I’m Still Mad at My Ex: How Can I Get over It?

woman holding cow skull

Q: Five years ago, my then-fiancé broke things off five weeks before we were supposed to be married. To make a long story short, it was ugly. We owned our home together, and ended up having to settle things via attorneys, which took over two years; he had been having an inappropriate relationship with another woman, yet the vast majority of our friends ended up siding with him on the basis that they knew him first. To make things worse, I had lost my job just a couple of weeks before the breakup. That plus the wedding debts I ended up saddled with left me homeless, jobless, and seriously screwed. Basically, it sucked. If it weren’t for the kindness of a few truly awesome friends and family members, I don’t know how I would have ever gotten back on my feet.

Fast forward to present day, and we are married to other people. I don’t think about him all that often, but whenever I do, I am completely overcome by the urge to punch him in the face. While I am so thankful that I didn’t marry him—my husband is about a billion times better for me, and all in all, we have a wonderful, fantastic life together—part of me is just still so angry. I am angry that I spent several years of my life when my friends were going on fun vacations and buying cars and houses paying back the debts for the lavish wedding he insisted we have; angry that I lost some wonderful friends to him; angry that he still lives in our dream home that we bought together; angry that, because of the financial situation the breakup caused, my husband and I had a practically non-existent wedding budget. Most of all, I am angry at myself that, even after five years and a marriage, I still go through periods from time to time where I let the anger over the ex get to me.

So, my question is: What does one do with all of this anger after an engagement (or marriage) ends? Do I confront him? Actually punch him in the face? (Just kidding!) Continue to passively be angry for the rest of my life? How do I let this go?

—Still All Dramatic Over Nixed Engagement

A: Dear SAD ONE,

Alright, that story is completely nuts and has me pissed off for your sake. So, forgive yourself for being angry. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t be angry about that crap. Five years is not a huge distance from that sort of traumatic experience—especially one that’s impacted so much of your life. The fact that you’re still carrying around a bit of anger just sounds flat normal, to me. Getting over stuff takes time. And I’m sure you will, given that time! But, don’t ask too much of yourself too fast, you know? Besides, being mad at yourself for being mad just creates a whole nasty cycle of emotion that doesn’t altogether make much sense.

While we’re doing all of this self-forgiveness, maybe think about whether or not you need to forgive yourself for getting into that terrible situation with that guy. I’m not trying to point fingers here. Usually when I’m fuming mad at someone, it’s because deep down, I’m pretty pissed with myself for letting them do that awful thing to me. Dig around and see if that’s the case, and you know, let yourself off the hook.

I do get it, though. You wasted enough time on that relationship and recovering from that relationship, it feels like a waste to continue to dwell in those unhappy thoughts. It almost seems that it’s one more thing he’s continuing to ruin for you, right? So, how to handle that anger when it creeps up?

Personally, I can let go of things better when I’m allowed to just take a few minutes to be really stinking pissed-off ANGRY. To vent, to yell, to cry angry tears, to get it all out of my system, and then to be done with it. It also might help to be open with your husband. Sometimes it seems best to not mention exes and past relationships, but if this one is particularly bugging you, it might help to loop him in. “I’m just so pissed at Ex today!” You guys are tied together to help one another with crap, and that includes the burdens of the past, if they’re still causing a problem today.

Another way to handle things is to find a tangible symbol for removing this guy and the whole messy situation from your mind. You could write down what’s pissing you off, and then crumple up that piece of paper and throw it in the garbage (I use the same method for when I’m worrying about something). Or, I had a friend who would write down the offending person’s name, and put it in the freezer.

Another idea is to use all of that angry energy to do something productive. I’m an expert at angry-cleaning (you should SEE my bathroom after a really good fight with my husband) but I’ve heard the same works for running, painting, gardening, and writing music. You could even bake some cookies (and send them over here, if you’re not feeling hungry).

