Getting over your ex ain’t easy

Image by the brilliant Stuart F Taylor

I’ve lost count now of the number of exes I’ve stared at across a pub table and thought ‘God, I wish you were inside me right now.’ Chances are if I’ve fucked you once I’ll probably be up for another go, and having a casual pint with you and discussing your job/wedding/newborn baby is not going to do anything to help distract me from the fact that I once tasted your dick and it was goooood. But this isn’t about ex-lust, it’s about getting over your ex. It’s about the feeling you get when someone amazing has gone, and it feels like nothing will ever fill the cavernous, throbbing hole bored straight through your heart.

The various stages of getting over your ex

I don’t want to be one of those people who gives advice on getting over your ex that amounts simply to ‘give it time.’ I think whether it’s unrequited love, lust that simply never came to anything, or a long-term relationship that was with you for years, everyone’s going to have their own ways to deal with it. Some of you might feel better remaining friends with your ex-partners, others might want to cut all ties. A few will want to fill the void with vigorous masturbation and gin while you sit alone in the flat. Others will email all their friends with the subject line ‘BARMAGEDDON’ and insist on partying until you simply don’t care about your ex any more.

When I break up with someone (or they break up with me), if it’s significant then I’ll usually go through a few stages:

  • Disbelief. How could this possibly happen when we were so awesome? This phase is usually accompanied by a few long nights spent chatting to them over wine, and picking apart whether there’s anything worth saving from the wreckage of our love. Usually also involves a fair few intense fucks to try and remember each other by.
  • Relief. I can get on with my life now! This phase includes (but is not limited to) emailing all my friends, going out far more than is healthy, and most likely setting up a profile on whichever online dating site yields the swiftest return on investment.
  • Sadness. I miss the way he used to… This phase lasts for ages, and includes clothes-sniffing, or occasionally emailing him with things that I pretend are super-important but actually aren’t (example: “Your name is still on the British Gas bill. Want me to take it off?” OF COURSE he does because he doesn’t live there any more. I could have known this without emailing just so I could read his sweet sweet words).
  • Anger. That prick took X years of my life! Except he didn’t, of course, because I chose to spend those years with him. But this phase is entirely irrational, and often comes mixed up in the ‘sadness’ phase mentioned above. Usually involves swearing, and getting drunk with my Mum so I can ask her what she REALLY thought.

At some point, there’ll come stages like ‘resignation’ or ‘acceptance’ or ‘being able to go for beers with them without wanting to touch their cock under the table’, but I’m not going to try and predict when that’ll come. It usually does though. Eventually.

More to the point, eventually there comes an even more bizarre stage: the stage where you look at them over the pub table and wonder why the fuck you fancied them in the first place. Sure, they’re hot, but they’re also annoying. Every gesture seems calculated to piss you off. Their politics – fuck! You thought they were so lefty and yet they’ve just let slip a comment worthy of Jeremy Clarkson.

Goodbye forever

I mention this only because I recently had a chat with someone on Twitter about the permanence of saying goodbye. ‘Bye forever’ can seem terrifying in its permanence. One of the saddest things about my favourite ex is that we shared so many cool experiences – we travelled together, we had lots of ‘firsts’ (first spanking, for instance, or first time at a swingers’ club). We even learned a new language together – or rather he learned a new language, I picked up swearwords in bars, but still: there are words and phrases I used to use with him that I can’t use now without looking like a pretentious wanker. Shutting the door completely on him means never having anyone to share those stories with.

I mourned those things, through all those different stages. And at each and every stage I realised that I’d never truly get over him. There’d never be a day where I’d wake up and feel nothing.

I think I used to believe that getting over your exes was about getting to that point. You gradually work through all the sadness, anger, nostalgia, happiness, and whatever else your heart kicks out when you break up, then one day you dust off your hands and declare yourself finished. And while that can sometimes be a comforting thing to aim for, it can also be terrifying. When you’re in the early stages the idea of saying ‘goodbye forever’ and actually meaning it can be what prevents you from breaking things off. I clung on because I loved the things we did, and I enjoyed reminiscing about the feel of his dick inside me. ‘Getting over’ him seemed far too final.

But it’s not that: it’s never gone forever. Some of them you need to see occasionally, others you need to avoid, a few you need to bitch about with your mates in secret then hug awkwardly if you run into them at a party. Still others you’ll never see again – not on facebook or in real life, or even mentioned briefly in casual conversation with your mates, yet they’ll be sitting in your memories.

I’ve said a hell of a lot of goodbyes but no one’s disappeared completely. So if there’s a point to this rambly post, it’s this: if it’s the idea of ‘goodbye forever’ that is filling you with dread, don’t worry: you’ll always carry something with you. Some easy shit, some hard shit. Fun times, arguments, kinks, skills you’ve picked up together. Funny stories about This One Time My Ex Did This. Or horrible stories about This One Time My Ex Did That. The way they kissed. The smell of their t-shirt after a morning run. The taste of their dick.

I’ve gone through so many stages that none of this feels nostalgic any more. Or happy, sad, angry, or resentful. It’s neither good nor bad: it just is.


  • RB says:

    I completely identify with the ‘Christ, they’re annoying’ stage – it was after breaking up with my ex that I realised all the things I’d had affection for in the past really made him look incredibly irritated from the outside. It’s a cliché that love pulls the wool over your eyes, but it’s true.

  • rare deeds says:

    “vigorous masturbation and gin”

    Jeezoh – I don’t want to have to rely on a breakup for this – I mean, top gin & top wanking is pretty much up there.

    (Old Raj, for the record)

    • Girl on the net says:

      Ha, good point! To be fair, my masturbation and gin routine is pretty much the same when I’m happy, it’s just done in a different spirit.

  • Uil says:

    Do you think you’re an alcoholic?

  • sarah says:

    in a book i once read many years ago, so many years ago that i can’t remember what book it was which is really annoying as i’d like to know, two characters were parting and the author noted the distinction between farewell or goodbye, i also can’t remember which, and its seeming finality, and au revoir, which literally means until we see each other again. this post reminds me of that, how some relationships are definitely a goodbye and others an au revoir. there’s hope in one, and i suppose relief in the other.

  • Hazelthecrow says:

    Thanks GOTN, I needed to read exactly this, right now. I’m hurting now while I can’t bear the thought that one ex might edit out the good memories I will always carry with me or remember only my eorse qualities; I’m reminded to be grateful for another’s ongoing friendship, and that its for the best if I don’t cross paths with another, for both of our mental health. I love my current beau wholeheartedly, but am realising that for me at least, past love never fades completely, and the healthiest thing -for me – is to let the relationship simply change form. My loves are always going to be part of me, and that’s ok.

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