Words by Persia Lawson
October 19th, 2017
“I hope you enjoy shagging your craggy-faced girlfriend. I wouldn’t.”
… Is what my friend Becky text her ex after learning he was in a new relationship just a few short weeks after they’d broken up.
But, to be fair, that was a damn sight more sophisticated than when I was in a similar situation in my late teens, and found myself outside my ex’s parent’s house at 3 am on my hands and knees, screaming bloody murder.
We’ve all been there — losing every ounce of our grace and dignity at the mere thought of our former lover with someone else. So, when our worst fears (inevitably) become a reality, it’s only natural that the deep pain it triggers causes us to act irrationally, inappropriately – and sometimes, even borderline-insanely.
So, how the hell are we expected to behave when we feel like our heart is breaking for the second time? How are we meant to channel all the anger and humiliation we feel?
These were the questions I asked myself in the summer of 2012, when I learned that my ex had moved the girl he’d once cheated on me with into his flat only two weeks after I’d moved out.
It was the most painful break-up I’d ever had by a long way, but I was absolutely determined that I was going to come out the other side of it with my pride still intact – regardless of how he was choosing to behave.
Below is a list of five things I committed to NOT doing after I found out my ex was in a new relationship. Because when it comes to break-ups, we tend to regret what we did do more than what we didn’t. If you’re ever in the same position yourself I suggest you give them a go – they really do help get you through this horrible period!
This may sound obvious but I can’t tell you the number of girls who’ve called/text/social-trolled me when they found out I was now dating their ex. Whilst I totally get why they did it (and have also been guilty of doing the same thing in the past), this sort of behaviour never has a happy ending.
Because… What do you actually hope to gain from it?
At best, they might apologise (although it’s not really their duty to – and it does little to lessen the pain anyway). At worst, you’ll get branded as ‘the psycho ex-girlfriend’.
It’s unfair (not to mention a bit sexist), but I’ve seen this scenario play out enough times now to know it just isn’t worth the hassle. Unless the new squeeze happens to be one of your best friends, they really aren’t your business. Contacting them will only make you feel even worse (trust me on this), and your focus right now needs to be solely directed to nurturing and healing yourself – not aggravating the wound.
This is something I see all the time with my love-coaching clients: As soon as they find out their ex is seeing someone else, they feel a compulsive need to break the 6-month ‘no contact’ rule I advised them to practice to help them heal from the break-up.
“He just needs to know how hurt I am by this,” is what they’ll often tell me.
Again, this is understandable because of the huge sense of betrayal we feel at how quickly our ex appears to have moved on from us. But, similar to the above, this never makes you feel (or look) any better – if anything, it shows your ex how hung up on them you still are, and – let’s be honest – we all want our ex to believe we’re holding it together (even if we aren’t).
I know it’s painful but it’s not your ex’s job to soothe your pain anymore. The only person who needs to know how hurt you feel is you. You’re the only one who has the power to heal this pain (with the support and love of your good friends and family).
Now, I absolutely do advocate expressing your feelings towards your ex in order to get them out of you – but do it in an email that you DO NOT SEND.
Right now, you’re feeling incredibly raw and your emotions and modes of expression are going to be much more extreme than usual. Tell yourself that you can send the email to your ex in a month’s time – and I can almost guarantee that by the time a month rolls around and you re-read it, you’ll cringe and wince and be over the moon that you didn’t send it out of impulse.
This one’s a daily battle for us at the best of times but stalking online MUST be avoided at all costs – it really is that damaging.
Social media has become the world’s most socially accepted addiction these days, and as a result, it has some nasty consequences (especially if you’re using it to stalk your ex and their new beau). It will lower your self-esteem significantly and tempt you to go down the god-awful compare and despair rabbit-hole within a matter of clicks.
I think the reason we all fall into this trap is that it gives us a weird sense of power to know exactly who this new person is, and how you match up in comparison. But this I can guarantee: the less you know, the better.
You are powerless over their relationship, so why keep beating yourself up by obsessing over what you can’t change?
My advice? Remove the temptation to stalk by blocking both of them as soon as possible. Who cares if they realise you’ve done this – your focus needs to be on doing what’s good for you, remember, not on how that might affect them.
One of the hardest things about break-ups is how they can divide a friendship group. And when one member of the former duo gets into a relationship with someone new, this only makes is all the more uncomfortable.
I’ve certainly made the mistake of trying to get mutual friends of my ex to dish the dirt on his new relationship (in fact, I even went so far as to go on holiday with them in order to do so). But, this is yet another avenue you don’t want to venture down.
As I’ve already mentioned, knowing all the intimate details of their relationship is only going to delay your healing process. Plus, it’s going to put your friends in a really awkward situation, and you really don’t need any more difficult dynamics right now.
I would suggest you give yourself a bit of space from your mutual friends – just for the time being so that you can process all of this stuff without involving anyone too heavily linked to your ex. At times like these, it really does pay off to keep things as simple and clean as possible.
Besides, you can always reconnect with your mutual friends further down the line when you’re in a better place (or even a new relationship) yourself.
I’m the first to admit that I’m a bit of a drama queen – always have been, and probably always will be. So, bumping into an ex (with or without his new girlfriend) was always going to involve drama in one way or another.
Whether that was crying in a corner all night, flirting with other boys right in front of them or making a dramatic exit, subtlety was not my forte. But the sad reality when you behave like this is that you’re the one who ends up looking like a total plonker. People will always tend to remember the person who acts immaturely, not the reason for them to do so.
My advice? Firstly, do all you can to avoid going to places your ex and his new partner are likely to be – at least for a good 4-6 months, or until you genuinely feel OK about it all.
But, for the times you can’t avoid them (weddings, funerals etc.), I encourage you to act as maturely and gracefully as you possibly can. Perhaps meditate beforehand, and visualise yourself seeing them together and being OK with it. If possible, I would suggest briefly saying hello to them at the event, and then spending the rest of the time with your close friends trying to have a good time (but without getting too drunk/making a point of how FINE are). Don’t give your ex – or the new girlfriend – any fuel to bitch about you. Go in there with your head held high. Be kind. Be gracious. Smile. Then get the hell out of there (having something nice planned for after always helps).
Look, we all know that seeing the person you once loved with someone new is pretty devastating. It makes us question whether what we had together was even real, and it can even make us feel totally despondent about ever finding love and happiness in a relationship again.
The above tips are goals to aim for, but let’s be realistic – they are bloody difficult to stick to when you’re feeling emotionally charged. If you slip up, don’t worry – and don’t beat yourself up. No one’s perfect. Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start over.
One of the most helpful things I was told when I was in that situation in 2012 was that however painful it was thinking about my ex with someone else, it didn’t actually change my reality. He was no longer in my life anyway, so what difference did it really make whether he was single or not?
The ONLY thing that matters now is that you devote all your time and energy into becoming the happiest, healthiest version of you, not into obsessing over your ex. And soon enough – when you’re ready and up for it – you’ll be the ex with the fabulous new partner.
Persia Lawson is an author, speaker and “one of the UK’s most successful love coaches” – according to The Saturday Times magazine. As maven46’s love and life columnist, we caught up with Persia for our ‘maven46 meets’ series which you can read here. Catch up on last month’s column, The Secret to Dealing With Heartbreak.
Want YOUR relationship or dating dilemma answered by Persia Lawson?
Head to persialawson.com and get in touch via the ‘Contact’ tab – can’t wait to hear from you!
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