The point is—do whatever you need to get past the brief moments of rage so you can move on and heal in the long run. (Well, “whatever” short of punching him in the nose or setting his house on fire.) None of the stuff above is prescriptive; it’s just a few ideas of what might work. I mean, maybe your thing is buying some thrifted china and smashing it against a wall, who knows. Being angry and then expressing and venting the energy that comes with it is healthy.

Allow yourself the room to experience that natural, healthy emotion in response to this terrible thing that happened. And then find a constructive way to wrap it up without wallowing. But, if it seems that these bouts of anger are happening pretty regularly or are starting to really overwhelm you, it may be a good idea to set an appointment with a counselor. While there’s nothing wrong with feeling angry and hurt about this junk that happened, it could help you manage that anger and hurt. Without punching him in the nose, I mean.


Team Practical, how do you get over built up anger from the past? What do you do to shake resentment at an ex?

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!

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  • Kristen

    I’m actually dealing with this same problem in regards to someone other than my ex. My therapist recommended writing them a letter where I just empty it all out. Just say everything I want to scream at them WHILE punching them in the face. Only I prefer to fantasize about stabbing them in the face, because it seems like it would hurt more.

    I also actually use this for when I’m angry at a friend or my husband. It lets me get out all the nasty, ugly stuff I’m feeling, express it and then I get to move past it. After I’ve done this, its like magic, the anger lessens. And if I still need to express my anger to say my hubby, its way less BIG and dark.

    With big stuff, like your problem or the one I’m currently dealing with, it can take time. It can take years. I didn’t have anywhere near this bad a break up with my ex but just over the $500 cell bill he racked up 3 years ago before I got him off my account makes me want to kick him in the leg really hard. And I barely remember this person. Anger is there for a lot of reasons and one is it protects what’s underneath the anger. If after 5 years you still feel so ragey, maybe it’d be a good idea to consider talking to a therapist.

    • One More Sara

      I really like the idea of writing a letter to your ex about everything you are still mad about. This might be obvious, but just don’t send it right away. Write it, wait a few days, and then read it again. If you still feel like you want to send it to him, by all means, do it. But sometimes after the rage has passed, you might not feel it’s necessary (and crumpling up the letter and throwing it out could be a tangible symbol like Liz was talking about. Personally, I really like to burn those papers, but that isn’t always safe)

      • Kristen

        Oh! Uh, I guess I should have clarified that what I’m talking about is not to be sent. These letters are just a catharsis for yourself. Sending a letter means making a connection and in cases like this, it seems like a connection will only lead somewhere bad. But I guess its totally up to the writer of said letter to determine whether to send. I never send my letters because they’re the written version of punching (or stabbing) someone in the face and therefore not appropriate.

      • SarahToo

        I was in a situation where I was extremely pissed off at a guy who handled my heart with a great deal of callousness, and I agree about the theraputic value of writing and angry letter (but not delivering it). Rather than burn it, I took a long walk to the top of a waterfall, folded the letter into a paper airplane, and threw it into the churning water. Watching my angry words symbolically drift over the edge and vanish into the spray was a huge relief, and turning my nasty memories into a goofy paper airplane was both cathartic and made me grin. It felt like a way of saying “ok, you shredded my heart, but I refuse to take you seriously anymore” Or something. Anyway, it helped. Sometimes humour is a great way of taking the edge off a painful relationship.

      • SarahToo

        I was in a situation where I was extremely pissed off at a guy who handled my heart with a great deal of callousness, and I agree about the theraputic value of writing an angry letter (but not delivering it). Rather than burn it, I took a long walk to the top of a waterfall, folded the letter into a paper airplane, and threw it into the churning water. Watching my angry words symbolically drift over the edge and vanish into the spray was a huge relief, and turning my nasty memories into a goofy paper airplane was both cathartic and made me grin. It felt like a way of saying “ok, you shredded my heart, but I refuse to take you seriously anymore” Or something. Anyway, it helped. Sometimes humour is a great way of taking the edge off a painful relationship.

