When some women announce they are getting married, something happens in the definitive closure of the gates that strikes strong feelings in the hearts of ex-girlfriends everywhere.
You and your ex may be friends. You may even be invited to the wedding! You may have resigned the majority of your hard feelings, and your sense of sentimentality has folded in on itself, like the T-shirts she gave you worn soft and curled up in the back of your drawer.
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But weddings are one of the big ways that we mark the passing of time, and while you can remember your months or years together, you may have marked the years passing since by remembering where you were in relation to one another. You have been slow drift from one another since, and there may still be some unease in the mostly steady connection the two of you maintain.
There is also the documented history of the time after your breakup to now.
We document and embed the history of our romantic relationships and it becomes public domain. The story of what happens after we break up becomes very private, with little corroboration or parties willing to agree with you that yes, that is what happened.
You remember that birthday, shortly after you broke up, and she came late to your party and only stayed a short while and you both cried.
That time when your friendship was still tenuous, and you mentioned having a bad day on social media, and she sent you a bunch of pictures of dogs wearing vests, which is your favorite thing.
You remember when you knew that she started dating somebody seriously a few months after the two of you broke up, and the ways you began piecing apart this new person, to see the ways that you two were similar and different, and howled to your friends about how this was clear evidence of your inadequacies.
Hopefully, you have become a more confident person in the years gone by. Or in her willingness to be out to her family, who have welcomed this new person in a way that they never welcomed you. The memories of those struggles can get kicked when we see out exes living very different lives than the futures we imagined with them.
It’s tough to let go of the stories we learn from our early relationships.
One of the most common things people do is look into the past to forecast the future about their relationship future and prospects. People have a hard time believing that a cheating ex, a tendency toward miscommunication, a discrepancy of libido in the past is not a prediction for what will take place in the future.
How many friends do you have that say “Women always leave me” or “I’m a fuckbuddy until they meet somebody they get real with.” How many of you are walking around with these stories about yourself?
We are good at internalizing narratives that people will leave us, that conflict is dangerous, that your friends always bail and choose her when the two of you break up. These things have happened to us in the past, and we try to protect ourselves by anticipating it in the future.
It is difficult to let go of the story between the two of you and what it meant to you. We imprint on people and make the stories about our relationships the story about who we really are.
The past is a very real portend into the history of what made you who you are, but it doesn’t necessarily predict the future.
The fact your ex is getting married doesn’t actually mean something about you or your capacity to find love or meet somebody new that you like. In all the dumb tweetable decorations and mason jar cocktails and sand sculptures and fair trade wedding dresses and enormous tissue paper flowers, there are people getting married because they love each other.
But love is not a zero-sum game.
They have not suddenly become a black hole that sucks love away from everywhere else in the universe. You get to be present for these folks, and you also are on your own journey toward love, and toward connection, and toward finding yourself and the person who you want to be, and who you want to be with. There is enough love in the world for all of the women of your checkered past, and yourself, as well.
Maria Turner-Carney is a therapist and writer in Seattle. Follow her work at seattlefeministtherapy.com/blog.