Girl Talk: When Breakups Get Ugly
I guess I was lucky: I made it to age 26 without any really messy breakups. Sure, there were breakups that I thought were bad at the time. In the moment, they all felt terrible. But getting dumped after traveling an hour and a half to see someone or getting dumped on a sailboat in the middle of Long Island Sound — two breakups from my “Worst Of The Worst Highlights Reel” — mostly turned out to be good stories later. Hurt feelings soothed, cooler heads prevailed and I’m pretty much on friendly terms with everyone I’ve ever dated. I even had a coffee with one of my ex-boyfriends just recently. For better or for worse, I’m a deeply loyal and forgiving person. I see the best in people because I want to see the best in people. My most recent breakup was messy and nasty from the get-go and I’m adamant now that we can’t be friends. I put that relationship behind me as much as I could. So I was totally unprepared this week when it once again got unexpectedly nasty.
I’ve been dating and I know my ex-boyfriend has been dating, too, because we’ve talked about it. A couple of months ago, when the breakup was more fresh and I was working it through with myself how this really was a good thing for me, Ex-Mr. Jessica and I had a long and emotional phone call where we talked about the ways in which we would have been incompatible long-term. Talking about the needs we both had which wouldn’t have been met with each other gave me clarity that I needed to move on. He also told me that he was going on dates with other women, too. It hurt to think of other girls in what still felt like my bed or putting their earrings on my dresser, but I think I needed that little sting of hurt. On a couple different levels, that whole conversation that night gave me some (though admittedly not all) closure to with him.
What I didn’t expect, though, is that he’d get a new girlfriend so quickly. I thought he was going to stay single for awhile because he told me that’s what he was going to do. As we were breaking up, Ex-Mr. Jessica kept saying over and over again that he needed to be alone to figure things out. He was making a promise to himself not to get in a committed relationship again until July. I believed him. And I even entertained the silly notion — immediately after the breakup — that maybe we’d get back together with each other after seven months apart.
So I was surprised, heart-tuggingly so, when I was clicking through Tumblr on Monday and saw something he wrote about his new girlfriend. (Why do I still follow him on Tumblr? I don’t know why. But I do.) I think I probably could have handled that, albeit unhappily, if that’s all there was to it. But then I saw the snotty comments from his friends about me and our relationship. “I think we can all agree she’s better than his last girlfriend,” read one. “UPGRADED!” read another. “I hope you don’t rush into cohabitation this time,” read a third.
I can read nasty comments about myself on Frisky posts without batting an eyelash; my eyes glaze over them at this point. But this felt different. This felt personal.
My brain was flooded with memories of the times I hung out with these people — held my tongue and were polite to these people, for my ex’s sake — and how I didn’t deserve to be treated this way by them. Why did I even bother?, I’m now asking myself. I was nice and sweet and everything I thought I was supposed to be and this is how I am repaid? Truly, no good deed goes unpunished.
I get that people choose sides in a breakup. I get that. A bunch of my friends de-friended and un-followed my ex after we broke up. But if anyone made snotty, public comments on social media sites, I don’t remember it. Mostly I remember a lot of personal emails, messages and DMs that consoled me, rather than trashed my ex. (Although ample trashing occurred privately on phones, IMs and emails. And I’ve written about my breakup a bunch, obviously, but it has always been respectful and it has always been within the context of analyzing my feelings, not just making rude comments.) The fact that writing something like “UPGRADED!” is immature and petty doesn’t take the sting out of it any less. It feels like a playground bully … even though we’re all pushing 30.
My ex did offer to delete the comments, actually. I guess a mutual friend of ours saw the comments, and bless her, she called him to say it would be kind of him to remove them. He emailed me and asked me if that’s what I wanted him to do. I wish he had just deleted them on his own instead of asking me, but whatever. I told him to leave them up; in my opinion, it only makes the people who wrote them look petty and cruel.
And it makes him look bad for having them as friends, of course. A girl friend of mine pointed out that if my ex is friends with several people who behave like this, that’s a statement about him, i.e. “You lie down with the pigs, you wake up in the mud.” I agree, but I’m also feeling regretful about the aspect of the two years we spent together when my gut was telling me these people were bad news and I still put on a smiling face around them. I know there’s a element of “suck it up, this is his best friend/cousin/co-worker/whoever” in any relationship. I thought I was just sucking it up, so to speak, within the expected realms. Now I think I will be more judicious going forward when it comes to my partners and their friends I dislike.
And if ever there were an example to cut off social media entirely after a breakup, this would probably be it.