    • Not Sarah

      Gmail drafts are AMAZING for this. I never put anyone in the “to”, “cc”, or “bcc” lines just to be safe.

    • Rebekah

      I legitimately did this yesterday for my landlady/former boss. She has this way of just making me feel really bad about myself, so I typed out a letter to her in a Word doc, printed it, wrote over it in sharpie, then shredded it (and deleted the doc, of course).

      I felt better. Then I was able to send a calm and mature response to her.

    • In high school my best friend and I made up the candle-burning ritual when one of our relationships dissolved in a fit of agony and drama as high school relationships often do. We’d buy a little candle and (in a controlled environment) burn it. While it burned we’d cry, yell, scream, punch pillows, eat ungodly amounts of junk food, etc. My BFF used to write the name of the offender on the candle itself. I used to stare at the flame and imagine the flame consuming my entire relationship–I’d offer up memories and drop them in the flames. (I am, uh…highly imaginative). We’d carry on like this until the candle had burned away.

      Did all of our anger and sadness and issues melt away into the candle wax? No. But it was super cathartic to spend an hour or two (or however long–sometimes we bought BIG candles) just getting. it. all. out. That kind of stuff can poison you. You have to flush it out when you can.

      Plus? Super great bonding time with my bestie! (Although I’ve done it on my own plenty of times, too).

  • Laura

    Wow, that sure is rough. While I haven’t been through anything like your situation, I have been through the part where the ex gets the friends because he knew them longer. It sucked. I’d just graduated from college and my closest friends no longer lived nearby. All the people I was hanging out with regularly were our “mutual” friends. So when it was over, it was like I not only broke up with my boyfriend, but a huge chunk of friends broke up with me. We didn’t hang out, we didn’t talk, they unfriended me on facebook. Stupid little things, but they hurt and can really get to you.
    So I guess what I’m saying is, on a small level, I get what you’re feeling. My breakup was 3 years ago now, and I’m happily engaged to my soul mate, and have wonderful new friends in addition to the faithful old friends who have always stuck by me. But it still hurts when I see the old friends that picked him hanging out with my ex on Facebook. It hurts and that’s ok. And when I think about all the amazing people in my life now, it doesn’t hurt nearly as much.

    • Steph

      Laura, I can definitely relate (although it’s only been a year for me)…when I ended my engagement and broke up with my then-fiance, all of our mutual friends went with him. Granted, all of our mutual friends had been friends with him long before I came around, so it makes sense, but that unfortunately did not make it any easier for me to lose all those great friends. I’m happy with the wonderful guy I’m dating now, but I’m still trying to get out of the mindset that I *deserved* to lose all those friends for breaking up with someone I was supposed to marry in six months (who was absolutely not the right person for me).

      • dragonzflame

        Me too. When I (amicably) ended my relationship with my ex and moved out of the city we’d been living in, none of the people I thought were our friends even asked if I was okay. One of those people was my childhood and high school best friend, who was in a relationship with (now married to) one of his friends.

        Six years later, that still hurts.

        • Steph

          Ouch. :(

          Unfortunately I don’t know anyone in real life who has had this happen to them, so it’s not even something I feel like my friends could relate to if I try to talk to them about it (and I don’t have a lot of friends where I live now). It’s nice to find a few others around here on APW who can relate.

        • Not Sarah

          That sucks. I lost a huge circle of friends when my ex and I broke up, one friend of whom was someone who I’d known since college and had introduced my ex and I. That friend later moved to another city, so it’s not such a big deal anymore. Funny story though, one of my closest female friends went to high school with a friend of my ex’s and I met her at a moving party I was at with my ex. We’ve stayed friends. It’s kind of awkward explaining to future boyfriends how I met her though…

          The friend that introduced us? Told me that he didn’t want to listen to my complaining about my ex because he was still friends with the guy. I stopped speaking to him for many months after that.

  • A friend once remarked to me that forgiveness, at least for enormous wrongs like this one, is a journey rather than a destination. We make the choice to forgive, but then we have to keep choosing it, over and over. Lingering anger or sorrow doesn’t mean you’re not in the process of forgiveness; they just highlight that it is, indeed, a process.

