After recently bumping into an ex for the first time and having to deal with all those awkward and rather uncomfortable feelings that accompany it, I momentarily wished there was some kind of giant ex pit where every one of your failed romances would have the decency to slowly crawl away to and never dare to rear their head again.
I mean it’s bad enough that they’ve failed to fulfil your happily ever after and then they go and add insult to injury by daring to continue breathing after they no longer serve you any purpose.
Yet, despite the ex pit sounding like the perfect solution for ever having to confront sticky emotional inconveniences again, in reality it’s not really the healthy path towards healing for those of us big girls and boys looking for a slightly more emotionally mature way to treat the wounds left behind by rotting love.
The breakdown of any relationship, whether is was a committed cohabiting one or just a short lived fling can be messy and bring a world of pain quite like no other. The fallout is uncomfortable at best and excruciating at worst. Disappointment, thwarted wanting and grief make for a heady cocktail.
Whilst the circumstances of every break up are different, I believe there is always a chance to make peace with an ex.
I once emailed an ex who had cheated on me, thanking him for all the good times.
Your first instinct reading that might be that I’m crazy or a complete sucker...or maybe both. Yet it wasn’t about offering forgiveness for any perceived wrongdoings in some sort of stoic ‘turn the other cheek’ fashion.
It was about taking responsibility for my own feelings by not only truly accepting, but also owning the events that had passed between us. It was about realising that far from the unhelpful illusions of black and white/right and wrong, our relationship together was far too complex to ever be reduced to such a simplistic way of viewing it.
For my own sake there was no need to pollute every memory I had of us with negative (and ultimately false) stories about what had happened or who he was.
It starts with a choice to no longer make him or her your excuse to be unhappy and subsequently lay blame for the way you are feeling at their door. We all too often forget that partners are not responsible for fulfilling our lives, that as harsh as it may at first sound, they don’t actually owe you anything.
By taking responsibility for your own thoughts and feelings you take back the control you may have inadvertently given to them.
It certainly didn’t happen overnight, but when I was finally ready to make peace with my ex, all that pain I had been carrying was transformed into acceptance. I stopped pointlessly wasting my energy by resisting what had already happened and with it a weight was lifted.
Healing is a process and there is no deadline.
It’s important to realise that there are no shortcuts and faking it is always pointless, as false acceptance will bring you no more relief than continued bitterness. Anger, sadness and a whole host of other roller-coaster emotions are all part of the process. Try to skip this process and it’s just likely to resurface later.
However, once you’re finally done picturing their face as you loudly sing with venom “my mama don’t like you and she likes everyone”...then it’s time to move on.
Don’t feed the negative thoughts.
Our perception of the world is made from our unique perspective and we use it to tell stories about our experiences; turning events into something good if they please us and bad if they don’t. When our perception of something or someone changes, often so does the story we tell ourselves.
Resist the urge to create unhelpful mental tales about the situations and circumstances that surround “your story” together. That doesn’t mean completely ignoring what happened between you, it just means allow events to be what they are without the need to twist them into something self serving.
At first it may seem like it feels good to tell yourself (and anyone else who will listen) how boring, stupid and unattractive they really are, but ultimately all you’re doing is keeping the loop of negativity playing in your own life. Whenever we try to make someone else smaller, it only serves to make us shrink in the process. Like Buddha says, it’s a bit like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
Although you can’t change events, you do have a choice in how you tell your story.
Everything that happened between you two is ultimately just a story and all stories can be told in more than one way. It’s not easy, but you can choose to accept what happened and be grateful for the good parts.
If you say about your situation that they are wrong and you are right, what difference does that make? What if you told yourself that how things unfolded were unfortunate, that you learned things from it, that it brought some happiness to your life once and that you feel gratitude for any positive moments spent together?
Which story is more useful? Which brings more peace? And actually, when you dig further away from just the surface, which is more accurate?
Making peace with your ex doesn’t even need to involve him or her. It’s less about telling them something and more about telling yourself. It’s not for them, it’s for you.
It does take practice and patience to make peace with your ex, but the rewards of doing so are the release from the painful burden of blame, regret and constantly being forced to replay a Justin Bieber song in your head... so it’s gotta be worth it for that alone!