In my 30 + years of working with clients, I have heard those words at least a thousand times. And based on all that experience, I have one piece of advice for those who use, or even think, that phrase:
Stop it. NOW!
Maybe your relationship ended ugly, but it obviously didn’t start that way or it wouldn’t have been a relationship at all. When you dismiss the whole experience of loss over a relationship that was, at some point, what you wanted, you miss the opportunity to learn from it, grow out of it, and grieve the parts that attracted you to, and kept you with, your ex.
Breakups are painful, and it is natural that you want to avoid the process of letting go of someone you once loved. BUT…. Summing it up by calling your ex “crazy”, “psycho”, “lunatic” and stopping there won’t help you. In fact, it does a couple detrimental things to you.
First, it gives others the impression that you are either attracted to unstable partners/relationships and/or you see yourself as blameless in interactions. Neither of these bring good people closer, but they sure seem to bring the next “wacko” ex! And sure, trash talking someone who hurt you is temporarily satisfying, but ultimately brings you no closer to health or recovery.
Instead, it keeps you from being introspective about how you participated, even if it’s only by tolerating bad behavior. That’s a recipe for replicating patterns from the “crazy ex” in your future partnerships. Did you perhaps ignore early warning signs, tell yourself stories that made it “ok just this time”, continue to return to conflicts in yet another attempt to be heard? Those behaviors are common and not necessarily bad until they are in excess of what is good for you.
Taking a hard look at your part, asking trusted friends (who have the backbone to tell you what they really think) what they observed, and thinking about how you got and stayed in the relationship are all good uses of your emotional energy. Looking in the rearview mirror with judgment, including about yourself, will do you no good. However, compassionately and firmly holding yourself accountable for times you didn’t look out for yourself will go a long way in setting you up for better health.
Equally important is allowing yourself to grieve the good parts of the relationship and the future you imagined you would have with your former partner. Freshly out of a breakup, this may be hard to process so give yourself time, but don’t put it off too long. And don’t indulge in anger, criticizing, name-calling and blaming when what you really feel is sadness. You may also feel really disoriented – for the duration of your relationship you made plans around someone else. Where you live, how much and when you work, hobbies you engage in may all have some shift and you need to be present to manage this in a healthy way.
You can recover, find your way to healthier connections and relationships…but only if you work on your side of it…YOUR health, YOUR patterns, and YOUR part. Your ex is just that, EX. Don’t continue to rent them space in your brain!