Discover more from Sex Demystified - Debunking the Sexual Norms
All My Exes Live in Texas
And Other Ways To Live In A Different State of Mind
It’s late; you’re lying in bed. The soft glow of your phone lights up your face as you scroll through social media. You convince yourself it’s harmless research as you stalk to your ex’s social media accounts.
What are they doing? Are they miserable without you? Is that a new friend or a new lover?
We don’t consider it unhealthy at the time, but it is. What does it matter if they have moved on?
So should you.
Some people get irrationally obsessed in the life of an ex-partner. They overanalyze and begin to question whether or not a mistake was made in ending the relationship—even if they are the ones who ended it. The ego can’t handle the notion they may be better off without you.
There could be numerous of reasons for the inability not to fully let go. It could be as simple as being curious or something as harmful as an undiagnosed behavioral disorder.
How do you know the difference?
If the behavior is causing you, your family and friends, coworkers, or even your ex discomfort, it’s no longer simple curiosity. If you find yourself feeling anxious, angry, or manufacturing further resentment, professional help needs to be sought. There is absolutely nothing wrong with admitting you need therapy to move on.
Is it possible you aren’t missing your ex so much as you’re missing the daily routine of having that person in your life?
The best way to avoid the situation is distractions. Ignore the triggers that make you want to check on your ex. Let’s say you have a favorite coffee shop where the two of you went every Saturday morning. Go on a different day, change coffee shops, or create new routines with friends. I’m not saying it’s going to be an easy fix. Every little thing you do to create a new pattern for yourself will improve how you handle your breakup. You have complete autonomy of your actions.
It’s important to cut off contact completely with your ex. You may feel compelled to say, “We can still be friends.”
No, you really can’t.
Maintaining a friendship with an ex is an unreasonable expectation. It’s really just something people say to be nice. Are you able to fully commit to a future relationship if you’re unwilling to let go of the previous one? Think about the underlined motives for wanting to maintain contact.
Be your own friend after a break-up, especially if it was a difficult one. This is a time when you’re hurting and feeling vulnerable. Setting up boundaries to protect yourself is healthy and absolutely necessary. You are going to need your space.
When a relationship ends, the residual pain felt has little to do with the relationship you actually had. Your feelings are about what could have been, the “if only” scenarios, and the best moments you had together. We forget the painful memories and hold on to the good ones. You have to embrace the reality that one of you, or both, don’t actually want back in the relationship.
Be honest with yourself and with them. Let them know there should be no contact. If you both have shared obligations—like children or a pet—you can be friendly without being a friend. Remaining friendly means you can regard the other person with kindness and respect, without expectations. This, along with rigid boundaries, will allow you to move on.
When my ex-husband and I separated, I had to create boundaries and follow-through with them. It wasn’t easy at first. One evening, he asked to come by to see our kids and brought with him a case of my favorite beer. He thought we’d order pizza, enjoy a beer, and talk.
I left the house to allow him time alone with the kids. I couldn’t sit around enjoying a frosty brew and still be steadfast in moving forward with the divorce. It felt as though I was being mean, however I needed to ensure he understood that we were separating. It’s also very confusing for the children—which in itself is a difficult situation.
There’s a time to let go and make peace with the notion the relationship is over. When we hold on to what could have been or residual anger, it continues to grow and jeopardize future relationships. You can’t allow your past to limit your ability to move forward. This is essentially giving an ex-partner power and control over your future. Your emotional freedom is necessary to move on.
If you weren’t living together, ensure you have boxed up everything belonging to your ex. You might feel compelled to head to the dumpster or create a bonfire—don’t. I promise that packing away their things and casually setting them by the door is far more powerful. It visually demonstrates you are ready to move on (even if you aren’t).
If you lived together, allow them time to gather their things without you present. We become hesitant in making what feels like the challenging choices when facing someone we once cared for. It’s also easy to say the wrong things when you’re both feeling vulnerable—things you can’t take back or give hope where there is none.
Remember, how you are feeling internally no longer belongs to your ex-partner. You may be hurting because of the break-up and allowing them to see that gives away your agency. We don’t always see ourselves or our situations clearly. Personal agency will boost your self-esteem and create the outcome that you want, rather than focusing what you can’t control. You always have more power than you think. Only you should have influence and control of your own life.
Avoid posting details on social media about the break up—especially when it just happened. In the end, it just makes everyone who reads your post feel awkward. Some friends may be relieved and think you’re better off; and, some may feel conflicted questioning why you let go of a good relationship.
Either way, they’re going to want details and the bombardment of inquiries will only rehash everything you’re trying to let go. Do your internet friends really deserve to know the very personal experience you’re going through?
When I separated from my husband after twenty-one years of marriage, the last thing I wanted was to advertise our divorce. My ex didn’t have any social media accounts and mine were a collection of all our friends and family. All it took was changing my last name and the messages came pouring in. People I haven’t spoken to in years reached out to ask what happened. I obfuscated—telling them very little. I started unfriending everyone—his family and his friends. It really made me look like I never cared for any of them, which truly wasn’t the case. It just felt right at the time because I needed to protect myself. Our separation was a hostile one.
The Other Ex-Factor
When starting a new relationship, we get a little curious about our current partner’s ex.
What did they look like? Are you better looking?
What we are failing to remember is social media isn’t the reality of someone’s life. We can’t gauge anything from what we see. What you can do is ask your partner about them.
When my current husband and I started dating, we wanted to know every detail of our past relationships. This isn’t for everyone, however it worked for us. We used it as a study guide into each other’s likes and dislikes. There’s a better understanding of why previous relationships failed. It also helped with self-reflection into our own behavior.
We spend a lot of time getting to know someone when we’re dating. It’s perfectly natural to be curious about your partner’s past. However, researching social media makes it too easy to fall into the comparison trap. Some partners don’t mind sharing details, but some do. Respect that and keep your questions non-specific about their ex and more about the relationship they had.
Remember, they broke up for a reason and that has nothing to do with your relationship. Their ex is not your competition.
There is a process called cognitive reappraisal; or thought reframing. It involves strategies that reshape our interpretation of events; which tend to be negative after a break-up. If we consciously encourage a more compassionate interpretation for ourselves, eventually we will have more manageable feelings.
Self-reflection on your past is the best way to move forward. It’s important to look inward at yourself rather than outward at your ex. Dealing with the many emotions, such as shame, humiliation, and anger are part of the process. Once those feelings subside, you might even realize there were flaws in the relationship that you missed.
You have the choice to rationalize all situations in your life positively or negatively. Be open to thinking about your situation in different ways until you find a one that feels right to you. I promise that you will create a positive, new life for yourself.
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