How I learned to accept past breakups and be thankful for my exes

“My ex hates you,” my boyfriend laughed as we sipped overpriced malbecs after a rooftop screening of Carrie on a brisk Thursday night. 

We had been dating for almost two months, and I’d never felt happier and more at peace in a relationship. But there was an elephant in the room: the ex-factor. More specifically, the factor that his ex’s stuff was still hiding in crevices all over his apartment. There were multiple pairs of leather leggings, half-used makeup and hair products, and the kind of dresses you only wear at weddings. I know the specifics of this because we spent last weekend packing up her stuff. And I only agreed to do it because I thought it was only going to be a couple of items—in reality, it was so much more.

To him, it was just stuff, but I knew what this meant. She left her things at his place for the same reason I used to leave hair ties and Forever21 statement necklaces at my ex-boyfriend’s apartment: to make a statement that this place is and will always be my territory.

Then I started to think about my recent ex I used to live with. Luckily, he’s in New York and I’m in L.A., which means my now boyfriend and I will never run the risk of bumping into my ex at a sushi restaurant like we recently did with his. 

When my ex and I broke up, and I moved out of our apartment, I took everything I needed. I told him that if I left anything behind, he could keep it or throw it out. I guess he misheard me because he proceeded to send me boxes of things I did not need: eight tampons, two half-used bottles of shampoo and conditioner, one women’s winter jacket that was not mine. Not only did he send me these items I didn’t ask for, but he also requested me on Vemno for the cost of shipping, which was $300.

When I was dating in my 20s, I was so consumed with the idea of winning a breakup. I would keep tabs on every ex, see who they moved on with, and stalked their new partner’s social media accounts, making fun of her captions and photo choices. Why did I still care? We broke up for a reason. And according to me singing Taylor Swift at karaoke last night, we were “never ever getting back together.”

But now that I’m in my 30s, doing these things after a breakup seems ridiculous. No one wins after a split; both partners lose. You lose love for someone you used to call your best friend, someone who was once your favorite person and partner.

When I think of my most recent ex now, I genuinely wish the best for him. I hope he finds someone who loves Brooklyn, video games, and never leaving the apartment as much as he does because that wasn’t me—and that’s completely okay. I’ve finally reached a place in life where I am at peace with myself. And while I might’ve wanted to Carrie Underwood my ex-boyfriend’s car in the past, I’m now like Ariana Granda and “so fu*kin’ thankful for my ex.”

After writing my first book, 20 Guys You Date In Your 20s, I realized that while my exes and I were not right for each other, I was so grateful for each and every one of them. The reality is, no relationship is considered lost time; it’s about growing as an individual, and realizing what you want out of a relationship. 

Sure, breakups are tough, but we don’t grow without change happening, and sometimes, it takes a breakup to realize this. Instead of looking back at past relationships with resentment and hurt, what if we reminisce on the good things and accept that the relationships are over for the best reason by appreciating our exes for what they brought into our lives?

For instance, my high school boyfriend Will* was my first love and first heartbreak. He taught me what it means to love someone, and showed me how to not take life too seriously. (Which was a challenge for someone who’s screen name was DramaQueenGC.) 

Then there was Robert*, who lied to me about something big and unforgivable. But he introduced me to my favorite Italian restaurant in Los Angeles, and taught me about wine and classic cinema. 

And then there was Seth*. He was the ex I always went back to, who showed me it’s possible to love an ex on a whole other level. Time and time again, Seth and I kept seeing that we didn’t work as a couple, and today, he’s one of my best friends and biggest cheerleaders.

Because of the holidays, I’m realizing I’m most thankful for every one of my exes. I’m grateful for the good and the bad, the tears and the heart flutters. I wholeheartedly believe that if I didn’t date them or get my heart broken as many times as I have that I wouldn’t be the strong person that I am today. So thank you. 

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