Years ago I wrote a blog about badmouthing your crappy ex, and why it’s a bad idea. It’s a bad idea for a lot of reasons, most of which boil down to the fact that when you say crappy things about him or her, it makes YOU look bad, not them.
When you’re dating, your dates or potential dates don’t know you. They don’t know your character or backstory; they only have whatever data you offer them during that brief interaction. Calling your ex an asshole/jerk/bitch/idiot, no matter how true, raises a red flag that you haven’t come to terms with the past or, to put it bluntly, that you’re just not a very nice person. Not a big turn-on.
This article did generate some comments from a few unhappy readers. These people felt annoyed by the advice, seeing it as unrealistic, unfair, or judgmental. One or two others were like, hey, you chose to get with that person and that was your choice.
When it comes to a crappy ex or a painful relationship, we look for ways to come to terms with what happened. We want the pain to go away. We want the shitty feelings to disappear. Lousy exes and lousy relationships make us feel bad about ourselves, and no one wants to feel that.
When we feel bad about ourselves, when we feel pain, we often look for someone to blame. In many cases, people blame the ex. She did this, he did that, he was a narcissist, etc. This not only makes you look bad to those you’re trying to date now, it makes you look like a victim instead of someone who participated in that relationship. In other cases, we blame ourselves. I should’ve known better. The signs were there. I chose to be there and to tolerate that. This makes you feel more empowered because you’re putting the onus on yourself, but it’s also destructive in its own way.
Likewise, when people go through something difficult like a shit relationship, I see their friends pull out their own blame cards. They blame the ex: “It’s not your fault, your ex is a dick.” Or they blame you: “Hey, I told you she was crazy and you chose to be with her.”
The problem with this? Blame. Whether you blame the ex or you blame yourself, you’re still blaming. You’re still looking for some scapegoat for your pain, someone or something to pin it on. The problem with doing that is it doesn’t really help you feel better in the long term or move on, and the pain stays buried in you.
Blame throws away your power.
Relationships are learning experiences. Every single person you date, get involved with, or marry teaches you more about who you are and what you need. Every one. ESPECIALLY the shitty ones. Yeah, it’s kind of fucked up that we need to experience pain to learn, but sometimes that’s the way it is.
When you think about that lousy ex, instead of thinking about what they did and why they’re a jerk (or why you’re an idiot for getting with them), think about what they taught you. What did their lousy behavior teach you about yourself and your needs?
I recently posted on Facebook a description of the types of things a narcissist says to someone they “love.” A woman I know said that those words described her ex to a tee. When I expressed how glad I was that her current partner is such a gem (and he is), she said she would never have appreciated him if it weren’t for that narcissistic ex. That’s what I’m talking about.
A shitty ex teaches you what you DON’T want. They teach you boundaries. They show you what your true values are. They make your deepest needs clearer to you. Best of all, they becomes EXES, giving you space to find someone better. Someday, when you get past the anger, you will thank them for what they taught you.
I won’t lie: this isn’t an easy process. It doesn’t happen overnight. But it does happen. It WILL happen, if you step away from blame and focus on what you can learn, on how it will benefit YOU.
I once read a great quote but cannot seem to find it anywhere. It went something like this:
Success is rising above your many failures, rather than getting buried beneath them.
Failure is part of life. Shit exes are part of life. How can you rise above?