Day 347: The Man and the Deal with Exes; ‘Meddle’

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 Headlights.gifthat 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?

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Day 347

Man: 314 Loneliness: 33

Day 210: The Man and the Blast From the Past, Gift from the Rift; ‘Clean’

So it’s the middle of the night and I’m trying to go to sleep…

And I get a text message, which immediately startles me because, if any of you play the Michael Scott.gifMetal Gear series, my text alert is the *BWOMP* sound the game makes when you’ve been discovered by an enemy.

Who the hell is texting me at this ungodly hour…

It’s Bird. I haven’t spoken to her since the holidays to wish her a merry Christmas and happy New Year. I’ve for the most part gotten over my crush and besides all indications are that she’s still going strong with her boyfriend so I’ve made my peace and moved on.

It’s a picture of an online pre-order receipt for Mass Effect: Andromeda. The latest game in a series that we are both fans of and liked to talk about. ‘Okay,’ I thought. ‘She got the game. Good for her.’ Underneath it though was the caption ‘my ex bought Andromeda for me L M A O’.

Huh.

It was a weird sentiment, at such a random time, but maybe it was the half-awake half-asleep mind or that calm and peace of the night, but it immediately brought up a whole slew of emotions and thoughts that were just too much to process. So I decided to wait until now to go through them.


First, this was not the first time that any one of her past exes has been brought up in conversation. I couldn’t really pinpoint when, or where, or why, or how, but somehow or other in sporadic bursts in our conversations she would find it appropriate to bring up exes. This one who’s still obsessed with her and trying to get back together, this one who was a jerk and a mistake, this one who was ‘really just for the sex and loneliness’, or this one who ‘still felt bad about the breakup’ and is giving her gifts therefore for some reason? Iono. As I like to say, ‘whatevs to the evs’. But maybe it’s not so ‘whatevs’? Am I wrong or is there something strange about constantly bringing up ex talk? For comparison, about as much as she knows about me is that I was dating a girl who I used to date back in college and then a couple months later we broke up. That’s it. The entirety of my romantic past in summation based on her knowledge.

Carol Brown.gifSo I’m trying to process why this seems to keep coming up. And I’m trying to come up with positive, flattering reasons why. I’m drawing blanks. Because here’s what I’ve come up with. For the most part, I find people who consistently bring up their exes often times do it because they draw a certain sense of self-worth by quantifying how desirable they are. ‘Look at me, I must be good, because look at this list of people who have thought so too.’ And I would like to think Bird is above that, because I think that’s a very sorry and sad way to view yourself; only in terms of how others have, and specifically how others have in terms of lovability or at the very least, likability. You shouldn’t be after trying to get as many people as possible to want you. I’ve always felt that the goal was to find the one. There are lessons and values and wonderful stories created from my past relationships, I certainly can’t deny that. And when appropriate I do enjoy sharing them. The funny, the folly, or the downright fails. But I don’t call on this history as a means of validation. I think I might have in the past though, to be honest. Or at the very least, I think I and most other people can relate, after breakups it is hard not to diminish your sense of self-worth because you are suddenly unwanted. There have been relationships in the past whose ultimate demise have caused me to question myself, my sense of self. I can understand that. But with time you get over that, and you have to realize that the actions of others, their wants and desire, have very little, if anything at all, to do with you, your values, or your worth. And in as much freedom and strength as there is in realizing that someone not wanting you means little, there is the same in realizing that people wanting you means little as well.

Second, I was wondering why she wanted me to know about this at all anyways. If it was about the game and sharing some excitement, then I would have understood completely. How exciting and how great to have that pre-order and already have the peace of mind and anticipation of knowing that on the day the game comes out there is already a copy with your name on it in the mail. Often times pre-orders also come with some extra goodies, either physical goodies like special collector’s edition cases or other paraphernalia or digital goodies like extra content or special items to help you gain an early advantage in the beginning of the game. Personally I am against the concept of pre-orders because it creates too much hype and rewards developers and game companies even before the product is release, which gives them less accountability to make a quality game. But that’s gaming politics and something for some other topic way off in the future if ever. But fine let’s jump up and down and say yay and oh my god that’s so cool.

