I have spoken many, many, many, many times about my ex. I’m sick of talking about him, but the fact is, I’m still learning a lot of valuable lessons about myself from him sort of indirectly these days. I’m also pretty sure all my dearest friends are sick of hearing about him too, but they put up with it because they love me so much (Thanks, y’all. You know I love you.). He and I have been broken up for well over a year, but—brace yourselves as I defy all logic—I still haven’t unfriended him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
Now, this isn’t necessarily uncommon among people of my generation. We seem to like holding onto these impersonal social media ties. I think it has something to do with the fact that psychologically, Millennials, as a whole, like to have as many options as possible so we have the power to choose our own destinies in a way. Whole sociological articles have been written about how we suffer from something called, “the fear of missing out,” which is the idea that there is always something better we should be doing with our lives or some other person who might be a better fit for us to commit to. We are paralyzed by having too many choices, so we wind up keeping a LOT of doors open just in case the one we actually choose to walk through doesn’t feel right to us. The problem with that is by never closing any doors and keeping them FIRMLY closed, we are confusing ourselves and possibly frittering away time and energy that could be spent on people and things that actually make us happy and more fulfilled. “The Fear of Missing Out” makes even the most committed of us Millennials (myself included) pure commitment-phobes. So even though I know in my heart my ex and I are never ever EVER getting back together, I haven’t been able to totally sever those ties. Why?
- I don’t like admitting defeat. Like so many Millennials, my biggest personal fear is of being a total failure at life. I was the kid who got straight A’s (up until trigonometry in high school; B+), and everyone knew it. If someone in one of my classes found out I got less than an A on a test in elementary or middle school, they would tease me about it. “Awww Emmy didn’t get an A!” or “Guess Goldilocks isn’t so golden.” You know, REAL highbrow wit (Oscar Wilde is shaking in his very dead, probably fabulous boots…NOT). I was a real life Hermione Granger. My parents expected good grades from me too, and so I put a LOT of pressure on myself to be the best all the time in everything I did. In many ways, this work ethic has paid off for me, but it also led me to having at least two emotional breakdowns (one in high school, one in college) by the time I completed my formal education in 2011.
I think I still have this “straight A” mentality when it comes to my life and that if I am not constantly achieving, I am not a successful person of worth. It has taken me a long time to learn I am liked and loved because of who I am and not what I do, and I still struggle with that constantly. In terms of my relationships, I work as hard on those as I did any paper or project in school and so when they have ended, it’s hard for me to accept some things were out of my control and that it wasn’t a “success.” With my most recent ex, I often felt like our relationship failed because of things I did (“Um, you realize he’s an asshole for making you feel that way, right?” —my very blunt, wonderful friend, Ariana), so unfriending him feels like the waving of the last white flag on our relationship.
- We agreed to “try to stay friends.” Now, no actual contractual (I could write raps for Empire with rhymes like THAT…or not; you guys, I am OBSESSED with Empire. #hereforCookie) agreement exists binding us to “be friends” after having our “irreconcilable differences” (which, for the record, I finally understand what that means whenever I see it listed in celebrity divorce papers on Extra, which I am ashamed to admit I watch sometimes, because Mario Lopez is probably immortal and will be fine and beautifully sculpted until the end of times). The thing is that I have always only ever been able to stay friends with the majority of my exes after our “mourning period” ended, so I’m stubborn and think life works like sitcoms where I can be the Elaine to his Seinfeld (You’re not and never will be as funny as Seinfeld, dude, and I am a WAY better dancer than Elaine).
But he’s also a different person than my other exes, so why do I think what is true for them is true for him? It’s not. Honestly, I spent as much time with him as I did because I liked him and wanted a boyfriend, but now that I see him for who he really is, I can’t say he’s someone I’d actually hang out with anymore. I’ve changed a lot since we dated, and I’d like to think that means I’ve grown into myself more as a woman, an artist, and human being. I have less tolerance for certain people, things, and situations that do more harm than good in my life, and he’s one of them. I’ve severed ties with other “friends” before, and I am better off, because I have friends who are actually friends in that they cherish me and support me and make me better. Why would I want to “stay friends” with someone who causes me pain and makes me feel worse? “Staying friends” only works when you’re Elaine and Jerry…because you’re just characters written that way for the sake of entertainment.
- I’m selfish. I really hate owning up to my less than desirable qualities. I, like literally every other person on the planet except for maybe Ann Coulter, am afraid of being totally disliked (and good for her for giving zero fucks about spewing the pure festering turds of opinions/hate-speech to the world she does on a daily basis; it’s kind of sickly admirable, really). However, I have learned over the last couple of years—whether in conversation with close friends or vulnerable moments in acting classes—that admitting these darker thoughts and feelings, really owning up to them, actually feels SO much better than trying to hide and suppress them. TRUTH: I am NOT always a nice person. I am not always a “good” person. I have a lot of anger I don’t always let out. I have had shitty thoughts about others and myself. I have done shitty things and lied about them. I’m selfish sometimes. I want to be the center of attention sometimes. And unfriending my ex means I no longer will occupy even a tiny space of his day (at least that I’m aware of and can control). I want him to occasionally think about and be reminded of me; to see how I’m doing and what I look like, because I’d like to think it will make him feel a little bit sorry for letting me go. I guess I think that will make me feel better, prettier, etc.
