I was recently engaging (ha) in the time-honored tradition of checking out my ex’s new partner on social media, when right there, in plain sight on her public Instagram page, I saw it: a photo featuring a diamond ring on that finger. After finally determining that I wasn’t, in fact, Elle Woods–style hallucinating, and this was really happening, I texted my closest friends a screenshot of the post, along with a handful of choice emojis to convey the dire extent to which I was freaking out, and then I burst into tears. (It should be noted that I am not really a crier, per se, unless I feel extreme emotions unexpectedly.) But, upon taking a step back from the situation, I had trouble articulating why I cared that my ex got engaged quickly, given that I believed myself to be over him.
We dated for eight years, and now he was engaged to a woman he’d been with for six months. Those are the facts of the situation, and I know, logically, that those facts don’t change that my ex and I are bad together nor make me want to be with him. So why did this news hit me so hard? I devoted countless journal pages to try and answer the question of “why do I care my ex got engaged quickly,” and came up blank, so I ultimately consulted licensed clinical psychologist Aimee Daramus, PsyD to help me gain clarity.
As it turns out, I’m not alone, and many people feel varying degrees of weird when they find out an ex got engaged quickly. “Getting past the breakup is great, but realizing that they’ve made a serious commitment to someone else? Sometimes you have to say goodbye to it on a new level,” Dr. Daramus says. “It can also bring up a lot of old insecurities, like wondering what’s wrong with you, or why someone else is ‘better’ than you.”
“Getting past the breakup is great, but realizing that they’ve made a serious commitment to someone else? It can bring up a lot of old insecurities.” —clinical psychologist Aimee Daramus, PsyD
Ding, ding, ding—it’s like Dr. Daramus was reading my mind. Because while I rationally understood that my ex’s new relationship had nothing to do with me, not comparing myself to his new partner seemed too tempting a toxic desire to not indulge. I spent the better part of the following week all in my head, trying to figure out how this woman was more than me, how she was so much better and amazing than me that she got a proposal after six months.
It’s also totally normal to experience these feelings, even if the ex in question wasn’t someone you were in love with, or in a long-term relationship with. “You might feel lonely or unwanted because you haven’t made that commitment to someone,” Dr. Daramus says, again reading my mind, adding that bouts of self-doubt following such a life update from any person of your past makes sense. But, validating those thoughts by considering them and then giving them life won’t help you find what you’re actually looking for in order to find happiness in your own life.
So, what can you do about it? First and foremost, try to remember all the reasons you wouldn’t have been happy with your ex in the long-term. Also enlist those in your social circle who were around to witness the relationship to chime in and reiterate those reasons.
And, of course, consider blocking your ex and their new partner on social platforms so you don’t have to see their updates. “Stalking your ex on social media too much will do more harm than good,” Daramus says. “If you can’t avoid it, do your best to scroll past.”
Most importantly, though, work to accept that having these emotions is normal and totally fine, but they shouldn’t get in your way of living and loving your best life. Feel your feelings, remember why you and your ex didn’t work out—and maybe blast some Lizzo for good measure.
Acting out your revenge fantasy on your ex won’t actually make you feel better. And these are the six big questions you should ask your partner before you get married (not saying that my ex should read this, but, like…).