    Also, I like Liz’s advice that some righteous anger is okay here. Let it out since pent up anger tends to turn inward and become depression if you can’t express it in healthful and healing ways.

    • AliceB

      I agree wholeheartedly. I feel like I was reading my own story, down to being left with only a few solid friendships, only I’m 10 years removed (and it wasn’t a house and a wedding, but another huge financial obligation that left me broke). My husband knows all about it, which helps- but what really has helped is time, and knowing I have every right to be angry, and to occasionally vent my anger over past wrongs, but also to let the anger pass and realize that the majority of the time I forget that he was even a part of my life. I now chalk it up to a lesson learned (no one will ever get so far down the road of mistreating me again, without me walking away) and dwell on how much better off I am.
      That being said, of course I still have moments when I’d love to punch him in the face. I embrace those moments in order to remember the lesson.

  • I don’t have much to say other than to echo Liz in saying you’re completely justified in your anger, even five years after the fact. I can’t imagine trying to get over all of that, and the fact that you found a good man and stabile love shows you’ve already found the ability to heal. Like Sharon said above, it’s a journey and you’ll get farther and farther away from it. Good luck, and know that most if not all of the APW community would punch your ex in the face if we could!

  • I’m going to go out on a limb here and you might hate me for it, but how about trying to be thankful to him? I know, it’s crazy but think about it: if he hadn’t called off the wedding you probably would have been married for at least a year before you called it quits (or longer!) and then the time frame would have been all off. You probably would have ended up spending more money (although it sounds like you spent a lot) and you would just now be coming out of it five years later. And you wouldn’t be with the person you’re with now, who is so much better for you.

    So try (just try) to be thankful that he showed his true colors when he did and you got to come out on the other side a better person (with a better person, with friends who you know will stick by your side, better with money, etc etc etc).

    Too crazy? My next suggestion is egg and TP the m-fers house next halloween. Make it really messy.

  • KC

    So sorry you’re dealing with this.

    I think everyone’s best approach will be different, but what seems, maybe, to work best for me is:
    1. give it time (ignore it, leave it alone, let it heal as much as it can, avoid getting trapped in thought-cycles where you’re just running over the same ground).
    2. at increasingly long intervals, at points where you’re generally stable, open it back up and process it linearly for a short period of time (take it out of its metaphorical box-at-the-back-of-the-closet, see what’s there, get mad, go “yeah, that sucks. I am angry about X, Y, and Z. I can do A about this. I cannot do anything about B. C will continue to get smaller or less important as time goes on.”). Do not let yourself get caught in thinking in circles – change mental topics whenever you find yourself on repeat. When you’re mostly repeating, end this step; it’s no longer useful.
    3. find the things you are grateful for in your life now and the things you have made progress on since last time and the things you can do now.
    4. put that metaphorical box away again (don’t think about it, kick him out of your mind, don’t let yourself get stuck in angry circles) for a period of time, like several years (you know you are “allowed” to get mad about it at a later date, so you don’t have to bother with it right now). If it’s helpful, think of it as not giving him any more of your time/energy/life; if that just makes you feel bad since you’re having trouble getting him entirely out of your head, remember that processing traumatic experiences is hard and takes time/energy for everyone, even though that’s not fair.
    5. repeat, at increasingly longer intervals of “silence”, until the box of bad-experience in your head has no more power to make you anything more than passingly angry/sad.

    Each time, you get more distance and more perspective and the more you break out of the angry-cyclical-thinking, the easier it gets to do.

    But that’s just one way of dealing with this stuff. Good therapy is also good. :-)

  • Oh SAD ONE, that truly sucks. My story is similar to yours in many ways, but thankfully I was spared home ownership and actual wedding planning (we were engaged but not close to being married). I agree with Liz that it’s ok and actually makes sense to be angry — so allow yourself that. And I also agree with the first comment from Kristen, that writing a letter to an ex can be healing, though I would suggest NOT sending it. Just write it for yourself and pour everything out. You can decide what to do with it (rip it up, keep it, drop it into the ocean) later.

