Ex’s suck. Ex’s you still care about suck more. I know, I have been there. I was the girl who would turn her life upside down for some guy who didn’t give a crap about me. My friends have all been that person too. They do everything, some of them even going through bankruptcy, to stand by their man, their ex man, or whatever “it’s complicated” terminology that they might be calling him by at the moment. As a matter of fact, I can’t name a single woman in my life who isn’t like that so maybe instead of saying I have been “that girl” I should have started by just saying “I’m a girl”.
It doesn’t seem to matter if he’s “the one that got away” or “the one you walked away from,” either way all it seems to take is a few moments on your own with nothing but your own thoughts as company before you start thinking about what a big mistake this break up really is.
So what if he gambled away your grocery money, or called some chick while you were in a puddle of tears due to a death in your family… who cares if he asked to sleep with your best friend or had a drinking problem? Those were obviously all minor things that could have been fixed if only you had been enough for him… right? That’s how I was, and unfortunately the truth is that that’s how I would be today if this nameless ex of mine showed back up.
The truth is that it doesn’t matter how much better I have it now with my husband. It doesn’t matter how much better I am treated or how much happier I am in this relationship, if my nameless ex so much as sends me a message on Facebook I am making a call to my therapist to make sure I don’t spiral backwards into a deep dark ex-boyfriend black hole. It’s not a joke, and it’s been years since we dated! Still I can hear “Lips of an Angel” and think about him… and it’s infuriating! This is not the person I wanted to be… mooning over some guy who couldn’t give a crap less about me… so why did it happen?
For me, and I suspect many other women, the answer is simple: rejection fuels the inner self doubt that I already have. No matter how much weight I have lost, no matter how much money I make now, no matter how good my life is compared to his – it doesn’t matter because he didn’t want me. I wasn’t good enough. That’s a feeling that is secretly hiding in the back of my mind most days anyhow (about nearly everything I do not just relationships) and this is just the fuel that feeling of lacking needs to grow and flourish. The self-doubt needs something to feed off and this is an all you can eat buffet.
The most ironic part about this for me is that I walked away from him. I made a grand (read: humiliating) gesture with him, driving across the county in another man’s car, ready to move my entire life across the country, and he knew what was happening and let me flush my entire life so that when I got there he could inform me he was living with someone. Better when I finally got up enough nerve to ask him what was going on and why he didn’t tell me before this, he said nothing.
I followed that by asking the question I should have asked a year or five or ten before then: “This is it, are you in or out? Either commit to be with me or we have to stop this. We have to be done. No more pseudo friendship, no more flirty late night phone calls, no more turning to each other when we are broke up (or when we’re not…)… no more. So what’s it gonna be?’ He looked at me and said: “Out.” Now, the one moment of pride that I have in this super embarrassing situation is that I held it together and I did not back off. We didn’t talk to each other again for five years.
We’ll talk about the conversation that we did have in a while… it’s really almost beside the point. My girlfriends were over discussing the latest contact when one quipped: “You guys always had a weird relationship anyways…” says the woman who could write a novel on “weird relationships.” I immediately defended myself because truly explaining and examining the relationship kind of makes me look stupid, possibly pathetic. That’s the thing though, as women we don’t realize that a relationship is odd (or fail to care, explain it away, think that no one would judge you if they only understood). We live in these crazy situations for months if not years because at the end of the day we don’t want to face the rejection. Because it doesn’t seem to matter if you walked away or if he did, if it doesn’t work out it is rejection. Somehow if only you could have been better things would have been different and he wouldn’t have treated you that way.
As women we tend to talk about men and relationships until we are sick. We break down what they think, how they act, every facial movement, every choice of outfit and gift. We talk all of this through with our girlfriends but we don’t do the only thing that might actually be helpful: we don’t do real. We want our friends to think that they are all amazing (partially because they are), and don’t want to have to be the one to tell them that they are being stupid and that these guys are using them and/or not interested and/or just a jerk.
We don’t want to do real with our friends because we know that if we do they will react in any of the following (all equally unattractive) ways: accusing you of being jealous, brushing it off and saying you don’t understand, getting angry, or ripping into your current relationship. Nothing good usually comes of it. The fact remains though that all of us knows the truth: men will go after what they want with a tenacity unknown to them until they have it. Things/people they don’t want, you will not get them off the couch for – no matter what you do. There is no amount of making things easy on him, babying him, losing more weight, or making more money that is going to fix it and make him want you. You can’t fix yourself to make him like you… nor should you try.
Possibly worse than that though, is when you have managed to walk away – in my case for years, only to be dragged right back into the fray. That sore is still so raw and so tender that even years after healing it still has a scab that is just waiting to be ripped off and let the bleeding begin again. After 5 years without contact it took one single Facebook message to tear that scab off and send me into a downward spiral. Because he rejected me and no amount of love that my super hero husband can provide can fix that need that I have within myself to try to be good enough for this nameless ex who didn’t want me. I called my therapist with a speed that would suggest I have her on speed dial (I don’t and actually only see her for mental health check is when I get overwhelmed which is typically once or twice a year) but I knew I was in a state and needed someone to help me clear the fog from my head and get focused again on my real life.
I messaged hi back on Facebook. I told him that I really hoped his life was wonderful and that my life was very full and very much amazing. I told him that I liked the girl he was with and that I hoped that they were happy together. I told him that I wish we could put the past behind us and even be friendly. After that, that is exactly what I did. I let the past be the past, I acknowledged that it is still and likely always will be a sticking point for me, and I let him go – again.
The process of forgiving yourself for not being enough for someone you really cared about is not easy, as a matter of fact it sucks. It’s totally worth the effort though. It’s worth it because whether he’s the one that got away or the one who you walked away from, you have to face yourself in the mirror every single day and beating yourself up for someone who would not be willing to walk across the kitchen for you is unhealthy and probably keeping you from finding the one guy who will be willing to walk across the solar system for you. Ex’s suck, but you don’t have to.