for feelings that came up around it all? And what are your emotions telling you about what’s important to you?
Disclaimer: Be it a divorce where children are involved, a high school sweetheart you’d never thought would leave you or a one weekend romance you thought had potential, everyone going through a breakup is on their own journey. I get it.
These tips are in no way a “One Size Fits All” prescription for hating your ex less, but over the 17 years of working with couples and folks moving through the world of intimate relationships, not to mention going through my own personal separation, tips like this, (which are steps in a process called Nonviolent Communication), have been more than helpful.
Lastly, you may be thinking, “Hey Cory, I’ve 1) observed what happened, 2) felt my feelings and 3) made guesses about what I value…but I’m still heated. I mean what they did was just wrong!” Got it. The next and fourth step, which I’ll address in upcoming posts is what I call, taking note of all of the above and, excuse my language, “Mourning the hell out of that shit!” This is an exercise in self-empathy. It’s when I let go of judgements momentarily and engage in beneficial regret on what happened.
Can these tips I’ve shared motivate your ex to change their ways? Maybe not. But living with the baggage of someone you’re no longer with can tend to stick around. I’ve found these steps game-changing in getting over what’s clearly over. Here’s to happiness wherever you find yourself.