    I personally chose to not confront my ex after our breakup. In fact, I did the opposite and avoided all contact with him after a certain point. My reasoning is that confronting or contacting him put the ball in his court; he could respond however he wants. It may be a pleasing (to me) response, or he may continue to be a jerk. His behavior is not in my control, but my actions are. So I felt that by not contacting him, I took control of the situation.

    I believe that living well is the best revenge. I agree with Liz that counseling can help — it was a life-saver for me. You can also think about the things you wanted to do during your in-debt years, like go on vacations, and put some money towards doing that in the future.

    And remember: you’ve made it this far after a hellish situation, which is remarkable in and of itself.

  • Jashshea

    What the sweet holy heck? I’m so sorry this happened to you. Sounds not only like you dodged a bullet, but ended up with a wonderful partner. I think Sharon is spot on – you’ve made a decision to move on with your life and unfortunately it will take the heart longer than the brain to fully commit to that. Five years is not a long time.

    If it’s any consolation, I’d have turned into a more volatile Miss Havisham were I in your shoes.

  • Alexis C.

    Hooooooo-leeeee crap, lady. That must have been true hell. So, what I will say is, WOW, it is awesome that you were able to pull yourself together (even with help of friends it’s not an easy thing after stuff LIKE THAT), and it is seriously impressive that you have been able to shake off enough of that crap to actually be able to love again! You are still understandably angry at that person (because it’s it’s almost irrelevent to me that he’s an *ex*, you had your life torn apart by someone, anyone, and that friggin hurts) but your strength has kept your heart free enough to build a great life.

    Wow, wow, wow. You did an amazing job. You can definitely kick this in time. Give yourself a huge hug. Cheers to you!

  • Hope I’m not misinterpreting–but it sounds like part of the reason you’re angry (and, um, JUSTIFIABLY SO) is because you feel like several years of your life were “wasted” while your friends were able to continue living their lives and have good times and adventures. I wonder if it would help if you plan your own adventure? Big or small, just something that helps you feel like you can reclaim that lost time.

    Counseling can also do wonders. Coupled with great loved ones–and it sounds like you have that in spades!

  • Another Meg

    Oh SAD ONE, what a crappy thing to happen. I’m sorry you had to go through that.

    Also, AMEN to the lingering hurt that losing friends to an ex causes. My ex-husband took some good friends with him, including one I’ve known since I was fourteen and he had only known a couple of years (but she married his best friend so I can’t say I’m surprised). I still feel that sting sometimes, and it’s been years.

    And also, pretty much everything Liz said. Righteous anger, hobbies that channel that energy and use it to make you happier and better (what a great way to get back at him, indirectly)…

  • Bryna

    Wow – that is some story! Although I was never hurt that much, I was still hurt a lot…

    I find it helps to think of the grief caused from such like a point on a spiral. When it’s raw, you keep coming back to that point really quickly, and as time passes you still go back to times of feeling the same ANGER and hurt just less frequently. It makes is ok for me to feel the feeling of it just as keenly (and sometimes the feelings are just as intense as when it had just happened), but I have the safety of knowing that I feel it, move on, and the next time it will take longer to come back.

    p.s. I did actually punch him in the face once – man, it really felt good! But I find that imagining his face while at the boxing class at my gym works just as well, and has fewer legal ramifications!

  • rys

    Usually when I’m fuming mad at someone, it’s because deep down, I’m pretty pissed with myself for letting them do that awful thing to me. Dig around and see if that’s the case, and you know, let yourself off the hook.

