Girl Talk: Finding The Good In Goodbye

About a month ago I was standing in a sandwich shop near my office and my mind went to the place it usually does, which is wondering what I would do if Ex-Mr. Jessica walked in. His office is only 10 blocks away from my own, so there is a very real possibility we may run into each other by accident sometime. I looked at the men dressed the same way he would dress — glasses, dress shirt, slacks, an iPod — and imagined him walking in.

And then I realized I wouldn’t have cared. I could nod my head at him and ignore him. I could even muster a small smile and a “hi.” In the day’s experiences, it would register as “whatever.”

And that release felt huge.

They are indications of his character. He is responsible for his behavior and it has nothing to do with me. Nothing.

I was not proud of the anger I had been carrying around inside me since January. It felt heavy, like chain mail, and ever-present. I knew rationally it had been my life’s most significant relationship to date. I also knew rationally that everyone is entitled to a grieving process, especially when I’d believed I would spend the rest of my life with this person. But as five months passed, then six months, and then seven months, I felt embarrassed that I still felt so angry at Ex-Mr. Jessica.

To be clear: I was not angry that he had broken my heart. As soon as I moved into a single-girl apartment again and began dating, that broken heart hurt less and less until now, when the hurt is very faint. Specifically, I was angry at the horrible way that he had treated me when he broke up with me because I didn’t deserve that. I didn’t understand, logically, how someone who had been deeply in love with me could have sneaked around behind my back, said cruel and hurtful things, and threatened to throw my belongings that were still at our apartment in the trash if I didn’t hastily move out. It just boggled my mind he could turn 180-degrees. I could live with someone falling out of love with me. I could live with having to rebuild my life. I could live with the financial decisions that occurred during our relationship that have hurt me. Deep down on some unseen level, though, I could not deal with the injustice inherent in the horrible way he had treated me. I had loved the hell out of him. I had been nothing but good to him. I did not deserve to be treated this badly. That one belief — though it shamed me that it had such a hold on me — stuck with me for months.

I don’t know why the anger lifted when it did. I wish I had a clear answer for that. Maybe it’s because I’m finally ready to date again, or just the plain old passage of time. But I suspect it has something to do with my realizations — finally, finally, finally — that other people’s behavior is a reflection of them, not me, and other people have the right not to like me just as I have the right not to like other people.

Growing up in a household with a lot of alcohol and drug abuse, these have been hard lessons for me to learn. I was raised thinking that my behavior influenced other people’s behavior directly and as a result, I was responsible for the way they felt about me. And then I read a magazine article — a stupid, otherwise insignificant magazine article — titled something like “ARE YOU TOO SENSITIVE?” It sounded like the kind of thing I should read (because the answer is: yes!) and I had time to kill at CVS while the guy I am dating paid for his things. So I read this article and it knocked me off my feet how it got to me in a way that years of therapy and Al-Anon meetings could not.

Other people’s behavior is a reflection of them, not me.

Other people have the right not to like me, just as I have the right not to like other people.

My opinion of Ex-Mr. Jessica is still very low. I don’t want to see him, or talk to him, or ever have anything to do with him ever again. But now that I realize that everything about the way he treated me — from sending me a cruel email about wanting to date someone who earned more money and wore cuter clothes, to using a gift certificate his father had given us both for Christmas to take another woman out on a date before I had even moved out — are indications of his character. They are indications of his character. They are indications of his character. He is responsible for his behavior and it has nothing to do with me. Nothing.

Now that I’ve realized this, if anything, I feel sorry for him. The way he behaved towards me was so terrible that there’s obviously something else going on underneath that neither he nor I were ever aware of. I hope he becomes aware of it eventually, because last time we talked (maybe three months after the breakup when I called him because his best friend was writing rude comments about me on Tumblr), he seemed barrelling full-speed ahead on with his life without much self-reflection. I had dinner with a girl friend last week and I remarked to her that if I ever heard through the grapevine that he was engaged or expecting a child, I would legitimately be worried for the other people involved.

It took me almost eight months to stop being actively angry at him. I’m not proud it took that long, but I am proud it has been released.

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