Why do I hate my ex? And where does that get me?
In this article, I will explore whether hating your ex is good for you, and if it isn’t, what you can do about it. I will not be looking at relationships that involve abuse as I hope to cover that in another article soon.
At the beginning, it seemed so romantic, so perfect. Then weeks or months or years down the line it ended. The once perfect partner seemed to turn into a monster. Some relationships end pleasantly, many don’t. Some people move on quickly, others find that difficult. They find themselves going over and over what happened, what their ex did and said. There will at this time often be a range of emotions including sadness, disappointment, shock, bewilderment, anger and fear of being alone.
After a while most people move on and open up to the idea that they can live a good life despite what has happened. However, some find it difficult and still say they hate their ex years later.
Even in a breakup which was wanted by both parties, those involved may still feel a tremendous loss.
This is natural: they are mourning the end of something that once was good, or seemed good. It may feel like you won’t ever get over this feeling of sadness, but like any bereavement it will fade if you allow it to.
What seems so destructive is that the end of the relationship seems to be what defines it for many people. They may have had many years where they were mostly happy and much less time where they were unhappy, but they remember the bad times most. Perhaps this is a way of protecting ourselves: we reject what we can no longer have.
It is healthy to mourn the loss, if it feels distressing, talk to friends or family. Ask them not to give opinions, just to listen. Sometimes, friends who ‘hate their exs’ get together - they enjoy going over the awful things their exes did to them. This might be a good way to get out feelings and move on but beware of being the kind of friend known only as of the person who goes on about their ex. Don’t be defined by who you hate.
A useful exercise with friends is to give each other five minutes to talk about why they hate their ex - the feelings are experienced, the support is there, then you can move on to talk about something else.
Another good way of releasing our feelings is to write them down. Write how you feel and if you can add some happy memories as well as sad ones. Accept how you feel, even if it’s uncomfortable for you. You are grieving. Try not to spend too much of the day on the grieving process - physical activity helps as does planning something to look forward to - preferably something which doesn’t remind you of your ex.
When children are involved
A word of caution; try to avoid talking about your ex in a negative way in front of your children, especially if they are also their children. It is unfair on a child to have to try to process adult’s anger and horrible for the child to have to think they must choose sides.
If you hate your ex what are they supposed to do? Hate them too? Doubt their own feelings? And possibly, think they are made by you and your ex, so maybe you hate them too? It's incredibly difficult, but try to be a good role model for your children. If you want your children to grow up confident and stable, if you want them to be kind and thoughtful try to avoid sharing, “I hate your dad” with them!
“I hate my ex!” can be a powerful thing to say, in our heads, to people we trust, or in writing. Although many people see anger as a negative expression it may be useful in the early stages to express this anger as long as in a safe environment.
Ringing up your ex to tell them what you think of them is probably not a good idea. You may regret doing it, it may feel to you that you have shown them how much power they have over you and of course, they may say something worse or ring the police.
If you see a relationship ending as a bereavement you can express your feelings much as you would any other death, and that would include disbelief, bewilderment and fear of loss. Hating an ex in this situation is a little like hating cancer or heart failure for taking away your loved one.
Replace 'hate' thoughts
However, continuing to hate your ex, might be unhealthy for you. By hating your ex, you are keeping yourself in a position where they are still central to your thoughts. If it can be replaced with “loving my freedom” or even, "things are easier now” or “I will be over this one day,” you will be able to live a happier life.
There is also the possibility that this position is an easy one because you can put all your negative feelings on the other person, whilst not taking any responsibility yourself. Very short term that may be a reasonable coping strategy – but finally it is simply lying to yourself.
Choose a time when you can sit down and talk, write or think about what happened in the relationship. Rather than ‘going over old ground’ you can reflect on the reality of what went wrong and why it happened.
You can bravely take some responsibility for what you did and said - not to take blame and feel angry with yourself, but to help you move on.
If this feels difficult or scary, that’s because it is. But surely not as difficult or scary as hating your ex five years later? If you still hate your ex five years later has the relationship really ended? I suggest it hasn’t, you are keeping it alive, with the worst memories taking up a lot of your time and mind space. You are keeping yourself angry.
Resolve to give yourself a time limit. If you are struggling with this hate thing, it could be a good time to see a counsellor. The counsellor should be able to help you talk through any issues you still have, any confusion anger or sadness you struggle to express.
The counsellor can share techniques to focus on the present and ways of dealing with intrusive thoughts. They can help you to move from I hate my ex to my ex was so annoying…and beyond to a time when your ex is someone from your past. Maybe remember them as someone you are glad you met, and you are sad that it didn’t work, or maybe someone you wish you hadn’t met, but someone who has taught you a lot.
After anger and grief comes acceptance. This can be hard and may involve seeking help. See this as a time of change, when you move away from the anger towards living for and in your current circumstances. You can start to gently build a guilt-free, hate-free, hopeful future. If you don’t, you may spend the rest of your life hating your ex instead of loving yourself and life.