Thought Catalog
May 18, 2017

There’s A New Break-Up Trend And It’s Called ‘The Jerk Effect’

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When relationships end, there is what I like to call the Jerk Effect, that comes into play.

You begin with the mourning phase (if you’re the one who chose to end the relationship, this lasts for a significantly less amount of time than it would if you were the unfortunate soul who never got a choice in the matter.) These are the days you spend listlessly in bed. The glorious period of has been’s and would have been’s and never will be’s. There’s an overwhelming mix of sadness and self pity. And what you essentially do is to wait for one of these to win the war over the other. If you’re lucky, it’s the sadness that wins. Infinitely better for your fragile ego.

Then comes the reconciliation phase, where you begin to rationalize the break up and try picking up your pieces in an attempt to move on. Or, if you’re an especially emotional person, the phase in which you either drink yourself blind and drown in ice cream, eventually growing two sizes larger; or join a gym, eat food better suited for rabbits than humans, and vow to “turn hot” mostly for the ex’s benefit.

The last phase is the hate phase. This is when you sleep your way through half your city and back, or become a workaholic, whichever suits your style better. It’s also the phase in which you decide that dating your ex was the worst mistake of your life and that promptly resorting to mindlessly hating the ex is the easiest way to self love. The first thing you do, of course, is to turn the person you once loved into a mere caricature of all things nasty. You begin by dehumanizing them. They become The Jerk. The asshole who broke your heart/cheated on you/lied to you/suffocated you/didn’t love you enough… The reasons are endless, and over time, you struggle to make more up. “She had a pimple on her back, can you believe it?” “He had really oily hair, I can’t imagine how I didn’t notice it. I hate oily hair.”

In order to keep The Jerk as a faceless entity you now love to hate, you refuse to call them by their name over time too.

Phone conversations begin with “I saw The Jerk’s new display picture an hour ago. He looks awful!” Over time, every time you slip up, make a mistake, or are emotionally disturbed, it automatically becomes The Jerk’s fault. You finally have run out of clean underwear because The Jerk went cycling yesterday. You forgot your best pitch in the middle of the big presentation because The Jerk checked in at The Burger King on Facebook. You were mean to the pizza delivery guy because The Jerk got a promotion.

You make excuses for your behaviour and are encouraged to blame The Jerk by all your friends too. After all, that’s the natural order of things.

And when you meet someone wonderful, someone special, and three months into the relationship, they ask you The Question about your history, you’ll have a ready answer for them.

There was The Jerk, and before him, the Dickhead. That’s it. Just two serious relationships. And your new boyfriend will, in turn, tell you about The Asshole, The Bitch and The Slut.

The promise of a happy relationship on the horizon, you can now sink your toes in the sand and revel in the Glory of Love: until you break up with each other, then you’ll be The Whore and have the newly re-christened Bastard joining the ranks of Jerk and Dickhead.

The moral of this rather long piece of rambling is the sudden realization that I am no different from the heroes of my story. Most of us just aren’t equipped with the strength to let go without wrecking havoc with our surroundings. We don’t need to hold on to the happy memories, we aren’t programmed to move on that way. Sure, let’s be bitter. But let’s acknowledge the fact that we once cared deeply about the Human who is no more in our lives, and that they deserve to be remembered in a manner befitting the same, rather than as a faceless caricature, The Jerk. It’s not easy, I’ll admit, but all it takes is to think of the person’s name (if you want to think of them at all) rather than as the monster who ruined your life.

You’ll also get the satisfaction of feeling slightly less breakable if you remove the power of destruction from their hands, because the only person who placed it there to begin with, was you. TC mark

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