What I learned being the ‘crazy ex’

It was the summer of 2011 and my heart was broken. After days of ghosting me (before it was cool) my boyfriend of two years finally picked up the phone to tell me we were done. Although it was sad, and I had admittedly been dealt a crappy hand, I did not handle it gracefully. In fact, some may say that I did not handle it well at all.

A note about “crazy”: The word “crazy” is bandied about for women all the time, and that’s not OK. Having feelings doesn’t make you crazy, and it’s a bad look to describe your ex as psycho when in fact you just weren’t compatible. But right after a bad break-up, you aren’t feeling like yourself and you can act erratically. We’ve all been there. I will give myself a pass since I was pretty young and it was my first major breakup, but regardless, I let my emotions get the best of me and acted immaturely. But now that I have the wisdom of a few years I can look back on these experiences objectively and tell you what I learned from being the so-called “crazy ex.”

There is no such thing as a good breakup

Right off the bat, the thing I had the most trouble understanding with this particular breakup was how cold and detached it felt. We had been dating for a while. I felt like I especially merited an in person breakup. Not one where the person disappeared for a few days and then ended things over the phone. At the time it felt really cowardly and unfair. More than anything I felt like I hadn’t gotten any closure, which was really upsetting to me.

But as I went through it I realized the mode of breakup doesn’t really matter. You can do everything in your power to try and take the sting out of a breakup, but at the end of the day it’s still going to suck. Even if it’s a mutual thing and it’s done lovingly, it’s going to sting. I was wasting my time obsessing over the fact that I hadn’t been broken up with properly and hadn’t gotten closure. The truth was I was broken up with. The person I was dating didn’t want to date me anymore. And at the end of the day that’s all the closure I really needed to start moving on. And while it sucks to have someone you care about treat you more callously than is normally par for the course, I chose to see it as a gift instead. Did I really want to be involved with someone who would treat another person that way, especially one they had been dating for two years? The answer was ultimately no.

When someone pulls back, don’t chase after them

This sounds nuts thinking back on it, but day two into my boyfriend (important: not ex-boyfriend at this juncture in the story) not talking to me, I started to get really worried. I got it in my head that he was in some sort of emotional trouble, had gotten hurt, or gone missing. He was super into social media, and he had suddenly stopped posting anything. As far as I could tell, he had effectively disappeared from the world. Now I know that if someone you’re dating stops talking to you after things haven’t been super great in the relationship, they’re probably gearing up to break up with you (also that Facebook privacy settings are a thing).

At the time, that this person being in trouble seemed more plausible to me than them not wanting to communicate with me. So I did two things that I super regret. The first thing I did was drive by his house to see if his car was in the driveway. It was not. After that I drove home and got right to work writing a super awkward message to his best friend. I told her I was worried about him, and asked if she could call him to see if he picked up, and then let me know if he did so I’d know he was all right. She never wrote me back, but I saw that she saw the message. I cringe now just thinking about it. A few hours later he finally called me back to break up with me. What I learned from this is that is when someone pulls back, don’t chase after them. They have your number, and know how to get in contact with you. If they want to talk to you, they will. And if they’re not getting in contact with you, especially after you’ve had a pretty consistent stream of communication, that says more than any text message ever will.

Your ex can’t be the one to comfort you about your break-up

After this breakup I was really hurt and had a lot of feelings (understandable). I really felt like I needed to talk them out and discuss them with someone. Unfortunately for me the first person I chose to try and talk them out with was my ex, over Facebook messenger. Long story short: don’t do this.

I know all too well how lost you can feel when the person you normally turn to doesn’t want to be with you anymore. But even though you might think talking to them would be the best thing in the moment, it’s not really. This is because your ex has already thought about this a lot, and has come to the conclusion that they want to end the relationship. If you’re feeling emotionally vulnerable, nothing they can say is going to make you feel better. Just don’t go there; your heart will thank you for it later.

Don’t let this stop you from doing what you need to do

I was sad for a while. And when I say sad, I mean that most of my days for about a month were spent with tears streaming down my face any time I was awake. All I wanted to do was curl up and cry. But life doesn’t wait for you to stop feeling sorry for yourself. I had an internship, I had to apply for more internships in the fall, I had to help around the house, I had homework, and I had to start packing to go back to school. Basically I was responsible for all sorts of things that I required my attention that I kept trying to opt out of to cry and stare at the ceiling. But you can’t let sadness and pain get in the way of taking care of yourself and your obligations unless you really want your life to implode. One day I was dead set on going home early from my internship because I was so sad. I even thought out what I was going to say to my boss. I truly thought a breakup was about as good of a reason to leave as being sick or having an emergency. Wrong. When I called my mom to tell her what I had in mind, she set me straight. Don’t wreck your life just because someone else wrecked your heart.

Don’t demonize your ex

Here is the hardest lesson of them all. As comforting as it is to imagine that your ex is a horrible demon sent to rain down chaos on your life, and that you are the blameless virtuous martyr of truth, that’s not reality. Yes, break-ups suck, but you don’t need to make your ex into an imaginary super villain in the process. What is more mature and often harder to do is to acknowledge that people are allowed to date who they want to date. You’re not obligated to stay in any romantic relationship if you don’t want to, and the same goes for the person you were dating. Of course it’s painful, and of course it sucks, but it’s important to keep in mind that they didn’t technically do anything wrong. Acting like they went above and beyond in the evil department when they broke up with you isn’t going to do you any favors. Taking care of yourself and focusing on your own happiness will.

And that’s how I got through my first real big, crazy-making breakup. It was tough and painful, but I would be lying if I said that it wasn’t terribly important to my development as a person. Although I didn’t necessarily feel this way at the time, I wouldn’t change a thing about the process. I needed to go through it to learn from my mistakes and come out a better, less erratic person. Breaking up is tough, and the feelings that come out of it can be overwhelming. But just because your emotions are running wild, doesn’t mean that you have to too.

[Image via Universal Pictures]