more ex-etiquette

Reader C. D. asks:

Is it appropriate to ask your friends not to tell you when they see your ex? It seems like there is such an inclination to say, “Hey! I saw (insert asshole’s name) at the bar on Saturday.” The truth is, I don’t want to know because then I start wondering, “Who was he with? Why was he out? Was he with a girl?” Or should I just accept that my friends will see my ex and will continue to tell me they saw him because we are in the same social circles?

Dear C.D.:

I think it is perfectly appropriate for you to ask your friends not to tell you when they see your ex.

However, they will probably forget that you’ve asked them and tell you anyway.

Part of being human is that we want to share stories that excite or titillate us. Seeing your ex is a piece of drama that may just be too irresistible to let go, especially if the person doing the seeing thinks your ex is an asshole, too.

I’ve heard it many times myself: “Oh ugh I just saw your horrendous asshole of an ex at some bar with his horrible new girlfriend!”

I don’t want to know he’s alive and well and has a new girlfriend, regardless of how ugly she is. If you see him in a terrible accident or being mauled by dogs, by all means, let me know. Otherwise, keep his happy goings-on to yourself, kthx.

Of course, I just smile and nod. “Yes, she must be horrible to date him, huh.” And we all laugh.

Even though it hurts to know he’s still living and breathing and capable of doing fun things, remember that your friends are just telling you because they care. When they see him out, they think of you, whether you like it or not. They want to tell you because it’s on the list of things they know you care about. Friends who really care about us are like living Google news feeds. They make lists of things they know we care about and then give us the news feed, whether it’s going to hurt our feelings or not.

I’ve had a similar problem with an ex and not wanting to hear or see anything about him, which is particularly difficult if you have some of the same Facebook friends. Nothing quite like going to post that you like someone’s status and seeing that your asshole ex already has. I don’t want to have my name on the same page as his. Why don’t my friends recognize this? How are they still friends with someone who was so clearly awful?

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I know this is what you'd really like to do. Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

But you can’t ask people to defriend others on Facebook, regardless of how much of an asshole said ex was to you and your family (and continues to be, for the record).  Just like you can’t ask your friends not to go to bars where your ex may show up.

So what I did was I blocked him. When you block someone on Facebook, you don’t see anything they post on other peoples’ pages, or anywhere on Facebook. Sometimes this can be quite funny, as when someone responds to something he’s written on one of their posts, and the response now looks like it was made to thin air. Thus I have made lemonade out of lemons. I have turned what was once a stomach-turning event of rehashing all the horrible things he’s done and continues to do into a funny scene, like watching a drunk bum talk to himself.

Of course, there is no “block” button in real life. And while you can tell your friends that it hurts your feelings to hear anything about him, you are going to have to steel yourself against the inevitable: they are going to see him and want to tell you about it. In fact, you may have to deal with actually seeing him yourself one day.

So let’s find you some lemonade punch to make. Maybe even a champagne punch with lemon zest.

Here’s how:

Be so fabulously happy in your own life that it doesn’t matter if he’s out with someone else. This takes time and practice and a straight face. Sometimes you have to act the part before you actually believe it. It will take time to stop caring about him. And you may never fully stop. But at some point there are going to be things that are more important. And that is what matters.

Start laughing if your friends tell you they’ve seen him out. Pretend they are drunk bums talking to themselves. Tell them you didn’t really want to know, but thanks for thinking of you. And laugh. If you can’t laugh about him or at him, laugh at how silly the situation is. Better yet, find something really funny that always makes you laugh, and laugh at that. Mine is a Strongbad Email from homestarrunner.com about writing a children’s book. If I need to break myself out of a mood, I simply say to myself: “No two people are not on fire.” Instant giggles.

And in time, the sting that he’s still out and about with all his limbs in tact hurts less because I’ve got my own life to live. And you do, too.

Of course, you could just dump all your friends and move to an exotic locale where no one knows you.

But that’s a bit over the top, don’t you think?


3 Responses to “more ex-etiquette”

  1. 1 damfino
    August 17, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    What is it with this human compulsion to impart information that they know, deep down, the listener would really rather not hear? Like during a bunny adoption event from an endless line of strangers: “I had a bunny, but…. he died,” and then proceeds to tell an obvious animal lover how their dog ripped the family bunny apart. Gee, thanks. I really wanted to hear that.

    Very nice post, Kat!

    • August 17, 2010 at 3:03 pm

      I think it’s the same compulsion as rubber necking. It’s just human nature. We see disaster and we want to do with it what we do best: talk about it. And you’re spot on with the bunny thing.

  2. 3 Consuelo
    August 17, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    Yo baby baby, you thought you could block me, but I’m here for my revenge! Muahahahahaha*cough*ahahahahaha!!!


    P.S. Will you be my girlfriend again?

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