Sunday, November 19, 2017
Parenting & Relationships

Ex-boyfriend's life has nothing to do with your happiness

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Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Q: Six years ago, I got involved with a guy. It was brief, intense and ended terribly, with me devastated and hurt. I never received any acknowledgment that he'd been so callous.

Anyway, I wouldn't get involved with him again if he wanted to — not out of spite, just lack of interest — but I find myself resentful of his apparent happiness. He was recently married, and I keep thinking, "Why does he get to have that happiness and I don't?"

This, coming from an existentialist, who doesn't believe in things like karma.

Nevertheless, I am plagued by what feels like unfairness.

He was cruel and now he seems to have one of the things I've wanted my entire conscious life.

I suppose it seems strange that a brief interlude would affect me so profoundly, but I was honest and vulnerable with him — the first time in a long time — and given how quickly and absolutely I became an afterthought, I may as well have been Longfellow's crushed wild flower to him. It was terrible.

Moving On (or Not)

Carolyn: I don't think cruel people hit the lottery — or, at least, my definition of it, which is a life of emotional intimacy.

Alternately, someone who received a comeuppance or two for bad deeds done, and grew from the experience, is capable of intimacy, but then it wouldn't be a lottery hit, it would be as deserved as anyone's happiness is.

There's a shorter answer, of course — the course of his life has no relation to or bearing on you. That's a connection your hurt feelings (and soft spot for romantic narratives?) are nagging you to make.

Anonymous: Both the question and response seemed very petty to me. She's not happy because someone she feels wronged her past has a happy life and she doesn't. You try to comfort her by saying an anvil may drop on his head.

A breakup is rarely one-sided. Perhaps she should reflect on why her happiness seems to be contingent on the relative happiness of others. Maybe this guy's happy because he moved on. Perhaps she should do the same to find her own happiness.

Carolyn: Er. Okay, can't argue with any of the moving on stuff, but you misrepresent what I said. I said it's possible he doesn't have what she wants, or has it and deserves it. And that neither has anything to do with her, ultimately.

Moving On, again: If he did have some sort of reckoning, then his absent apology suggests that he thinks I'm so irrelevant it's not necessary. It's difficult for me not to get tied up in how those I value(d) treat(ed) me and transmute that into a valuation of my worth. But I'm working on it. After struggling with depression from my early teens for 13 years, it's taking a while to change the depressive thought process.

Carolyn: If it helps, some people choose not to go back and apologize because it feels presumptuous to assume you even care so many years later. This space has seen countless such instances, described from both sides.

Again: His carrying on with his life has no bearing on your making the best of your own.

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