You Hate Your Ex. What’s Next?

When their name is brought up, your friends groan and your family cringes. And, deep inside, you know that you’ve fantasized about rolling them over with a dump truck. Funny how a terrible, no good ex can make you and everyone in your life feel legitimate anger. A bad relationship takes a toll on our psyche and can leave you traumatized for months (or years) to come…

At least, this has been my experience. I definitely don’t think this type of “hatred” should be directed towards just any person or break-up. In my opinion, very few people actually deserve to be hated or outcasted. Most of the time people break up for completely logical reasons, like growing apart or moving far away from each other. Sometimes people have disagreements that can’t be looked past in a relationship. Whatever the reason, I find that many people seperate on relatively amicable terms and do not necessarily wish great misfortune for the other party. But what happens when a breakup is so bad, so harmful, so traumatic… that it makes you legitimately angry (or sad) to think about? In situations of abuse, domestic violence, cheating or lying, I can absolutely understand how a separation can leave someone feeling empty and emotionally restless.

Abusive relationships might leave the victim unsure about the future, their worth, or their sanity. Abusers have ways of gaslighting and manipulating their partners to feel crazy and insecure, and healing from this type of constant exploitation can be exhausting. I can not even begin to describe the pain that I experienced while cutting ties with my abuser, as well as trying to find closure and peace within myself. I understand the internal chaos that happens when trying to end a turbulent chapter in your life, and anger is a very normal part of the process.

If you have found yourself in a similar situation, it can be difficult to know what to do next. On one hand, being able to feel anger and rage towards a person who did you wrong can be a healthy thing- after all, knowing that this person took advantage of you and mistreated you is a hard reality to face. Especially if you tried to be the ‘bigger person’ in the relationship and always took the blunt force of their emotional or physical violence, it becomes a headache trying to understand how an abuser could live with themselves and their actions. Allowing yourself to feel anger towards this individual, instead of taking up for them or finding excuses for their behavior, can very much be therapeutic. For years I found ways to justify the abusive actions of my ex. I constantly was gaslit (and lying to myself) in order to forgive his disrespect and negligence. I could have proof that he was lying to me, yet still convince myself otherwise because of his manipulation and ability to make me feel terrible. After breaking away from his abusive cycle, I was able to see the entire relationship clearly for what it truly was! And naturally, I became absolutely irate. How dare another human so selfishly take advantage of another individual repeatedly and without remorse. And worse, why on earth would I set my standards so low to accept that type of treatment?

Anger can be a healthy emotion. Try not to suppress it, and instead find healthy outlets for it. I went through phases of talking to myself while I drove in my car, verbally reassuring myself that what I experienced was real and that I was allowed to feel angry over ‘x’ ‘y’ or ‘z’. I spoke to my therapist about my anger, and she suggested I started verbalizing or writing down all the things I wish I could say (or do!) to my ex. Obviously, it would be very unhealthy and probably illegal to put any of these ideas into action, and that was definitely not my therapist’s advice or my intentions. But just the act itself of getting rid of that build up energy and resentment was incredibly helpful. Crying, yelling, cursing, or whatever else I needed to do was okay. Allowing myself to finally be upset and stand up for myself retroactively was a very helpful aspect of my healing. However, anger over time can be an upsetting emotion to sit with. Especially when there is little you can *actually* do to avenge the situation, feeling angry and upset about your ex can be frustrating. This is when some hard work begins, and you have to figure out a way to find happiness and contentment even while your terrible ex is still out there living his/her life.

This is where therapy definitely assists. I know that speaking with a professional about my struggles and emotions was incredibly helpful in order for me to move past the amount of anger I held. However, I also think that an equally important aspect of healing comes from the actions you take moving forward, as well as the people you choose to surround yourself with. Your success and wellbeing should become your firstmost concern during your time of healing. You should try to envision your own happiness and contentment with any decisions you make during your healing. What would make you happiest in your life? Is it travelling? Returning to school? Quitting a job? Try to think critically about the areas in your life that are holding you back, or the things that bring you much more stress than joy. Remember it is okay to prioritize yourself for once.

Focus too on the folks that you keep in your circle. As painful as it might be, it may be critical to cut out people who bring out negative traits in you. If you’re trying to better yourself and your life, you might not want people around who constantly want to party, do drugs or stay out all night, for instance. You also might have to see who in your friend group truly supports you and will be there to help you when you are in need. Not all of your ‘friends’ will actually show up for you if it happens to be inconvenient for them! Try to not bother with people who are situational friends only, and instead focus on the people who truly love you and want to see you succeed. (These are probably the people who hated your ex long before you did, anyway!)

Life will go on, fortunately, without your ex. While there are times it seems that he or she still dominates your life, your emotional state, and your anger, time will pass and you can and will heal from the trauma you experienced. You are completely allowed to continue disliking your ex, and in some cases you don’t even have to forgive them in order to move on from your past (I honestly think forgiveness is too romanticized in our society, anyway). But just remember that YOUR healing and peace of mind is what is important. You must focus on what to do in order to feel your best and ultimately become a better version of yourself- which, to be fair, is much more difficult than it sounds. Stay as focused as you can, and make sure to allow yourself the care and love of a healthy support system along the way.