Andromeda.jpegBut if it was about the game, why would I need to know the part about her ex buying it for her? It’s that extra superfluous piece of information that just gets me confused about the underlying message here. Am I supposed to be…jealous? Impressed? How do I respond? It’s such a strange thing. Why would people feel the need to add all these extra bits of information except for to use the main thing as an excuse to detract focus. And if it was a play for jealousy…I mean…am I supposed to be jealous of the game, or of the act? And isn’t there someone else more relevant to play this on? Like I don’t know, her actual boyfriend? Look I get this makes me sound supremely self-centered. And again, I could be, and hope to be, wrong. These are the semi-lucid musings of a half-awake man. But I definitely think there is something there at least to learn or come away with. Don’t use the actions of others as a tool to incite jealousy. It doesn’t motivate or inspire others to act. It either repels them if they can see through the action or demotivates them. Jealousy is a petty way of getting what you want. If you want me to celebrate with you, I’ll celebrate. But don’t also try to make me jealous. Because then I can see no benefit in sharing this with you.

Third, after my vision began to clear and I wiped the sleep from my eyes and saw that message, the first thing I responded with was ‘wait, are you going to take it?’ I kind of thought and hoped the answer to that should be clear.

‘Eh he wants to give me a gift then fine lol he still feels guilty about our breakup 3 years ago so whatever’

Hand on Head.gifHuh. Guess the answer wasn’t as clear as I thought. Again, way more information than I need, and I guess I mean good for you for being so monumental in his life for the past three years but…like, so what? Anyways, isn’t it strange to be accepting gifts from an ex? Let’s start with just that very general blanket statement. Call me crazy, but I am more in the habit of cutting off contact with exes, so forget accepting gifts from them. It seems like a potentially messy and complicated situation. Now we add on the fact that a) we are to assume she is still in a relationship and b) we are to trust she is accurate and true in saying that her ex for whatever reason ‘still feels bad’ (implying motive? incentive? I don’t know) and it just seems way too much of a hot mess to even want to step into. Maybe in a perfect world with perfect people we can maintain somewhat healthy relationships with exes. But it doesn’t seem this relationship is healthy or even ended in a way that could have facilitated anything healthy. In my opinion the best thing to do after a relationship ends is first of all to make sure everyone involved understand and is clear about the ending of the relationship and then make about as sharp and clean a break as possible, which means no contact. As the break-upper, the broken up, and the potential future partner of either party, it seems best and most conducive to do it this way. Am I being too old-fashioned? Is this such an old and sentimental value it is no longer realistic? Again my god what world of dating am I entering into at the end of my year? It seems against all better judgement to accept anything from an ex. I know from personal experience both as the giver and the receiver, it is almost impossible for these gifts to be given without some ulterior motive or underlying emotion still lingering.

Ultimately, before going back to bed, all I could respond with was ‘mazel tov’.


Okay, let’s be reasonable. I was groggy and therefore possibly grumpy, and maybe a bit overly judgmental. The truth of the matter is this has very little to do with Bird, and more to do with how this seemingly innocent and inane conversation has surprisingly given me so much to think about and wanted to flesh it out in a more cohesive manner when I have full possession of all faculties. It did help me to further ‘humanize’ Bird though. I got to see some shortcomings, get a better feel for her outside of the crush I had. I can’t say that was such a bad thing either. And in the morning when I woke up, I felt neither more nor less for her. She was human, capable of making mistakes and free to do as she pleases. It was her life to live anyways, not mine. Through it all at least I got some wonderful food for thought to sustain me and feed my mind throughout the day. Interactions with exes can be tricky. I think it best to avoid them. Maybe there are more mature, more complex, more capable people out there who can handle them and choose to do so, but I’m fine as is.

Day 210

Man: 178 Loneliness: 32