The Hook Up: Jealous over an ex’s new flame

Hi Anna, I dated a bisexual. The relationship was pretty good. I was busy with work; she was busy studying for her Ph.D. thesis. Needless to say, things got stressful. Just after seven months, she ended the relationship saying we weren’t compatible and that she had to focus on her school work and didn’t have time to work out the kinks in our relationship. After the breakup, I was devastated. The rejection, feeling like you’re not worth someone’s time and effort just burns my soul. Mind you, I’m a 27-year-old lesbian and this was my first lesbian relationship. It was hers too. She dated five guys prior to me.

Now the bisexual factor. When she said that we weren’t compatible and needed space, just one month later I found out that she’s now dating a man! I was so hurt because she moved on so quickly and I assume that this guy is making her happy and I’m not. How could someone who said that they love women and felt disgusted by men suddenly want to date a guy? I feel so jealous of him. Am I wrong in feeling this way? It’s like I’m trying to constantly compare myself to him. I’m desperately trying to get over her but I feel so betrayed. Like our past doesn’t matter anymore.

Can you help me come to my senses?

Anna says: You’re not wrong to feel this way. You’re not wrong to feel any way, for that matter. Feelings are feelings, they all pass eventually. We’re told from an early age to try to avoid negative emotions: “Don’t cry!” “Don’t get upset.” And this does a lot of damage to us over the long run. There was a period of about two years when I couldn’t cry at all — not even during Steel Magnolias! — and when I tried, one pathetic tear would emerge, like my face was auditioning for All My Children. Later I realized that my lack of crying was partly because I had repressed my emotions so much that they were barely functioning. So you’d do good to not beat yourself up too much over the bad feelings you’re having.

That said, let’s put some things in perspective. It was your first gay relationship, which is a big deal, and it’s one that has an exaggerated sense of importance even if in actuality it wasn’t that significant. My first girlfriend and I lasted four months. We were terrifically incompatible. Basically all we did was eat fast food and watch Adult Swim. But I was still heartbroken when she ended things because I thought I’d “failed” at being a lesbian. I will tell you now that you’re not a failure. Just because this one thing didn’t work out doesn’t mean that you are “worthless” or “undesirable.” It’s just that this one thing didn’t work out. Lots of relationships fail all the time. It’s not a reflection of your self-worth or charms or how great you are at spooning.

You were both operating under stressful conditions. She was a little straighter than she led you to believe (though she did only date men before you). And you made the mistake of keeping in contact with this girl when you needed time and space to heal and get over her. (Though truth be told, you don’t say HOW you found out about her new guy. It’s possible you found out accidentally and not, say, by Facebook stalking or her telling you herself. If you haven’t cut off contact with her, do so now. If you have, then keep doing what you’re doing. It’ll help you to not stew in the jealous feelings.)

You’d do well to not compare yourself to this new guy, even though that may be difficult. I assure you it won’t do a lick to make you feel better about the situation or yourself. Comparing ourselves to our ex’s new flames, while tempting, is utterly pointless. Even if you do have better teeth, make more money, or know how to fold fitted sheets in less than 30 seconds, it’s not going to change the fact that the relationship is over. A trick I use when my own negative self-talk starts to arise is to tell myself that Evil Ex Monster Face is not thinking about me the way I am about her, and that the longer I am dwelling on it, the more power she has over me. This usually propels me out of it because I don’t like the thought of her “winning.”

I want you to try this the next time you start getting down on yourself. I want you to notice, and then I want you to tell yourself to knock it off. The more bad things we tell ourselves, the more we believe them, but the reverse is also true: The more good things we tell ourselves, the better we feel about ourselves. If you tell yourself you’re a unique, smart, worthy, awesome person, you will become that person. Sometimes changing our mindset actually changes our behaviors.

I am sorry the relationship didn’t work out, and if you need more time to mope and cry, then by all means, take that time. But try not to let it change how you see the world or yourself. Your past with this girl does matter, but it also doesn’t. That’s the nature of life. In 10 years, you’ll probably barely remember this incidence. This one heartbreak will be just a blip on the great fractured (but still beating) heart that is romantic relationships everywhere.

And just as an aside, please don’t automatically reject every bi-identified girl going forward because this one didn’t work out.

p.s.: And another aside to commenters past who have ragged on bisexuals and/or me: If you’re going to write long, righteous comments questioning my sexual identity based on an 800-word essay I wrote, please waste your time better. I’m flattered that you care enough to write such long missives, but the name-calling and the finger-pointing and the bickering about people “not being gay enough” because they once saw a penis or whatever has to stop. I know this is the Internet, but it’s a community too.

AfterEllen doesn’t just exist for us to swoon over gay TV characters, even though that’s really nice too (Frankie forever!). It’s to help us feel less alone, to help us be proud of ourselves and our diversity. And when we try to erase or police someone’s sexual identity because it doesn’t jibe with our notions of how gayness SHOULD be, it’s harmful to everyone. There’s no right way to love girls. There’s no right way to be bisexual or poly or Latina or religious or trans. We have to find our own way. That’s what queerness is about, and I’m hella proud to be part of all the love and messiness that entails, even though we’re mean to each other sometimes.

But since you asked, I’m a lesbian-identified bisexual who hasn’t dated a dude since high school, but has on occasion slept with them, often for a not great reason (loneliness, boredom, whiskey). Put another way, I’m 90% gay and 10% drunk.

Hailing from the rough-and-tumble deserts of southern Arizona, where one doesn’t have to bother with such trivialities as “coats” or “daylight savings time,” Anna Pulley is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. Find her at annapulley.com and on Twitter @annapulley. Send her your Hook Up questions at askthehookup@gmail.com.

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