Kelsey Barnes

Why I Decided To Befriend My Ex’s Ex

I was tired of hating someone I didn’t know and who didn’t deserve my anger

My boyfriend left me for another girl.

These are the words that echoed loudly in my mind for 10 months. When my boyfriend of two years had broken up with me, he'd made it quite light; there wasn’t a lot of yelling or bitterness. I was sad, but I accepted it. I told myself that sometimes people change and grow apart, and maybe that was what had happened.

Then I found out a week later that he was with a girl from one of his classes –- a girl that I speculated him to be interested in a month prior to us breaking up. I didn’t know how to react properly. My first long-term boyfriend had just broken up with me for another girl -- what was I supposed to do with this information? What do I do with all of these conflicting emotions? Naturally, in a society that suggests women should compete with one another for everything from jobs to potential suitors, I took aim at the new girl. I let all of the feelings of hurt that I had toward my ex fuel my obsession with hating this girl. Being passed over for someone else, whether it’s in gym class, in a friend group, or in love and relationships, is the worst feeling. You want to be the best option. You want to be the only option.

But my obsession with hating her was directly linked to how unhealthy my relationship had been -- and it had been codependent, smothering, and a constant struggle to meet his approval. He wanted me around 24/7. His love, or lack of it, was something I was desperately trying to grasp. I tried to keep him happy –- I started seeing everyone else less and him more. I spent more time at his house and tried to be the girl he wanted. My insecurities from that relationship heightened even more when he decided the girl he wanted wasn’t me.

For a while, I hurt a lot. I tried hard not to search her name on Instagram or Twitter. Seeing photos and @replies stung, but hate-lurking wasn’t helping me. I was just asking to be hurt over and over again. I started realizing that I was stunting my own growth and ability to move on from a relationship that wasn’t healthy and that I didn't even want to be in anymore. To quote the incomparable Cheryl Strayed, "romantic love is not a competitive sport." We don’t have to compete to find it.

I woke up one morning and decided to be done with it. I was tired of allowing a failed relationship to affect me this much. I was tired of being the shell of someone who used to be so loving, so positive, and who preached girl power. I was tired of hating someone I didn’t know and who didn’t deserve my anger. Even during all of my hate-lurking, I knew that if the circumstances were different, this girl and I would’ve been amazing friends. They ended up breaking up after around the same amount of time my relationship with him lasted. At that point, I was months into being lurk-free and in a much better headspace.

Then I woke up one morning with an email from her titled "My Sincere Apology." She was asking for forgiveness for going after someone already in a relationship. I asked for her forgiveness for acting immature and hurtful, even if I was never public about it. I told her that she had nothing to apologize for –- boys (and society) can make us do things that don’t sit well with us.

It wasn't until months later that I saw how unhealthy my relationship with my ex had been. It was through exchanges with this "other girl" that I realized how isolated I felt in the aftermath of my relationship. I found solace in her stories because they matched up with mine. Her relationship had been just as toxic as mine, and she validated my feelings. During one of our first texting conversations, she said, “It’s so nice to be able to talk about it with someone who understands, because sometimes I try to tell people and they just can’t grasp what I went through.”

Last week we met up for coffee. It was like meeting up with a girl you’ve known for ages –- and not just because I had spent way too much time obsessing over her. We joke about things no one else understands and remind each other of our worth. We've torn down the constructed story of girl vs. girl and made it a much better story with a much better ending. We became something he would’ve hated for us to become: great friends.

Kelsey Barnes

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