There’s an article going around right now entitled “Sometimes I Get Really Annoyed That My Exes Haven’t Just Freaking Died.” I thought maybe this was an isolated example and everyone would be all “lady, that is not a very healthy perspective” (it would be a sassy response, because they prefaced it with “lady”) but the most liked response is:
I don’t wish any of mine dead, but I wouldn’t mind if they went into massive debt and were never able to get erections again and had ball pain anytime they thought about sex.
And there’s this:
I mean, first of all, don’t physically assault someone. Don’t do it. Don’t do it, ever. Please don’t do this. Please, please, please do not do this. It’s not cute. It’s not “brave.” It’s not funny. PLEASE DON’T DO THIS.
However, I think people who actually carry out their revenge fantasies are a vast minority.
That said, I think there are going to be some men who read this post and think that these women need to stop hating their exes because it’s bad for their exes. With the exception of a small minority of women who carry their fantasies into reality (DON’T) these are the same men who think that, if you reject them for hitting on you, you need to give them a full explanation (this is why I always reply “I am engaged to the Prince of Spain!”). Unless you are actually going to kill your ex – and don’t, you’ll go to jail – I do not think your revenge fantasies are bad for your ex. I do not think you need to prioritize making men feel good all the time. I do think that hating your ex is bad for you.
And I know this, because God knows there have been exes I have hated.
And nothing good has ever come from it. My revenge fantasies never killed any of my exes. They gave a few gout, sure, but I think that was more “spellcraft” than “fantasies” and that’s a whole different topic.
The fantasies though, those have never done anything but waste huge amounts of my time. During that time, I could have been doing things to make my life better. But I didn’t. Because I was busy sitting in bed thinking about ways I could yell at people and make them feel ashamed of themselves. There is nothing to be gained by having long-winded imaginary conversations in your head with someone about how they are a horrible person. Those fantasies will not change your situation. They will not change your ex’s situation. All they will do is stop you from getting productive stuff done.
I would say that having those fantasies is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die, but that seems more like a one-off. That just seems like someone who is poorly informed and made a bad decision. This seems like drinking poison for weeks or months at a time, not feeling any better, but telling all your friends that you are drinking poison and them being like “yeah, me too! Admirable!” and generally, just being a poisonholic, so that, by the end, you’re not even quite sure why you were drinking it to begin with. Except now you have wasted a huge chunk of your life and spent it feeling awful. I guess that’s a bit too wordy to needlepoint onto a throw-pillow, but you see what I mean.
And, maybe this sounds corny, but I believe every one of us has important stuff to do. At least, more important stuff to do than sitting around thinking about people we don’t like.
I’m not going to say anything is a better use of your time than fantasizing about your ex’s death – because, for instance, trying to remove your eyeball with a melon baller would be worse use of time – but almost anything would be a better use of your time. Learning all the state capitals and rattling them off for strangers would be a better use of your time. So would planning your wedding to the Prince of Spain. So would dressing up dead mice in tiny Victorian costumes and arranging them in whimsical dioramas. Also, things normal people do. Almost anything.
So how do you stop having revenge fantasies?
For God’s sake, cut off contact for at least a few months immediately after the break-up. I know this seems rude. Do not worry about being rude. Do not drag out contact by writing your ex to inform them that you are doing this (don’t do that because there is a 100% chance you will say something nasty in this letter). Just do it.
That means all contact. Sever all contact.
Begin by deleting their number. You’ll find that you cannot remember their number, because everything is programmed into our phones. Then you’ll find you can’t remember anyone’s number. Realize that will present a problem if you’re ever arrested and only allowed one phone call, because the only number you know is 911. Learn one person’s number. Not your ex’s. Their number is gone.
Then de-friend your ex on Facebook and unfollow them on Twitter. There is a possibility they will be upset about this and complain about how this was cruel of you. There is a chance they will whine like stained-glass-face guy in that Gotye song. That’s fine. Their feelings are not your problem right now.
Understand that the purpose of eliminating your ex on every social network is not to make them feel bad. It is so that you do not have to think about them for a while. Do not do this to play weird mind-games with them. Do this because it is crucial for your sanity to have a break from thinking about them. That will be much easier to do if you’re not confronted with daily reminders that they exist. That means you should not type their name into the Twitter search bar every day. That defeats the point. Stop doing that. To not think about them, you actually, earnestly, need to try not thinking about them.
I know this is hard to do. The idea of losing people from our lives is terrifying. If you stop thinking about someone it can feel like the relationship did not exist at all. You’ve probably built up some manner of strong emotional connection to this person, and angry thoughts are, at least for me, a way I can continue feeling attached to that person even after the relationship is over. It means that, in some way, the relationship still was important. It was a relationship that inspired feelings that linger.
That’s fine. If you need to have those thoughts, set aside a time for them each day. Set aside ten minutes and think about how you have a lot of feelings. It is good that you have feelings. It means you’re not a sociopath. But understand that these are not feelings that will help you lead a happy, productive life. Sending your ex angry Facebook messages or engaging in three o’clock in the morning text fights with them is actually going to do the opposite of that.
