The ex that remains in your head. The one you imagine you will see when you are having a bad hair day. The one your mind pesters you about running into when you are at your worst. The one that haunts you with only the saddest memories of that chapter and exaggerates the impact of the pain on the present. The ex you are supposed to forget but don’t.
Rather than be tormented by these ghosts, here are truths about the situation to give you a more peaceful perspective on your past and keep you from being nervous about running into them in the future.
They are not better (or worse) off than you
Seriously speaking we think about the ex way more than we would admit – where they are in their lives right now and what they would think of ours. And especially when we were the ones who left, we hope they would be impressed, gobsmacked, no dumbstruck at what we’ve done with our life. We want them to know that we are not “there” where they left us and get more satisfaction than we should when we run into them at our best and even more so if we find them at their worst.
If you live long enough, you realise that life is difficult and no one is exempt from the ebb and flow of good and bad, success and failure, ease and difficulty that characterize our existence. And that being the leveller, your ex, just like you is struggling through parts of their life and coasting through others. It has nothing to do with who he or you ended up with. So, no… you don’t need to prove “I am doing well without you” or get even “your life will be hell without me”. You only have to remember that it isn’t always what it seems and put less value on appearances- yours and theirs.
They have nothing on you
It stings to be on the receiving end of a quit notice from a relationship. The other person was prepared and you were not! By the time you could come up with your own reasons why the relationship wasn’t working for you, the referee had declared the winner, the crowd had cheered and you were the only one left in the ring! But the score is less obvious than the ten points to none you were dealt.
If you are married long enough you realise that no person is perfect… not even the person who read you the riot act. They will go on to date/live with/marry someone who will also have faults and get the unpleasant punishment of bearing with their partner’s flaws. They also will exhibit flaws that justify that long and tired list you drew up about why they weren’t perfect for you either. So before you run after their retreating shadow yelling “you didn’t fire me, I quit”, remember the real audit of both the character of the person who fired and the one who was fired is coming regardless of who called it quits first.
You broke up with them too
Not that “he jilted me”, “she broke my heart”, “he left me for someone else”, “she ended the relationship”,” he rejected me “but that “we broke up”, “our relationship ended”, “we went our separate ways”.
Own your choice, whether it came second or was the result of the other person’s decision; whether you said it to their face or it was the only option left for you to accept- you had a voice in there somewhere too. It might have been “if he couldn’t stay then he didn’t deserve me to stay and I am leaving too!” or “Although I have never had or entertained a reason not to continue in this relationship, now I do with this freshly surfacing fact that she wants out, so I want out too!”.
If you’ve been around long enough you realise that the dynamics of life are sometimes like a game of chess- it’s all about making and responding to moves. So put less value on who made the first move or who made the second move, sometimes there is a benefit to your opponent making the first move because then you can calculate your next move better.
Your version of events count
Not that you are bad, but you were simply misunderstood. Not that you went that low to have dated someone you now feel didn’t deserve you, but that you didn’t know then that they didn’t. Not that you must be stupid to have made a stupid mistake but that you didn’t know better or know enough.
If you’ve been around long enough you realise there are two sides to every story. The story from your perspective of events counts too and certainly above expressed, perceived or popular opinion on what went wrong. Remember you can stick with your story as you understood it and find shelter from other versions that cast you in the worst light.
It wasn’t all bad
Just like it wasn’t all good memories, it wasn’t all bad either. So don’t be so hard on yourself for letting someone into your life that caused you pain or unfair to them by blaming them for it. There were some of your needs that were met, there were some parts of it you could be faulted with, and there might be something you gained from it in the end. Shall we only accept the good and not the bad?
If you look back far enough into your past, you realise that no one experience has defined your entire life as good or bad, happy or sad but there were good or bad legs along the journey of your generally good life -the rest of which is still unwritten. So let all the facts come in before you decide that that experience ruined your life, or was the worst thing that happened to you. Don’t judge a book by a chapter.
You got away with it
When we are hurt in a relationship, we want the person who hurt us to know how much their actions affected us; we even want them to experience the pain they caused us. We don’t want them to get away easy. But if we expect them to get a taste of their medicine shouldn’t we also expect to receive punishment for those we’ve also hurt? If the ill we wished the ex we are aggrieved with took root, it might still not be a satisfying feeling or its poison might have far reaching consequences beyond our intentions affecting other innocent lives.
Sometimes what we need is the work we will have to do within ourselves, we might find it much more satisfying than the jungle justice we have in mind. Sometimes just by walking on their own journey a person who once hurt us might realise their mistake, other times just by walking on our journey, we find restoration through one event, person, perspective or the other. Sometimes just by going on you find a you that can surprisingly let it all go.
If you observe life close enough you realise that without any help on anyone’s part people stumble and fall. They even fall by their own hands and suffer of their own doing. They are the first to reap the seeds of their character faults. Put less emphasis on whether they got away with it or not, just make sure you got away unbroken in spite of it.
They were never yours to own
We hold on too tightly to our belongings- the things we’ve gotten used to having and holding, loving and cherishing that we forget they aren’t ours to own. They may be ours to cherish and love, to hold and have through the season or seasons but never ours to own. So our love must be wise enough to be free- freely taking, freely giving, never a debt; freely coming, freely going, never a shackle; free to enter, free to leave; never a bondage.
If you think long enough about it, you come to the conclusion that little in life is yours to control, not this person and certainly not the choices they made. They were theirs to make when they came into your life and theirs to make when they left. They can leave. It’s a choice they have. That’s how come they can leave you, because you don’t own them. That’s how come you can let them go, because you don’t own them. They came, they left and it’s A-Okay! You didn’t lose them; you didn’t fail- they weren’t yours to own anyway.
It’s okay you didn’t forget them
No one really does and it’s okay not to. It is in error to think that we can forget. Have you ever caught the whiff of a perfume and remembered a person? Has an event from the past come to mind without your help? Has a name or face you haven’t heard or seen in years just drop into your conscious mind without being invoked?
If you look back far enough, you can find a long list of things you forgot but got reminded of so don’t bother with forgetting instead live with it, the past co-existing peacefully with the present.
The length of time you spent in that relationship was only a fraction compared to your life, it’s not important enough for you to immortalize it or engrave it in the sands of time. Acknowledge it but dismiss it casually with a “it happened a long time ago” or a “it’s not relevant now”. Give it the same distance time has put between you and that past.
Put all the ghosts out of your mind and all of your thoughts on yourself for a change. By remembering to think about you, you opt to forget about them.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Tad Denson