    Liz hit the nail on the head for me right here. I’ve never faced a situation as awful as Sad One’s, but lately I’ve been ruminating a lot about why I’m so bothered by the past 6 months of non-dating-dating men who strung me along in one way or another. As much as I’m aggravated by their behavior and would like to tell them off (just be decent people and say you’re not interested up front, k thx), the truth is I’m just as annoyed at myself for letting these things happen, for allowing myself to think this one would be different, for not heeding the signs and signals that were there, and for letting myself be misled by prioritizing how others described them (smart! interesting! nice!) over how they behaved toward me.

    Deep down, I blame myself and feel like I should have known better, should have been more skeptical and less charitable, and should have stopped myself from being hopeful to avoid the hurt that followed. Then again, I don’t want to live my life through bitterness and anger, which is what I try to hold onto to get myself out of the self-blame cycles that I am so damn good at perpetuating.

    • Ashley

      Me, too. One of my pretty good friends tried to kill my husband at his bachelor party. Okay, so that’s a slightly dramatic way of saying it, but his actions WERE completely irresponsible and probably would have ended very badly if not for the timely intervention of some other friends (who I still wish had done more) – and he definitely knew that it could be bad and that my husband would never have asked for what was happening to him.

      So, of course I was mad. But the thing that was really driving my fury was that I kept thinking to myself, “After all these years and all the time spent together, shouldn’t I have known this guy was a psycopath??”

      Eventually I had to let that go. And given the unfathomability of the situation, the fact that I will never know what was going on in his head or why he did what he did, I’ve ended up just locking it away in a limbo I don’t worry about. We’re even on speaking terms again, though will never be friends as we once were.

  • Jess

    I had a similar situation a few years ago (and like you) I am recently married and still feel angry sometimes. For me two things have helped:
    -Writing letters I don’t send (and finding some way to agressively destroy them)
    -Kickboxing classes… I know you may want to punch him in the face but punching a bag and knowing that you have the control NOT to punch him in the face are pretty rewarding…
    Good luck!

  • Adi

    I was in an abusive relationship, and when it ended I was so dependent on him that I thought my life was over. It took therapy and support and a very long time just to be okay with it being over, and then I got angry. The anger lasted years, and though we broke up over four years ago and I am now married happily to someone much much better for me, I was only able to let go very recently. I was reading through some old emails from when we were together, looking for a specific link I’d sent him, and I realized that he was not evil. It just clicked that he had loved me, and while he was sick and abusive and horrible to me, I no longer hated him for it. And yeah, I no longer hated myself for wasting time with him, or being so “stupid” as to believe he loved me. I just hoped he’d gotten better. I realized I’d forgiven him. I emailed him, and he responded–not with the “get lost” email I’d expected, but with an apology of his own. Apparently he’d been in therapy for a few years after admitting he was abusive, and said that, much like an alcoholic, he would always be a “recovering monster”. He’d wanted to write me to apologize sooner but he didn’t want to bring up bad memories.

    I’m not saying every bad guy in your past repents and changes, but I did want to remind you that we’re all human and while my ex’s mistakes were worse than most, even he eventually became a better person. I hope, someday, you can forgive and be at peace, too. And I want to stress–his apology was so wonderful to get, and meant so much to me, but even had he not responded I had what I needed–I released my anger and forgave us both.

  • kyley

    When issues come up for me that feel like stumbling blocks, I tend to try and read about the topic. I feel like this can help me sit with a challenging issue in a productive way, rather than getting caught in the “negative thought cycles” that KC mentioned above. If you’re like that at all, here are some suggestions:

    I’m not sure if you’re a magazine reader, but the current issue of Real Simple has a whole article about forgiving someone for an unforgivable act. I really enjoyed the read; it included stories of people who had managed to do just that as well as a thoughtful discussion about how one goes about such forgiveness.

    Also, if it works for you, I highly recommend Taking the Leap, by Pema Chodren. I am reading it right now, and I find it provides a refreshingly different perspective on why we hold onto things even as we know they make us upset. It’s not written for Buddhists exclusively; it’s very approachable.

