stop treating your exes like … well, your exes

Today’s topic is on bad mouthing an ex-girlfriend/boyfriend. I believe everyone is guilty of this. I sure as hell know that I am guilty of it with the exes that I have. We fantasize about the perfect relationship and become bitter when that same relationship has to come to a grinding halt. Bitter enough to talk down in reference to our former significant other. Why is this? Why are we so comfortable degrading people that we previously had been close to?  I have never really put much thought into the ‘why’ behind this until quite recently.

Let me start by laying the foundation of where exactly I was mentally when this scenario I am about to mention took place. A few months prior to the conversation I had, my girlfriend, Elizabeth, broke up with me and I was heartbroken. Poof! Now we are back to the story. I was at work one day having a conversation with my coworkers about where we used to be employed. One of the participants said they used to work at the place where Elizabeth was working. Instead of ignoring my thoughts and actively participating in the conversation by providing content that is actually relevant, I made a mistake. I regrettably started talking negatively about her and yes, I did use profanity. I called her names and talked about her in a way that made her seem cruel and vile. I walked away from that interaction and felt an uneasiness in my stomach. This wave of disgust washed over me as I debriefed with myself afterward. The information I relayed to my coworkers wasn’t true, this is a woman that I would still, to this day do almost anything for. I was crazy, stupid in love with her and yet, I threw caution to the wind and disrespected her in a way that warranted me to sit down and reevaluate how I operate. How could I refer to a woman of this magnitude in such a manner?

The answer is simple and I have two lines of thinking on this topic. One is my observation of the initial reaction when thinking about an ex (in my case, my ex-girlfriend). The second is the continuation of the first point and how it actually tarnishes you and makes you look, in my humble opinion, pathetic.

My initial observation is: we don’t bad mouth our exes because we dislike them, we bad mouth our exes because we are unhappy with the outcome of the relationship. Whether you are cheated on, broken up with for another person, or it just doesn’t play out how you wanted, you can’t tell me that you hated that person… I didn’t hate Elizabeth, I hated the fact that the relationship could not continue and she ended it.  Six months later, I see now that it may have been better for us to separate, but at the time, she is who I wanted to be with. Her exit out of my life was like taking a piece of my very being and just casting it away into the ocean (think Rose carelessly tossing a priceless gem necklace into the water, but with less grace). Overdramatization aside, as graceless her exit was, I wasn’t mad at her. I was mad at the outcome. This is a woman that I saw immeasurable potential with and when that couldn’t continue, I became bitter and would speak in a negative manner when referencing her.

This is not a good sign. Again, I love her to this day and I honestly don’t think I’ll ever stop. I’m thankful for her because I would not be the man I am today without her coming in and out of my life. Although the outcome was not what I wanted, I learned more about myself; developed new habits that are beneficial to my mental health (e.g., seeing a therapist); figured out what I want out of a relationship; and most importantly… I learned that regardless of the pain caused by the exit of a girlfriend out of my life, I never want to verbally degrade her (or the previous/future ones) ever again. Yay for life lessons!

The secondary observation: Talking badly about an ex reflects poorly on yourself more than it reflects poorly on the ex you are discussing. You know who looks like a really shitty person? The person who talks shit about others, especially exes. This is a big one for me because while I was debriefing, I stepped into the shoes of my coworkers. They were listening to me talk about someone I genuinely care about in such a negative context. They could have been listening and started thinking “if he talks this way about her, what does he say about me since we are not that close?”. I do not want anyone to have these connotations about me. It’s disingenuous and detrimental to your character and presence with others to talk negatively about anybody, let alone someone that significant in your life. I was so focused on the outcome and how it did not align with what I wanted, I was willing to stoop to a level that is beneath me and tarnish my character.

I should be focusing on the good (that I mentioned above) that came from the relationship. Also, all the great memories. I experienced so much in so little time with Elizabeth and I often get sad that we won’t get to experience more. Remember the good times over the bad and you can’t talk negatively about a person. A quote that really resonates with this discussion is this one that I have really been trying to implement into my life:

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened!” – Dr. Seuss

As crazy as this sounds, I challenge you to empower the exes in your life. They had their reasons for leaving but you cared/still care about them and shouldn’t talk poorly about their character or actions. In the end, the only person you are hurting is yourself. You (hopefully) had a lot of great times that should outweigh the bad times and you should highlight those over the toxicity. I know in regards to me that if I continue with the way that I was operating before, future potential paramours are going to be turned off by the idea of dating me because of the blatant disrespect that I spew towards other women that I care about. I should not let these lesser emotions reign in my day to day interactions.

Sweeping declaration: I will not talk badly about Elizabeth, any ex before that, or any ex I have moving forward (fingers crossed the next one is a keeper). Thinking negatively about any of them is not conducive to my mental development and it reveals character flaws in myself that I don’t want to become permanent.

To the three exes I didn’t mention, thank you so much for all of the great times that we had. To Elizabeth, thank you so much for being my first love. I never knew I could learn so much about myself and another person in such a short amount of time. I hope everything in your life is going phenomenally and that you are not sad about the outcome. The only thing I ever wanted was for you to be happy and I genuinely hope that you are!

I hope this has been as eye opening as it has been for me. Any questions? Chat me up my friends!

Best,

ZCH