Regardless of how the relationship ended, thinking about your ex with someone else will always hurt at first. Maybe your ex-partner cheated and lied, or maybe the two of you drifted apart and realized you wanted different things. Whatever the case, it can be unsettling to imagine someone who was so a part of your life making a home in someone else’s.
Even if you both say your goodbyes, wishing for each other’s happiness, it’s natural to hope it takes them at least a little while for them to get over you. We try not to, but we can become swept up in the hurtful “what ifs” of them being with someone else.
What if they become the partner you always wanted, but for someone else? This thought hurts to no end, because if they’re capable of being the partner you always wanted, why couldn’t they be that for you? Why does it have to be with someone else?
Remind yourself that the growth they went through to become this new person was made possible because you were in their life at the time that you were. Maybe you and your ex-partner were only meant to be together to learn from each other and carry that knowledge forward into future relationships, so try not to get caught up in idealizations of your ex. The next time you see them, they may seem agonizingly new and improved, taking their new partner to all the places you wanted to go, but unseen to you, they may still have all of the frustrating habits that made it hard to be together. Rather than focus on what kind of partner your ex will become for someone else, acknowledge that they simply couldn’t give you what you wanted when you were together. But you will find someone who can.
What if they start dating again before you do? Everyone moves on at different paces. If you see your ex with someone else while you’re still struggling to move on, don’t let that derail you. What your ex does to move on is a reflection of them and how they cope rather than a jab at you or the relationship you had. Don’t force yourself to date again because you feel like you have to. Moving on can be a long process, but it should be done at a pace you’re comfortable with. It may seem like your ex is fine without you, but regardless of whether they truly are or not, what matters most is that you are doing what you can to move on however you need to.
What if they date someone you know? No matter how secure you felt in the relationship, now that you’re not together anymore, it’s natural for insecurities or jealousies to arise. Suddenly, it feels like your ex is surrounded by an abundance of attractive people who are fun and interesting and share common interests with your ex. Maybe they’ll end up dating that new work colleague they told you about, or they’ll get married to their childhood friend who you met while you were still with your ex. The most painful part of all this is that you have to accept anything can happen. Maybe they will date someone they were friends with while they were with you. It will hurt and you may feel broken, but you must be ready for that possibility if it happens. That is the only way to cope and move on, and remember that anything can happen for you as well. Maybe that cute stranger you saw every week on the bus will say hi, or your old high school crush will come back for a visit. Think about all the possibilities that will open up to you as time goes on.
What if we had met later in life after growing in different relationships? What if you and your ex-partner had dated different people first and just grew until one day, fate said you were both ready for each other? Right now, you might be pondering this tragic hypothetical because you still think they’re the one, or at the very least, they were all you knew for a long time, making it hard to let go of that idea of them. You will never know if you and your ex could have worked out at a different stage in your lives, but take solace in the fact that you mattered to each other infinitely even if it didn’t last. The thing is, the growth you gain from a relationship will always be specific to that particular relationship. Who knows if wisdom you could have gained from different partners would have helped you and your ex in an alternate future? Maybe you and your ex never would have ended up dating. It’s hard to feel grateful when you know it’s over, but find comfort in that you met your ex at the time that you did and fell in love.
Thinking about our once most beloved person dating someone else can be difficult to deal with. Just remember that you have to accept that life moves on, and the growth you have achieved from being with your ex will build your resiliency and empathy. They may be happier with someone else, but you will be too one day. You may not get to see where they end up in life, but you will at least know that you are on your way to something better and can smile back on the journey you shared with your ex.