Hi, dear readers! I've been MIA for a while--many reasons for that--but I'll be back in the blogging saddle soon. Meanwhile, I'm thrilled to share this guest post from a writer I hope will become a regular guest blogger. She's a hot (single!) femme who goes by the pseudonym "Dr. Joyce Sisters" (and she has a PhD in real life, too). Please show her some love in the comments! Muchos affection, BW
The Perils of the "Nice Ex"
By Dr. Joyce Sisters
Finding out that my fiancé was having an affair with one of my best friends was my own personal hell. Or so I thought… Until my partner of three and a half years dumped me and I was quickly replaced… with an ex. Okay, okay—so she’s not really an “ex.” But we definitely did the mattress dance on more than one occasion.
It doesn’t matter how much relationship experience you have or how many break-ups you’ve been through; they hurt just the same. And on a scale of 1 to 10, that level of hurt is at least a 20. The thing about lesbian break-ups is that our community is small. Inevitably, your ex will be f&*#ing a friend, a former lover, or the ex of a former lover. This exacerbates the level of hurt to somewhere between 21 and 80, depending on how close you are to your ex’s new paramour.
The other factor to consider when calculating your level of hurt is your ex’s behavior. At first glance, the relationship might appear linear: the more unkind her behavior, the more hurt you’ll feel. But this is not the case. Rather, the relationship looks more like an italicized “J” with more intense pain associated with “nicer” exes.
Inspired by BW’s fancy graph from a few weeks ago, I made the following to demonstrate this statistical relationship:
Notice that the lowest level of pain you can experience is still quite substantial (20). As we move to the left – representing the predicted pain for less and less nice (or meaner) exes, pain increases. Why? Because we question how this person we loved and cared about could behave in such a cruel manner. In these instances, we grieve less over the person and more over the belief that we are decent judges of character. We can no longer fool ourselves into thinking that we will be safe from heartache because of our exceptional ability to pick kind and loving girlfriends.
Now, consider the “nice” ex. The nice ex breaks up with you. She might even break up with you, say, the day before the biggest interview of your life or when you are 3000 miles away from family and friends that could offer support (just hypothetically, of course). But she texts your best friend every day to see how you are doing and how the interview went. She’ll tell you that you are the most beautiful, smart, kind woman she’s ever been with. She’ll insist that you’ll be connected forever and occupy a special place in her heart. She’ll want to be “friends.”
You may choose to spend time apart to transition from lovers to friends, but once you’re on speaking terms again, she’ll call or text to engage in friendly gossip about mutual friends. She’ll occasionally call you honey, baby, or sweetheart. She’ll send you a small gift just because she saw it and thought of you. She’ll call you on her way home from work and pull over on the side of the road to talk to you because her new girlfriend (NG) is at her house and she doesn’t want to hurt NG’s or your feelings.
Objectively, this behavior is nice. I mean, my best friend and I do use terms of endearment with one another, send each other gifts, and are careful not to hurt one another’s feelings. But, your ex is not your best friend. This same behavior coming from a recent former lover can lead to excruciating levels of pain. Why? Three reasons. First, it reminds you of what you lost. Second, it denies you the opportunity to make up stories about how awful she is. Third, it keeps you hooked. If you take the bait, you’re only going to feel foolish when she rejects you again. A “nice” ex can reject you over and over and over with infuriating kindness.
By the way, don’t blame yourself for still having feelings or for wanting (or asking for) her back. And, don’t let your her make you feel crazy (e.g., “What? I’m so surprised! I thought we were just friends! We’ve been over this a hundred times.”) Of course you have feelings for her. She has been sending you mixed messages. You are not crazy. She is crazy if she is genuinely surprised that you still have feelings in light of your recent interactions.
It is natural--though perhaps unhealthy--to want to have her in your life. Also, if she really is nice, she probably has a lot of friends, so not being friends with her may cause you to lose friends. (I know, it’s so unfair.)
My best advice is this. When you’re least emotional, choose a “way” of being around your ex. That is, decide how you want to behave when you are in her presence (e.g., if you run into her and NG at the bar or have a weekly phone call with her). Perhaps you want to be graceful, courageous or classy. Calm, cool, and collected. (I chose “apathetic.”) It doesn’t really matter what you choose, but I recommend picking something that confirms that you will never be with your ex again. In other words, do not chose a way of being because you think it will appeal to her and make her want you back.
Once you have adopted a way of being, act in accordance with that way of being at all times. Inevitably, you won’t want to act gracefully when you run into her at the local co-op. But you are not your feelings. You are a human being with the ability to take actions that are inconsistent with your feelings.
Of course, this requires self-control. Recent research tells us that self-control is like a muscle. We all have it to varying degrees, we have a limited supply, and we can expand our potential to exercise self-control the more we practice. If we exercise it at one point, it is harder in the moments that follow to continue to exercise self-control. During this vulnerable time, limit the number of situations that require extraordinary amounts of self-control; you will need as much of it as possible when interacting with your ex.
Simultaneously, increase the number of situations that require small amounts of self-control. For example, take a short walk even though you want to stay in bed, practice not interrupting, go to McDonald’s but don’t supersize it. This will increase the likelihood that you’ll be able to act in ways that are consistent with the way of being you chose instead of screaming, crying, or spitting in NG’s face.
What else can you do to get over an ex? Readers, have you ever successfully transitioned from lovers to friends? I am especially interested in hearing from those who have been dumped. What did you do to ease the transition?