For a while, it is okay to make leading a happy, productive life your priority.
If you are worried about losing contact with someone (if continuing to fight seems like a way to continue contact) you don’t need to. You can always take a break and go about finding them later. The modern world – with its myriad of options for contact and communication – makes it shockingly easy to find people again. And people are generally more receptive to being found if you have not said all the awful things you think of saying right towards the end of a relationship.
Look, it is not as though productive conversations are going to happen when you’re full-on furious at them anyway. If they say “hello, how is it going?” on Facebook chat (by far the most disconcerting way to be contacted to begin with) and you reply “I hope your family dies, you’d better watch yourself the next time you go to the post office” that’s not a productive conversation. For anyone. It will not make their family die, unless, again, you begin honing your spellcraft skills. It will make it easier for them to say “we broke up because she is a mean person and I am a delicate man-flower.” Nobody wins when you have that conversation.
But what if you have to see them in person?
If you are going to have to see them, sometimes it helps to pretend you are in a movie, and you are a heroine played by Katharine Hepburn. Or Audrey. Or whoever. Not, under absolutely any circumstances Rita Hayworth though, you’ll just be throwing drinks at people and generally behaving badly. I mean, I wish I was Rita Haywoth, too, but you have to do that in private. Try to behave the way this character would behave. Affect and accent. Just for kicks. Do that. They probably would not start screaming that their ex was a shitbag. You can think your ex is a shitbag, but remember that you are acting. You are playing a role. You are speaking Katharine Hepburn’s bizarre accent. The role you are playing is one of a saintly-good person. You’re an actress. Just play a role and then afterwards, when your ex has left and you are in private, you can demand applause from your friends. Your friends will be down with it. They know you’re weird.
It helps, too, to remember that no one is the villain of their own story. Whenever people talk about how they need to hate their ex, they often say something to the effect of “you don’t understand – he fucked my dog.” I’m not pro-dogfucking. I agree that was a bad thing to do from my point of view. But I also realize that no one thinks they are a bad person. Your ex probably genuinely believes that he and Fido had something special. You can hope he does not fuck other womens’ dogs in the future, but you are probably not going to be able to convince him he is a bad person. You’ll never be able to convince anyone of that.
Even if you could, it wouldn’t make you feel better. Not now that he and Fido are getting married.
But what if things were not quite that bad? What if your ex makes an effort to be friends again? What if you find that, after giving yourself enough time to cool down, you think you would still like to be friends with them?
It is possible that you are still going to be angry. It is possible that they first time you make a foray into being friends you are still going to sound pretty angry. You are free to tell them that you are still pretty angry. They are free to tell you whether or not you being angry is something they can deal with.
You are not free to punch them. Again, I want to be amazingly clear on that.
If you are too angry to stop yourself from saying things that are very angry in every interaction with your ex, that is not a good friendship. I mean, maybe it is if you and your ex both enjoy it, but I guess it’s not my idea of a good friendship. If that is happening, maybe give yourself more time. You can give yourself years if you want. Again, Facebook, man. It’s just not that hard to pick up relationships after a break. We’re all going to live for a very long time. You don’t need to rush yourself into anything.
Look, it is probably never going to be quite a normal friendship, because you’re never going to complain about your significant others in the way you would with someone you hadn’t dated. When asked about your romantic life you are likely, defensively, going to reply “it’s fabulous. We are heading to sea on his yacht for he is the Prince of Spain.” So that will always be a bit weird. At least that happens to me. Maybe there are people that does not happen to, but I find that is one of the weird things about being friends with my exes.
The trade-off for that is that you will have specific memories of stuff he does that are unknown to most people. He will have similar memories of you. Like how you sleep. It’s nice to have someone who knows how you sleep. And they’ll always be able to reassure you that you’re good in bed, so that’s a plus. They’re actually obligated to do that. That is in the “being friends with an ex-boyfriend” contract.
And if you felt rejected by them because you somehow were not desirable enough, well, I guarantee you that if you become friends with them, at some point, in the future, they will stare at you with undisguised lust and longing. You dated. Those feelings are always floating around on some level. Then you’ll get to decide whether or not you sleep with them. I mean, probably don’t. Or do! I can’t tell you how to be the hero of your own story (except that it involves not punching people. I believe that quite firmly).
Don’t become friends as some kind of long-con to make that happen, but that moment will probably happen. That is not the same thing as “winning your ex back.” Again, that is a different story, and one which involves spellcraft.
And, of course, you are not obligated to be friends with anyone you don’t want to be friends with. You may legitimately think they are a bad person and decide you do not want them in your life.
You are free to do that. But then you need to let them go from your life, and let the angry emotions that accompany them go. Otherwise they’re still in your life, just in the most negative, incapacitating way possible. And they can’t be. Because, honestly, those mice in Victorian costume dioramas aren’t going to make themselves.