Rationally, I know it won’t, and that this is a completely egotistical reaction, but honestly, it’s what I want. I want him to feel a twinge of something whenever my face lands in his newsfeed, but honestly, I’m not sure he thinks about me at all anymore anyway…and I’m not sure he ever really thought about me at all back when we were dating.
- I have an outlet for my anger. You guys and gals, here’s something no one tells you except for Bond villains: anger can feel euphorically good. Screaming feels awesome. Simmering, seething anger just below the surface can be very weirdly invigorating.
Anger and rage make you feel really alive, you know? My ex’s posts give me a sharp intake of breath or an eye roll or a punch to the gut. They rev me up and get my blood going on days when I feel like a zombie at work. My friend, Shannon, wisely pointed out that maybe I am addicted to the pain and anger my ex brings out in me; that I would rather keep feeling these things than let them go because I like having an outlet for them. That anger, which is not an emotion in which I choose to operate on a daily basis, feels so good to me is the very reason I know I need to stop. I am not a Billy Joel or Alanis Morrisette song protagonist, even though it feels very good to act like I am sometimes. No one is benefitting from my anger but me, and truthfully, anger benefits no one (though those two singers made a lot of money from their angry songs; and actually, so have a LOT of singers). Why hold onto it?
- Mostly, I’m simply scared. He was someone who was really important to me for a while, and completely letting him go and not keeping tabs on his life without me means I have to accept he has a life without me. It means I have to accept he might forget about me even if I never forget about him. It means taking a firm stance and slamming a door on someone who I know didn’t love me, doesn’t love me, will never love me and being okay with not giving any more of myself or my emotions to someone who never deserved them in the first place and never reciprocated. It means risking not being liked by at least one person for the rest of my life (though I’m pretty sure other people don’t like me, and I’m pretty sure he’ll never actually think horribly of me, but who cares if he does?). It means forgoing a designated outlet for my selfishness and anger. It means really, REALLY moving on in all aspects. It means taking sole responsibility for my general wellbeing and happiness and admitting he is not a person who contributes to either of those things. It’s scary to let go of all that junk because it makes you feel important in a way, I think; it gives you a self-indulgent sense of importance in a way only a character in a movie or book feels. But self-indulgent behavior is bullshit, you know? No real reward comes without risk. Goethe said it better: “Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.”
But see? All of that is just bullshit excuses. I’m not “missing out” on anything by not being with him. Do I miss being in a relationship? Yep. Am I going to have others? Absolutely. I have plenty of other doors left in my Choose Your Own Adventure novel.
Closing the door on something or someone who doesn’t contribute to your health and happiness is actually the best thing you can do for yourself, because it helps you find open doors (and sometimes windows) to things that are better for you. To PEOPLE who are better for you. Walking away from something you wanted but ultimately isn’t good for you is difficult, but it’s necessary if you’re ever going to become the person you’re meant to be. Sometimes, it’s just about putting one foot in front of the other until you literally walk into the life you’re supposed to have. And you will. But that’s only when you start closing doors and walking through others. Making hard choices. Letting yourself fail sometimes. Eliminating negative things from your life can only increase positive things in your life! We have to stop being emotional hoarders; keeping people and things around us that we think we “might need later,” because what we’re really doing is cluttering our life with a lot of people and stuff that aren’t truly serving us instead of looking for what really does.
Pretty much all of my favorite romantic comedies take place in the days before Facebook and Twitter. When Meg Ryan and Bill Pullman break up in Sleepless in Seattle, they’re done. They might run into each other at a mutual friend’s party or the supermarket, but other than that, they won’t know how many people “liked” a picture of them running a marathon or constantly “see” one another over Facebook.
Julia Roberts would use Facebook and Instagram to stalk Dermott Mulroney and Cameron Diaz’s relationship in My Best Friend’s Wedding these days, but back in the mid-90s, she had to use a PHONE and her own two FEET. We give away so much of our personal lives these days (writes the girl currently sharing a LOT about her own personal life), but people didn’t do that before Facebook. When they broke up, they cut the cord. And if they did stay in contact, they were basically Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction.
Well, I’m not planning on boiling anyone’s bunny anytime soon, despite being a Scorpio (and we DO get a bad rap for being vindictive). I can’t promise I won’t be like Sally in When Harry Met Sally the day I find out he’s getting married, crying into the arms of my best straight guy friend “But why didn’t he want to marry meeeeee?!” But I know a simple click of the “unfriend” button on all his social media profiles isn’t going to be the end of the world. Truthfully, he hasn’t been my actual friend for a long time, so it’s time he’s no longer a virtual one either.
See ya. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out of my life.