I hope this post is helpful for some. Let me know what you think.


How to Start Seeing Red Flags After Growing Accustomed to Trauma

While I want to assume that most people in this world are nice, caring individuals, I have to accept that there are a lot of mean folks out there, too. Perhaps ‘mean’ isn’t the right term- people can be stubborn, rude, aggressive, violent, unappreciative, emotionally insensitive… the list goes on. Not everyone you meet will be as kind as you are, and it is important to remember that.

“Red flags” are basically warning signs. They can be noticed in people when you are getting to know them. They can alert you that something is off, or not quite right with them, and often is associated with an odd ‘gut feeling’. Sometimes, red flags can be misinterpreted, and it is important to note that not everyone operates on the same wavelength so misunderstandings when meeting new people are not inherently bad. However, keeping an eye open to ‘off’ traits of a person is very important for your own safety, mental health, and well-being.

In an ideal universe, you were raised in a loving and caring home, won homecoming King and Queen at your high school, went off to marry your sweetheart and have a beautiful, stress-free life. For most of us, however, this simply isn’t the case. It is not uncommon to have been raised with a chaotic family, witnessing and perhaps even suffering verbal, physical, or other abuse. Even if you didn’t experience a dysfunctional home life, your dating life could have been tainted by people who lied, cheater, or otherwise abused you. Of course, I am simply touching the surface of the intricacies of traumas, abuse, and ‘broken’ homes. I am just here to say that all of these traumatic events can make it very difficult to see ‘red flags’ as we get older.

Growing up with the ‘norm’ being dysfunction can be a very confusing experience. We are accustomed to the ups and downs, to being ‘on-guard’, or to hearing yelling and shouting all the time. Or, if you experienced a long term, abusive relationship, your abilities to detect what is ‘wrong’ and what is normal can become weary. Red flags? What red flags? This is what I’m used to!

Our weakened capabilities to fend off (potential) predators can result in repeated abuse. It is not uncommon for people to find themselves in back-to-back relationships with abusive partners, or to repeatedly make ‘friends’ only for them to steal or lie to you. Identifying red flags is an incredibly important step to stop the circular cycle of trauma, abuse, and dysfunction.

I have experienced a great deal of trauma in my past, and unfortunately have dated many men who were absolutely less than sub-par partners. I bounced back and forth between a few unstable and very unhealthy relationships, experiencing abuse in many forms before finally leaving the situation. Towards the end of 2019, I began to realize that these patterns were not serving me in any capacity. I was only hurting myself by meeting and dating people who had problematic traits. I needed to refocus my life onto myself, my well-being, and my standards in a relationship. I did not deserve to be yelled at, lied to, or mistreated. I deserved better.

When you are used to being mistreated, it becomes very difficult to treat yourself with kindness and respect. It is even more difficult to recognize toxic traits in people before you become close to them. However, learning to do both of these things is imperative to your own happiness.

While my advice is mainly anecdotal, I wanted to offer some options to people trying to “re-set” their standards their and ability to see red flags (before they become bigger problems).

  • Find a therapist specialized in trauma. Seriously, this is a huge factor. Therapy will help you reflect on your past, and assist you in better identifying troublesome habits. You can work on healing yourself while better preparing your mind, body, and psyche for the present and the future.
  • Read books. Make sure they are written by experts in psychology, or authors that are reliable and not trying to shove their own agenda down your throat. (I only say this because the amount of Jesus-centric “self help” books I have filtered through is ridiculous. Unless, of course, the Jesus thing is your jam.) This tip can also apply to blogs (maybe like mine!), articles, or other reliable, honest mental health resources. My personal choice for literature on this topic is Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend. I read it for the first time a few years back, and have reread it multiple times since. My past therapy groups have also highly recommended it. It is a fantastic tool to reshape your views on boundaries with yourself, your partners, and others.
  • STAY SINGLE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! (Kinda contrary to the whole Jesus thing I just said, but oh well.) If you aren’t in a (healthy) relationship or marriage already, please do yourself a favor and stay single while you figure this out! Dating/hookups/flings only make things 10x worse when you are trying to evolve and become a better YOU. This is a great time to focus on all the things about yourself that you might have neglected in the past. What hobbies do YOU like? What things should you be doing to take care of yourself, like eating better or being more active? What about going back to school, or starting a certificate? There are so many ways to turn that nervous, anxiously single energy around and re-focus on yourself.
  • Focus on the family and friends that genuinely love and care about you. I hope that all of you have at least a handful of healthy, loving, and reliable people in your lives that you can turn to when things get rough. The love and care that they provide you should be guidelines to how ‘new’ people in your life should treat you. Healthy family and friends can also provide insight on to a person you introduce to them (like a new friend or partner), and could help you see ‘red flags’ before you do.

I hope this post helps people in some way. I know that healing and recovering from trauma can be very difficult, and a long process. Stay encouraged and know that even a small step forward is a step in the right direction.