Flashback: Revisiting The Post “Does Your Ex ‘Owe’ You Something After A Nasty Breakup?”

Last week, I celebrated a BIG birthday: 30! In acknowledgment of the fact that I’ve spent over half of my 20s working at The Frisky, I’m going to reach down deep into to archives and revisit some old posts. I’ll examine what I wrote at the time and how that has or hasn’t changed. If you have any suggestions of old posts you’d like me to revisit, tell me in the comments or shoot me an email at [email protected]

The Post: “Does Your Ex ‘Owe’ You Something After A Nasty Breakup?”

Publication Date: March 16, 2011


I wanted the copper pots [that I had bought my ex-boyfriend] back with a blood lust. I’d spent hours, elbows deep in the sink, polishing and washing all seven of those f**kers. Ad I gave them to him because I knew he would love them. He had always drooled over the copper pots at Williams-Sonoma and when he opened up a set of seven pots on Christmas Day, he was like a four-year-old getting the Zhu Zhu pet she’s been dying to have. And I felt so good giving the guy I loved this amazing gift. But after the epically craptastic way [just after Christmas] that Ex-Mr. Jessica dumped me (including my discovery of flirty emails and photos he’d been sending to some chick in Boston), he was keeping those pots over my dead body.”

What Was Going On In My Life At The Time: I had been in a relationship for two years and living with my (now ex-) boyfriend. I’d been fairly happy and  thought we were both on the same page about making a lifelong commitment to each other, given how he had told me he wanted to get married and we looked at rings. But it all suddenly changed over the Christmas holidays. Over just a few days, he broke up with me and asked me to move out of the apartment we shared; I found out that he’d been flirting/carrying on God-knows-what with some other woman. Because I didn’t have any savings, I had to move back in with my Mom and Dad in suburban Connecticut.

I was completely confused at first — and then angry at how badly he treated me (although now I kinda understand why he did). The rug had been pulled out from underneath me; I felt powerless. Even though I can look back now with 20/20 hindsight and see ways I still had control over my own situation, clearly I was freaking the fuck out.

What Makes Me Cringe Now: A lot of this makes me feel guilty and ashamed now. I exacerbated so much by going for the jugular. That was my first reaction at the time, though: I’m an absolute sweetheart and a very nice person, but I hate being fucked with. I’m a fighter. I don’t sit around and let myself get shat on by assholes. But there are more level-headed ways to stick up for yourself — or even just letting it go.  I had an opportunity to “be the bigger person” here, which would have saved me a lot of grief in the long run, and I didn’t take it because I was so hurt and angry. I behaved pretty vindictively, even if my intention wasn’t to be vindictive. My intention was more along the lines of self-preservation; so gobsmacked by the terrible way he treated me during the breakup (example: threatening to throw my stuff out into the street if I didn’t come pick it up quickly) I really didn’t feel like he deserved any remnants of our life together. Because I felt so powerless, my distorted logic reasoned that behaving vindictively by taking gifts back was an OK thing to do: don’t get mad, get everything. In times of trouble, maybe Ivana Trump shouldn’t be my go-to for advice.

What I Still Agree With:  It’s hard to say whether I still agree with the choice I made in that moment to take the pots — but I can say that having them in the past three years has been an unequivocally good experience for me, my friends and my husband. After I moved back in with my parents in Connecticut, I threw myself in learning how to cook with those pots and pans. When I moved back to New York City, I kept cooking, and my husband, Kale, uses them to cook now. (For what it’s worth, when I told Kale that I was writing this piece, he thinks I stole them but that he’s glad that I did. So, there’s that.) A gift that I took back under bad circumstances has ended up bringing great joy to my loved ones. Despite my guilt and shame over how I behaved, I’m grateful for the positivity that has blossomed.

How The Post Would Be Different If I Wrote It Today: Well … so much would be different today. I’m a different person. I’m still the same fighter who doesn’t like to be fucked with and sticks up for herself. I’m also somebody who is much stronger and (I hope) wouldn’t feel quite so powerless if she had the rug pulled out from under her. I could dust myself off; I could and would rise again. I realize it probably took that extremely crappy breakup experience to bring me to this place, but I’m  honestly grateful that it did.

That whole terrible breakup briefly made me a strong believer in having a prenup. Why not take precautions in case a breakup gets messy? Wasn’t my own stupid breakup Exhibit A that you should cover your own ass in situations like this? But I only thought it made me a strong believer in having a prenup. I hate to sound totally fucking Deepak Chopra right now, but my whole copper pots debacle actually made me care a lot less about  the ownership of material goods. With the passage of time, I’ve realized how my own dignity and sanity are worth so much more than the cost of a set of cookware.

I can’t prognosticate for certain exactly how we’d divvy up our belongings if Kale told me tomorrow that he wanted a divorce. We don’t have a prenup. No part of me wants to fight with him over a computer or a food processor or a bracelet. It seems silly, to be honest. Whatever happens to me, I know eventually I’ll turn out okay.   Maybe you think, as a modern feminist strong lady-woman, I am being foolish with my (basically non-existent) financial assets here. The truth is, I trust that he deeply respects me and loves me and would never turn my world upside down and then toss me out on my ass like my ex did. Kale isn’t a person who is capable of doing that. There’s a reason I married the guy:  he has earned my trust that he’ll protect my heart, no matter what. That’s something that I can say today, even as I’m in love with him and knowing that if he wanted to leave it would devastate me.

Lastly, there is a part of me that wants to make good on this debacle. I have a little idea for what I think I want to do with the copper pots to, you know, lighten my karmic load. If a girl friend of mine ever gets the rug pulled out from under her in her relationship, I’ll give her these pots. She’ll have something nice to cook with while she gets back on her feet. They really are amazing pots.

We all need a little kindness when we feel powerless, hurt and angry. No one knows that better than someone who has been there herself.

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[Image of copper pots via Shutterstock]