What It's Like When Your Ex Dates Someone Who's Everything You're Not

by Zara Barrie

One time, I fell into the arms of love so quickly and so deeply, I couldn’t see my way out of it.

It was the only time I had ever envisioned the great expanse of my future with another person.

It lasted just shy of three years, but in that span of time, I felt a vast array of powerful feelings I had never felt before.

While we were both hopelessly in love with each other, our youth worked to our detriment. Our dynamic was as passionate as it was tumultuous.

It was in this relationship I learned one of those painfully difficult lessons one must learn in order to grow up -- the biting reality that love, alone, isn’t enough to sustain you.

You need a surplus of other things: a cohesive vision of the future, in-sync timing, heaps of respect, unbreakable trust -- all of which we lacked.

The breakup was brutal. Our lives had become immensely intertwined, and both of us suffered seemingly endless waves of an impenetrable sadness that incessantly washed over us.

It was my first love, and I didn’t think I would ever be capable of experiencing that kind of intimacy again.

I’m closed-off by nature, but in this relationship, I exposed the vulnerable parts of myself that up until that point had been pressed tightly up against my chest.

Together, we held hands on long plane rides to different countries, embarked on a colorful spectrum of adventures, saw new things with fresh eyes, staved off old demons and built a life.

I was convinced I would never recover from my heartbreak, and neither would my partner. How could we feel a love like that again?

But the sick, twisted reality about falling in love is at some point, one of you will inevitably fall for someone else. Someone who isn’t you.

Someone who sometimes is the very opposite of you.

Sometime around month two of our breakup, I had heard from a friend of a friend my ex was “seeing” a new girl.

I tried to avoid wrapping my brain around the idea and live in the protective bubble of denial -- until I found myself in a drunken state crying intoxicated tears into my best friend’s lap at a 2 am party.

I decided, amidst my vodka-induced meltdown, I was going to check this new chick out.

Alcohol and a broken heart have always served as a catalyst for my destructive decisions.

I felt as if I was having an out-of-body experience, and despite a chorus of disapproving friends urging me not to do it, not to go “there,” not at least until I sobered up -- I proceeded to pick up my phone and find this girl on Instagram. I’ve always been a stubborn soul.

Within seconds, my eyes penetrated her image:

She had blonde highlighted, haplessly wavy hair -- effortlessly untouched from the heat of an iron. Her face was adorned in little delicate glasses.

She was short. She blissfully smiled in every picture and wore denim shorts and flat shoes.

She posted inspirational quotes with glittering backgrounds in the “Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe” realm.

I, on the other hand, am tall with a head made up of dark brown hair that I style with a 400-degree flat iron, daily. I rarely wear glasses, but when I do, they’re massive and horn-rimmed, their grand size consuming the half the contents of my face.

Most importantly, I prefer pouting to smiling, and I’ve never posted an “inspirational” quote with a shimmery background in my life.

On the rare occasion I do post words on to social media outlets, it’s a wicked societal commentary, rich with sarcasm.

Within minutes of taking in her slew of toothy selfies and college girl quotes, I drew some pretty drastic conclusions about a girl I had never met nor spoken to.

I firmly decided she was most definitely a carefree bohemian girl. The type that goes to festivals and wears fringed kimonos and adheres flash tattoos onto her tanned skin.

In my mind, she was free of the endless stream of torturous thoughts that seem to perpetually tug at the strings of my heart at all times.

She had normal friends who were easy to be around. She wasn’t plagued by ambition. She blindly worshiped my ex. She didn’t pick fights to gain a reaction.

She probably played soccer in high school and had a mom who baked.

She was everything I’m not.

And it cut the surface of my skin with such a piercing intensity, its sting broke through to the core of my heart.

How could my ex be so immersed in a relationship with someone so opposite me?

For six months, I stalked this new girlfriend with the same perseverance and dedication I had once dutifully pumped into my career and creativity.

I both envied and hated her simplicity, the way in which she posted basic pictures of boring sunsets and pink cocktails in plastic cups -- and most of all, the uncomplicated relationship she appeared to be having with my ex.

They seemed to forever be engulfed in sandy dive bars wearing flip-flops and living out the American Dream.

I began to question the qualities I had once appreciated about myself: the unrelenting drive, the feistiness, the fierce opinions and irrepressibly outspoken nature.

Had my ex secretly pined for a girl who was merely sweet and casual and easy-going?

Finally, at some point, I came crashing down to my senses. I’m not sure how it happened -- maybe time is the great healer, the wise grounding force bringing us safely back to the solid ground of reality when we’ve temporarily lost ourselves in the throes of heartbreak.

I began to realize everything I had concluded about this girl was built on the false foundation of her social media presence. I knew nothing about her.

Through the empty vessels of Instagram, Facebook and now Snapchat, we project to the world the life we wish we lived, not the actual life we’re living.

My ex’s new girl, (just like me) was carefully curating an image of herself that she wanted the masses to see.

We all do it.

Behind every smiling selfie exists a desperate need for validation.

The girl with the perfectly ponytailed hair who posts a bikini picture weekly with abs cut from steel is silently suffering from a warped body image.

The girl who is constantly updating her status about how #blessed her life is numbing herself with drugs.

The perfect couple posing on the beach hasn’t had sex in six months.

The virtual world isn’t the real world.

I had allowed myself to get twisted up over a cartoon of a person, which is precisely what our social media persona is -- a one-dimensional Minnie Mouse version of ourselves.

The biggest chunk of advice I could ever bestow on to you is don’t compare yourself to your ex’s new girlfriend, especially in this toxic age of social media addiction.

Remember, nothing you see is online is real. She’s not posting pictures of her puffy face after a night of drinking and crying, and neither are you.

Just because her and your former flame aren’t posting about their fights doesn’t mean they don’t have them.

And ironically, she’s most likely scrolling through all of your pictures -- overcome with fascination and jealousy over your pictures and quotes, sick with fear her new lover is secretly still obsessed with your mysterious prowess.