A few months ago, or possibly when it was cold outside, my most recent ex-boyfriend called to give me an update on his life. Apparently things had been going swimmingly with the woman he was seeing — make that the woman he left me for, the woman he’d started up with while we were still dating. He wanted to tell me directly instead of having me hear it from our mutual friends, as if it wouldn’t have been equally annoying to hear from either source. I told him that I didn’t care one way or the other, which I didn’t. Then I learned that my ex got married and I cared a bit more, but not for the reasons you might think.
When your ex gets married you can be mad, or sad, or even glad if you’re one of those people who stays friends with everyone. To be honest, I’ve never been one of those “happy for my ex” people, though I know they exist. I’m more like a petty, wish you grief and unhappiness person, which is probably because I’ve been left more often than I’ve done the leaving. The last time I initiated a breakup was in my 20’s, at the height of my self-confident awesomeness when I was bold and assertive and positive about my love life. Then in my 30’s came depression and uncertainty and men breaking up with me.
I’m not exactly sure of the causality between my mood and the change in tide of my romantic fate, only that dating failures have heightened my depressive feelings. Perhaps my depression and underlying self-doubt made me a bad date, a bad girlfriend or a bad chooser of men. Either way, whenever an erstwhile suitor decided to call it quits, I sunk into a pit of hopeless despair and rumination over romantic failures. I always thought I’d done something wrong to make them not want me. I never thought I’d find the right person. I believed that I’d be alone forever.
The same feelings held true with my most recent ex-boyfriend, the one who just got married. This time, however, I’d been in love and while I thought he loved me too, I wasn’t sure we had the same definition of the word. He saw other women behind my back, which I didn’t think you did to someone you love. When I found out the truth during the breakup, I was completely devastated. I thought I’d been duped. I couldn’t trust any of my feelings because I thought my whole relationship was a lie. This breakup depression was deeper than any other I’d faced.
Then, a few years later, my ex got married. I thought I’d spiral back into depression about losing him forever, but that didn’t happen. Instead I got depressed about my own self. I was mad that a man who’d treated me so wrong could find someone to put up with his mess but I hadn’t been that lucky. I was sad about how I’d spent my 30’s and 40’s making myself sick over failed relationships instead of getting my shit together. And I was disappointed in myself for having let some jerks from my past take up valuable real estate in my head. I wasn’t going to do it any longer.
My solution was to take my issues to therapy, to talk seriously about wanting a romantic relationship but feeling trapped by my past failings. Speaking out loud to someone who could hold me accountable for my emotions and my actions is, at least to me, a good start on the path to wellness. And as for my ex — and all of my exes — we no longer speak. Cutting off contact is my way of making sure that I can live my romantic life in the hopeful present without being reminded of a less-than-successful past.
Tracey Lloyd lives in Harlem, where she fights her cat for access to the keyboard. You can find more of her experiences living with bipolar disorder on her personal blog, My Polar Opposite.