    When all else fails, journaling is always helpful for me. The key is to prevent ourselves from writing about the wrongs we received (because that is a way of holding onto the anger, instead of letting go of it), but instead compassionately looking inward: Why does this hurt so much? Why is it hard to let go? How does this make me feel about myself, and how does that line up with reality/how my loved ones would see me? If there is a disconnect, why might that be and what can I do about it? Etc.

    Best of luck. You sound like an incredibly strong woman.

  • First, I am so sorry that this happened to you. I’m also so glad that you’ve very obviously come out the other side – go you!

    I have been in a similar situation as you (although nowhere near as legally or financially messy) and had to learn to get over it in a time frame that is shorter than most because we actually got back together. The rage for a while there was all-encompassing. I second the counselling – if you feel like the anger is taking up too much of your time, talking to a professional does wonders for your feeling of sanity.
    I also really recommend the letter-writing. I sat down, had a whole afternoon set aside and just poured my angry little heart out onto paper. Some people burn the letter, some rip it up, but I read it over, folded it and put it somewhere safe. I found it about a year after I wrote it and I was so shocked at the visceral rage that leaped from the page… but also really glad that that rage was in the paper, and not in me so much anymore.

    All the best, and remember to rely on that fabulous husband of yours!

  • Aubry

    Kudos to you sad one, that truly sucks. I am glad to hear you are putting your life back together with an upgraded partner!

    First of all, to agree with Liz, allow yourself to be angry! That *explitive* hurt you bad and you should be angry.

    Something that helps me to gain control when I am fuming angy at someone (my ex who screwed me over, my dad who just sucks, past relationships of my mom’s who messed the family up, etc) is to remeber that you cannot change other people, you can only change yourself. Sitting here feeling angry and crappy isnt hurting them, it is only hurting you. Try to accept their nature and be glad to move on with your life. This is a hard thing, and absolutely won’t happen overnight, but I find it really freeing. I dont want to let that person hurt me anymore, espessially by hurting myself sitting around feeling terrible.

    Good luck to you, and I hope a nice vacation is in your near future!

  • Katy

    Oh, that sucks! Glad you found a new, wonderful guy!

    Instead of trying to change your feelings, another approach is to notice them without judgment. When the face-punching thoughts arise, think, “Oh, I’m thinking about punching his face again. Isn’t that interesting.” No judgment, no forcing yourself to stop the thoughts. Just notice.

  • SJ

    Dear SAD ONE
    Your story hit so close to home for me. I am sorry for what the ex did to your heart. I also occasionally find myself hating the ex for the “wasted years”. While we didn’t own a house together, we were together for five years and had adopted a dog together. I thought he (the ex, not the dog) was the One and we were going to live happily ever after blah blah blah… (BTW I fought for the dog, BEST THING I got out of the relationship and still is with me) A wagging tail and Unconditional Love from a pet works wonders)
    It’s also difficult not to recall that ex was a part of my life because my current Guy, (a thousand times better for me than the ex) has the exact same birthday as the ex!!! Ok SOMEBODY up there is having a little fun with me.

    The things that got me through it and still get me through those rough patches are things people said to me that I now use as mantras to change my thinking and keep from wallowing deeper into “Why didn’t he XYZ ????”
    1) my mother told me “We love you, you ARE loved, and you are NOT alone and you deserve someone who loves you to death.”
    2) my best friend told me “Why do you want to be with someone who doesn’t love you? Why waste your love and energy on someone who doesn’t reciprocate ?” BFFs truly know how to give the goods.
    3) to for-give is to say thank you for-giving me the opportunity to go on another path.
    4) Thank God/Buddha/Allah we did not have children together!!!

    I hope this and the other most brilliant advice on APW helps.

    Oh, and the best way to get over the ex is to think of all the flaws he had that soooo pissed you off that you’re GLAD he’s out of your life and onto bigger and better things!!!

    P.s. I second the motion to TP the house.

