Let It Go: Why Talking Sh*t About Your Ex Is Toxic
The end of any relationship is a sh*tty experience. It's saddening to think about two people falling in love, growing, sharing and learning with each other, and then deciding to stop.
Part of Newton's First Law of Motion states that "an object will continue to move at the same velocity, unless acted upon by an outside force."
As fickle and unreliable as feelings are, love (or lack of love) is seldom the sole cause for a breakup.
It would be an easier world if both parties miraculously lost their feelings at the same rate and found themselves at the finish line, hearts empty, at the exact same time.
It's not likely though. More often than not, there is an "outside force" that disrupts the flow of the relationship.
Whether it's realizing your beliefs and morals don't match up, a discrepancy in future plans, unfaithfulness or one person falling out, there will be some factor or event that leaves you with a bitter taste in your mouth.
When you first fall for people and the rose-tinted glasses haven't yet been stained, it's easy to trust them.
They are adorable and lovable, but they will not hurt you. And, as benevolent or mutual as the breakup can possibly be, something undeniably shifted within the relationship that made it hard to see the person in the same way.
The glasses have cracked in a few places.
Thus, exes will always have a few bad things to say about each other, whether it's about what took place in the relationship itself or comments on their characters.
But, as tempting or "healthy" as it is to vent, there is a level of tact I hope we can practice, too.
I had my share of ice cream binges and bashing on my ex with my girlfriends.
I've (as I shake my head in retrospect) plotted revenge in the most ridiculous, self-sabotaging ways. ("Gone Girl" was my favorite book for a while, so no further explanation needed there.)
I've dreamed about living happily ever after with my future husband just to prove a point (and the irony of that requires an entirely different article).
Basically, I've held on for longer than I should have. In a negative, pain-perpetuating way, I felt a twisted sort of satisfaction by gossiping about people just because they "broke my heart." I
lived in the skin of the "victim" and made sure everyone knew the "villain" was indeed villainous.
It wasn't until recently, when I heard rumors circulating about me, that I realized how easy it was for the other party to do the same. If anything, it's actually difficult to not stoop to that level, especially when both people were immensely hurt through the breakup.
But through all of this, I felt firsthand just how sh*tty this sh*t talking can be. And at last, I was able to realize, admit to and change it. Here are some reasons why I did:
The only reason you know these things is because your partner trusted you.
Relationships are defined by a great amount of vulnerability. I've told my lovers things about me that I never entrusted anyone else with. I've been open about family issues, about people I've lost, about my mistakes and traumas and everything down to my nasty habits and strange fetishes.
I've cried — really cried, like the heaving-hiccuping-cascading-tsunami-waves-of-tears kind of cried — in front of them. I have been strong and loving, but I've also been weak and ugly. I've let myself be so human with them.
There is something really despicable about using this vulnerability as a weapon.
Obviously, our relationship has moved to a different context now. We're not sharing secrets between kisses or wiping each others' tears in consolation.
But, it's about paying respect to the time when you were each others' first-command confidants.
I really did consider my relationships as this sort of sanctuary, my safe place. And the time we cared, cried and prayed for each other, I feel, deserves to be preserved as such.
It's simply about recognizing the courage and trust it takes to share dark parts of ourselves and to not lay it out for the rest of the world to sneer at.
To have let myself be so open in an unspoken sacred contract, through being in love, then seeing my secrets flow out from mouths of strangers is devastating on so many levels.
The person you are in a relationship can be very different from the person you are to everyone else.
People are never as sh*tty as the way sh*t talkers depict them. No one.
People are not one-dimensional, and in fact, we have the capacity to be these dynamic, colorful characters. It just depends on where you shine the spotlight.
I am, physically and fundamentally, the same person with my coworkers, family, friends, etc., but the set of characteristics and behaviors reposition (sometimes drastically) themselves for the appropriate context.
In this way, you are a different person to everyone you meet.
And a romantic relationship is a very, very specific context. It's an exclusive one, one where the spotlight digs into the deepest crevices of your heart and illuminates the softest parts you never knew existed.
It's a beautiful and dangerous context.
One of my downfalls as a lover is my patience. That is, I have none. I'll "fall in love" with someone, proceed to immediately pronounce this "fact" and tumble into this fluttery, exciting new relationship.
The problem with that is I never get to experience my partner as a person, only as a lover. And when our relationship falls apart, I start to see my ex as a "bad person," just because my ex was a "bad lover."
Even in less extreme cases, we must recognize that — the same way people aren't usually as vulnerable with others — romantic relationships call on a very specific part of you.
I mean, of course you're "yourself" with this person. But, the ways we act toward our significant others is not really how we act with anyone else.
So, just because someone was a flawed lover — distrustful, neglectful, jealous or whatever — chances are these aren't really problems to their friends, family or strangers. Mistakes made within a relationships are already arbitrary, but you can't expect for others to see them a certain way because those mistakes, to them, are largely irrelevant.
It's not your job to dictate that a person is "this" or "that" way, and you shouldn't make others believe so either.
As much as it can bother you someone who hurt you could still be liked and respected by others, it's not your job to dictate peoples' points of view.
Wanting to expose your ex's "true colors" is not only conniving, it's such a waste of energy. (There is also an inherent fallacy in deeming what someone's "true colors" actually are.)
When someone, even my close friends, has an unpleasant experience with someone, I empathize, but refuse to let that experience become personal.
When it comes down to it, I don't know him or her, and I can't think positively or negatively about this person without getting to know him or her on my own.
So, it's monumentally more unfair to expose someone's mistakes and shortcomings by painting a picture of "who" he or she is and convincing others to see this person as such.
If someone is truly sh*tty or evil, people will see that for themselves. If this person's mistakes were mistakes made in love (which happens very, very often), take it for what it is.
Try to see this person without the bias of an ex, as a whole human being, and it'll be harder to say this person is all that awful.
It's not helpful to yourself.
What you think, you become. Your mind has the powerful ability to manifest on what it focuses on.
In this way, your breakup, and all the things that come with it, will stay relevant as long as you make it relevant.
Aside from all the ways it is disrespectful, tacky and honestly just annoying to keep talking sh*t on your ex, it's reversely just as detrimental to your own mental and emotional well-being to dwell on a painful experience.
It's nice to look back on the good times and remember how incredible they were, even if these memories carry a bittersweet tinge.
But, letting the bitterness snowball until it overshadows the goodness of what you shared isn't doing anyone — least of all, yourself — any favors.
I feel as if a significant chunk of my heartache was self-inflicted because I showed my ex such honest parts of myself, and then he decided he didn't want me.
And because I felt so betrayed, I spread mockery and judgment.
As much as I'd like to claim to be above it all, realistically, healing from a breakup does take dosages of confrontation and conversation.
If it was abusive or particularly damaging, it can even require some harsh and mindless venting.
But all in all, it's just not cool. Losing someone you love is already traumatic, but seeing that person turn against you, or being the one to take on that role, adds so much negative energy to an already fragile world.
"An eye for an eye makes the world go blind."
Paying back wrong for wrong will never make things right. It only takes one person to break the cycling and recycling of pain. It's not productive to carry baggage that no longer has a purpose.
Learn, then let go. If only for your own peace of mind, please, let it go.