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Hate is a strong word, but I really really really don’t like you…

12/05/2010

This morning, the Huffington Post posted this study about the benefits of hating your ex-significant other, from an article in the Chronicle on Higher Education. My immediate reaction was a mix — “well, duh” battled with “wait a second, isn’t that bitterness?”

Ultimately, though, I can see the benefit of this line of thinking. It’s really quite simple: if you are going through a break-up, the last thing you want to focus on is your former SO’s killer sense of humor, or the fact that he would bring you care packages whenever you get sick. If you are the dumper, spotlighting the best qualities of somebody you’ve removed from your life is a recipe for dumper’s remorse and could ultimately lead to poor rebound judgment. If you are the dumpee, on the other hand, those qualities will inevitably lead to sleepless nights in which you convince yourself that obviously you are unlovable or otherwise not good enough because if this prime example of humanity couldn’t stand you, who could?

Reminding yourself of your ex’s negative attributes, however, is an important first step to re-establishing or reconnecting with your individual identity. If he thought punctuality is a contagious disease, think of all the times that you had to shuffle plans around and/or cancel them because you were minus one. If every discussion turned into an argument because he trashed every opinion of yours that differed, remind yourself that you are worthy of respect and be glad that someone so unsupportive is now in your past. And of course, if he was bad in bed… ūüėČ

This is where we hit the line between necessary negativity and harmful bitterness. Calling out the poorer side of your ex should serve the greater purpose of allowing you to reaffirm who you are and what you will (and won’t) accept in future relationships. It is by and large a cleansing exercise — purposeful and temporary. Don’t cross the line by blowing up his phone with messages outlining every last flaw in his character. Don’t trash him to mutual friends and ask them to pick sides. Behavior like this will broadcast itself to your social circle and give you an unapproachable vibe that will make it difficult to connect with anybody who senses it.

Finally, don’t let the negativity suck you under — there is no set time frame for this sort of recovery, but if you notice that the negativity is seeping into other parts of your life, it’s time to stop. How? Every time a negative thought of him crosses your mind, consciously disregard it and replace it with a positive thought about yourself and your circumstances. I-statements, people! Cut out “he’s such a dog for cheating on me” and think “I respect myself and expect the same of others.”


Negativity is a necessary part of life — it restores balance, and can remind you of things you’ve forgotten in a haze of bliss. Just like too much pleasure, however, too much negativity can be more harm than help. Remember that, Negative Nancy, and you’ll be just fine.


*Read “he” as whatever gender you like.

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One comment

  1. […] ex-significant other could be a positive, identity reaffirming exercise if done properly (“Hate is a strong word…“). Little did I realize then that just over a month later I would be in the position to […]



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