In my best Jerry Seinfeld impression…‘whaaat’s the deal with exes?’
In all honesty though, what do we do with exes? I don’t think we ever firmly established any sort of groundwork or code of conduct. No treatise signed, no coda created. Exes are a miserable, messy, miasmic byproduct of relationships. There are always questions related to exes. Is it possible to stay friends. What do you do with friends you made as a couple. Could it ever work out again. I don’t know, for the most part a ‘scorched earth’ approach seems to be a pretty effective catch-all. You can’t worry about handling any sort of complex emotional or relational problems if you burn every constant reminder and connection.
Of course, it’s harder to burn a digital network. And so one of the most tragic ironies is that the generation with the most advanced social connection technology, the same generation responsible for ‘Tinder’, ‘ghosting’, and the overall decline of relational maturity, is also the generation who has to handle the most persistent presence of exes and ex interaction. Like a ‘six degrees of Kevin Bacon’ game from hell, you may unfriend an ex, but chances are somewhere down the data family tree, is someone else who is friends with someone else who is still friends with her and then…boom…there’s a post of them together on a vacation, or a comment on a photo with a profile pic of the happy couple. And that’s the biggest question left unanswered for me. The one thing I just can’t seem to make sense of or process.
How do we feel about our exes in new relationships?
For context, no this is not ‘THE’ ex. A different one, just one of many. This ex didn’t sting. It was the reason for the breakup, and the nature of the relationship, that did. See, she was in college at the time in DC, and of course I was living and working in NJ. Working my first year of teaching, a highly stressful and emotional job that maybe just maybe did take me away emotionally and mentally from the relationship at times. And here was a young college girl experiencing life away from home for the very first time and exploring all her opportunities and one of those happened to be a fellow classmate who ‘ had a better body, had more money, and was also Chinese (like her)’; her words, not mine. Getting over her was pretty easy. Getting over the newfound insecurity, not so much. But, there she was, years and years and…counting on my fingers…yeah, years after, and there’s her in a vacation pic with friends of friends of friends, but there’s her profile picture and god almighty the two are still together.
It wasn’t jealousy that ran through my veins. Not even anger. No, it was something more akin to…disbelief. Here I am, after the two of us broke up, having had more relationships, more breakups, more failures, and there she was, with the same guy this entire time. I can’t believe after everything, I’m the one who couldn’t get his shit together well enough to conjure up a relationship that could’ve at least lasted half as long as hers has.
What do we do with exes in relationships? And before you worry, I don’t mean actually ‘do’. I wouldn’t stoop so low ever as to meddle in these people’s lives. I just mean…where do we store that information in our heads and how are we supposed to feel about it.
First, there’s the person to consider. Could this reaction be in someway caused by lingering feelings? Perhaps. I could see in some cases this happening. It’s hard, when you care about someone, to be happy for them when what makes them happy isn’t you. Best thing for anyone in this case is to just acknowledge those feelings and then move on. After all, jealousy doesn’t look good on anyone. And then there’s the relationship. Sometimes, it isn’t about the person. This could be the most toxic, noxious, incompatible boob you’ve ever been with. But when you’re in that vulnerable state where you’re just feeling that uber-loneliness and wondering why you can’t find someone, seeing someone you were with, with someone else, makes you feel like the biggest failure.
These are honest, human, emotional reactions. I would never fault anyone for finding themselves feeling like that at least a couple times in their lives. I get that. But they’re about dealing with certain people or with our own attitude towards relationships. I’m talking about, as a functioning human adult, mature and well adjusted, how does one deal with seeing an ex in a relationship.
Calmer, better, gentler, and overall more noble and honorable ones of us will tell me that it’s of no matter, and perhaps the most admirable of us could even feasibly muster the decency to be genuinely happy for the other person. But the truth is, having no feelings towards this person, and no current desire for a relationship or concern for not being in one, I genuinely hated seeing that picture of these two people. That’s, like, really not healthy right? I don’t think I have it in me to be happy for these people. I’m not stopping them, but I’ll eternally hope that if loneliness doesn’t find them, then the bleakness of a mediocre subpar relationship does. No one is denying that sounds messed up. I’m not denying it sounds messed up. But yes, maybe I do tell myself that these two deserve each other because they’ve got the emotional depth of a kiddie pool. It sounds harsh, and I doubt it makes me the better man. But we are all human, and we are all entitled to our faults and vices. I guess this one is gonna be mine for a while, maybe always. Some of you are much, much better people than me in this regard. I applaud and admire and respect that. But for me, if the scorched earth doesn’t burn away every last remnant, there’s probably gonna be a little bit of bitterness. Now, considering this blog, this reflection, is in a major part about the pursuit of growth and improvement, could I move beyond this?
Man: 314 Loneliness: 33