On our fourth date, my now-boyfriend and I were having dinner together and the subject of exes came up. I didn’t want to talk about mine much, except to mention that I still hated one of them. My boyfriend didn’t seem too pleased about that and he accused me of having feelings for my ex. Um, definitely not. Isn’t it normal to hate someone who was totally toxic?
The passion theory doesn’t always ring true.
I know, I know. They say that the opposite of love isn’t hate but indifference, so if you hate someone, there’s still passion there. However, I don’t think this always applies. I mean, if you’ve been badly hurt by someone as I have, you’re likely to not want to smile when someone brings them up. You’re likely to feel anger or resentment towards them.
It doesn’t necessarily mean you have relationship baggage.
I think my boyfriend thought I still had a lot of unprocessed emotional baggage because of the hatred I had towards my toxic ex. I disagree. I’ve dealt with what he did to me but that doesn’t mean I’m suddenly cool with him or think he’s a great guy. That said, do we ever really get closure? Even if we do, just because you’re angry or hurt about the past, it doesn’t mean you’re stuck to it.
You can move on with those feelings.
I personally don’t think that there’s anything wrong with feeling anger and sadness about what has happened to us, as long as we can move on with our lives. I think that’s key: if you can move on from that relationship and find love again, your feelings are not something that’s keeping you tied to the past. You can give yourself closure.
Maybe it’s a good thing to remember the pain.
In theory, if you can remember how badly someone treated you, it could help protect you from getting yourself into that situation again. In this way, what we call “holding a grudge” is really just remembering ways to keep ourselves safe.
It doesn’t have to mean you want your ex back.
It might horrify you (as it does me) to think that having strong negative feelings towards an ex means that some part of you wants them back, but that’s not always the case. Heck, even if you have nostalgic moments about your ex, it still doesn’t mean you’re pining for the relationship. Human emotions are complex.
You can (and should) be real about what they did.
Maybe they were so bad that you can’t help but clench your jaw when someone mentions them. Maybe you’ve locked and bolted that door to your past so firmly that you’ll never want to go back there. You might, however, mention that your ex is an a-hole if someone brings them up. So what? If that’s the reality of how you feel, then that’s how you feel.
You shouldn’t censor yourself.
You might act as though everything is grand about your past out of fear that your current partner will think you’re still pining for your ex, but why do that? They should be mature enough to realize that you can have a ton of different feelings without them getting in the way of your life.
Of course, there are exceptions to the above.
There are sometimes signs that how you feel about your ex (whether good or bad) is a sign that your feelings are strong — too strong not to mean anything. For example, if you’re always talking about them, it’s a problem. It’s one thing to bring them up and mention how toxic they were, especially when your new partner broaches the ex topic, but it’s quite another to be going off about them all the freaking time.
Likewise, you should show that you’ve moved on.
It’s one thing to say that you hate your ex and always will, but it’s quite another to cry about them and blame them for why your life is so terrible at the moment. Anyone who’s dating you would surely see that you haven’t moved on from the past at all and do have a lot of issues to unpack.
It’s an opportunity for growth.
You know what? Even if you’ve just realized that you do have a lot of negative energy about your ex that’s holding you back, now is the perfect opportunity to deal with it so that you can rid yourself of all the pain. You can use this opportunity to give yourself closure and learn the lessons from the past so you can happily move on.
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