Ask A Fuck-Up

AAFU: Am I over my ex?

I have a great new relationship, but I am still annoyed when I hear about him.
Ask A Fuck-Up

AAFU: Am I over my ex?

I have a great new relationship, but I am still annoyed when I hear about him.

Brandy Jensen, The Outline’s Power editor, has made a lot of mistakes in her life. Has she learned from them and become a wiser person as a result? Hahaha oh gosh no. But it does leave her uniquely qualified to tell you what not to do — because she’s probably done it.

Dear Fuck-Up,

I got unceremoniously dumped by someone I loved a while back and didn't wait long after to get involved with someone else, who I have been dating for six months now. My new boyfriend didn't feel like a rebound because I had been into him for more than a year.

I love my boyfriend deeply, but my resentment for my ex still bubbles up when I'm reminded of what he's up to by mutual friends or social media. I still find myself deeply rankled when I see my ex and his new girlfriend's Venmo transactions. Does this mean I'm not over my ex? Or am I allowed to be a little pissed at him forever?

Crazy ex-girlfriend

Dear Crazy Ex,

I’ve been writing an advice column for a while now, and I’ve started to pick up on a few trends in terms of letters I receive. One is “the 5,000-word letter that contains zero questions” and then there is its opposite, which you have written: the seemingly short and simple query that belies a multitude of concerns.

Let’s start with the easiest question to answer and move our way toward murkier territory. Are you allowed to be a little pissed at the guy you loved who hurt you? Yes, of course you are! Forever? Sure, why not! Maintaining this posture strikes me as perfectly reasonable. I will be a little pissed forever at people who did far less to earn my perpetual contempt.

Whether you’re over your ex is a bit trickier. I don’t think feeling bothered, annoyed, or even a bit jealous when you are reminded of him and his new relationship via friends or social media is a huge red flag here. If you started a new relationship in the hopes that he would feel bothered or annoyed or jealous when he learned of it that would be slightly different, but I will take you at your word that this isn’t the case.

The most interesting question, to me, is one you only implied but did not ask outright. Would you indeed be a “crazy ex” if you weren’t over him at all? There is, of course, something deeply gendered about how we approach the idea of who is allowed to carry a torch, and who will be made a mockery of if they do not move on immediately. We probably all know a man in his 30s who is still using the fact that his high-school girlfriend broke his heart as an excuse for why he can never love again and they are generally considered misguided at worst. We’ve also all heard horror stories about women who cling, hang on, or refuse to let go of an ex, which often means that they have merely sent a few embarrassing texts. The fact that you think that having any residual feelings whatsoever after the sudden demise of a relationship can mean that you are unstable says more about this dynamic than it does it about you.

But aside from that, I would urge you to consider the following: What is the worst thing that would happen if you do always feel this way? Is it really so terrible to admit that you still think about someone you once loved?

Rather than the prevailing narrative that when relationships end we should either sublimate our hurts or longings and stay friends or leave that person entirely in the past without ever glancing back, I think it’s far more likely that some or most of us simply have a few people rattling around in our brains for longer than we would like. I have two — neither of whom were people I loved with the most urgency, or people who hurt me in especially remarkable ways, but both were people I was involved with at a particularly tumultuous time in my life. Thinking about them is also a way of thinking about that past version of myself, and how I have changed (or not) in the years since.

“Getting over someone” or “getting someone out of your system” are bodily metaphors, and it’s true that we often feel infected by others. But all that means is that we are not impenetrable. That hardly strikes me as something worth feeling ashamed of. Although I would recommend you stop looking at his Venmo.

A Fuck-Up

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