On Ask Polly: My Ex Dumped Me Callously And I Can't Get Over It!

Way too long comment here, but god this resonated with me. When I was 27 my loving, supportive, committed, 7 year relationship suddenly collapsed after I moved interstate for a fantastic job (like an hour plane ride away, not the ends of the earth). Although my ex was initially very keen to move over, our relationship began to unravel in a drawn out whimper that lasted months. This culminated in me finding out that during our 6 week 'break' he had started dating someone and had just 'hoped' a mutual friend would let me know.

Like the LW, I was very fixated on on the manner of the dumping, right down to the focus on the fact that I was denied dignity in the process. God I think I used the exact phrase to my therapist and my friends.

I did get to sit down with him 6 months after it all happened and I did actually tell him how much he had hurt me and how weakly he had behaved. It didn't come from a place of anger but more a desire to have him bear witness to the damage that he had done (something he had completely avoided). He was kind, he was apologetic, he admitted that he had done the wrong thing, he claimed that our break up had changed his self-perception. And yet, for me there was no resolution. If anything, meeting with him caused a whole bunch of my wounds to reopen and probably made my break-up recovery take far longer. He wasn't a jerk, he wasn't devastated, he simply was... It was anti-climatic - I do believe on some level that he felt bad, but in that moment he would never feel bad enough for me. Outlining my pain was satisfying, but it didn't fix things or give me closure.

Even if you get the meeting, even if 'John' acknowledges that he was a bastard, it doesn't erase anything. It just lays bare the fact that people are selfish and sometimes people, even people we love, do crappy things to one another for no particularly reason (indeed, I would argue that in the end we ALL unthinkingly hurt other people). Most of the time that comes from a place of selfishness or narcissism, but sometimes it can just be unthinking cruelty. And even if he apologised, even if he let you know that this weighs on him and he continues to feel terrible about the manner of the dumping - Would you truly believe him? Would it change the way that the end of the relationship figures in your inner world?

Where I think Polly's advice is fantastic is this point: 'He got tied into some story in your mind, a story about how people leave you, unexpectedly, for no good reason at all.' We create narratives which prioritise certain points. Some events have meaning because they 'fit' a story that seems to say something about ourselves and our future happiness. My therapist tried to tell me this over and over again and for a while I could not listen. My narrative centred on low self-esteem and a long history of depression and major issues with abandonment. For me the brutal dumping was made more damaging because deep down inside, I thought that I got what I deserved and this is what life would always be like.

Therapy, adjusting my medication, time, and exploring who I wanted to be were the things that gave me closure. Focusing on changing my inner narratives, or at least not giving so much weight to the the negative chatter, these things helped the dumping and the person fade from view. A lot of this was triggered by the fact that I didn't want to give my ex any more power over my mental and emotional state - I didn't want to let my sense of self be defined by how I was dumped. I also realised that bitterness towards my ex and his new girlfriend did not make _me_ feel better. In fact focusing on the dumping, or on his new relationship, often seemed to be a way to make myself feel bad. It probably took about 18 months all up until I felt 'free'. There were a lot of dark spots where all I could do was work and then curl up in a ball, but whenever I felt the darkness lift I tried to explore and bring into being the 'new' me, not defined by her ex or the negative inner chatter. After all, the more I held on to my grief and sadness about how I was dumped and how my ex had hurt me, the bigger I made those things and the more weight I gave them in my inner narratives.

When my healing was done, I had a moment that was almost ecstatic. I'd spontaneously travelled to another country to spend 2 weeks with dear friends, and I was at a club. I ended up separated from my friends for a bit and I was wildly dancing to terrible music. In that moment, I just had this moment of profound joy and independence and calm and compassion. I realised I was so happy with who I was now and where I was in life, and I felt wildly, truly free.

Posted on January 15, 2014 at 11:39 pm 7