  • Megs

    Wow, SAD ONE. That blows. I agree with everything Liz says, but most especially that it’s important to give yourself permission to feel that anger. I love the letter-writing and kickboxing suggestions above, but thought I’d throw out another one–whenever I’m angry or stressed, I love to make bread. Kneading bread can be extremely therapeutic (punch that dough!), the scent of bread baking is delicious, and in the end you have a freshly baked loaf of bread to eat. Everyone wins!

  • carrie

    Well, if you can’t punch him in the face, can I? Sh*t.

    Liz’s response and the other comments are wonderful. Just wanted to give you a big old hug in solidarity.

  • Diane

    Well SH&T! Sounds like you paid a high price (financially and personally) to rid your life of this guy but his ghosts just keep hanging around, thumbing their stupid little ethereal noses at you. A few thoughts as a person who has looked back at relationships and wondered “what the hell was I thinking” AND as a psychiatrist who sees a lot of people figuring these things out:

    First, you are totally allowed to be pissed. He made you feel unloved, unloveable, and abandoned and left you financially screwed in the process. Given that most of us would not deliberately do that to our worst enemies, having the person you were about to pledge lifelong fidelity to do that is awful! I would imagine that as you re-built your finances, you were also rebuilding your sense of yourself, your trust in your own judgment, and the feeling that the world wasn’t going to shift under your feet with no warning. I wonder if some of the struggle of watching friends go on nice vacations and buy nice things was more a question of mourning the life you imagined and (reasonably) expected than anything to do with the trips or things. Stop telling yourself that you shouldn’t be pissed anymore — emotions rarely listen to “shouldn’ts” and “shoulds”.

    Second, there is nothing wrong (and many good things) with constructing elaborate fantasies in which you do smack him, kick him in the ‘nads, put sugar in his gas tank, key his car, or line his mailbox with dog turds (I’m particularly fond of the last one — the symbolism is hard to beat). Actually doing these things is a problem but fantasies are a great, healthy way to work through not so pro-social impulses. Then go back to enjoying actual life with your spouse.

    Third, have faith that as your life moves forward, the intensity of emotion will diminish. I spent a large chunk of my freshman year of college essentially being bullied by a girl who lived in my dorm and when I think about her, part of be would still love to punch her. But it’s been 13 years and I’m no longer the sad, awkward, hurting 18 year old that I was and she’s (God willing) no longer the angry, vindictive 18 year old that she was and I know that the real adult version of me would never put up with that kind of treatment. So now she’s given me something of a benchmark for personal growth. They whole “living well is the best revenge” thing has a lot of truth to it (especially when you add in its close cousin, “karma’s a b*&ch”).

    Sending good thoughts your way!

  • Granola

    I didn’t have time to read all the comments and the wisdom I’m sure they contain. But I just wanted to jump in and say a couple things.

    Firstly, I’m really sorry for what happened and glad that things seem to have turned out well (anger and trials aside). Second, I think that you already have done a remarkable job of coping and I think that it’ll only get better with time. As others have said, 5 years isn’t that long ago for something so serious, especially as it sounds like you and your ex still live and operate in some of the same circles. Feeling as if his actions robbed you and your now-husband of something special because of the financial difficulties you were put in is an entirely justified anger, in my opinion, and since the wedding maybe wasn’t that long ago, I wouldn’t expect you to be “over it” yet.

    Lastly, what does it mean to really forgive someone and move on? I think there’s still space for that to include not liking him, or thinking he’s a sh*thead for what he did, or not wanting to be around him. To me, those are all reasonable reactions to someone who treated you badly and I don’t think that “moving on” should be equated with acting as if nothing happened. Not that I think you are doing this, but some things really can’t be fixed and no amount of moving on will ever change that horrible thing. But I hope that as the years pass it will matter less to you in your daily life.

  • jules

    Hi. I have a silly coping mechanism. It sounds ridiculous, but it has helped me to see the silver lining in many situations, but YMMV.

    What I do is imagine an alternate timeline where things went much, much worse. And I picture alt-me suffering and saying “why did this happen, if only it had been this other way (and this other way matches my current situation)”. Then I picture that I am actually living alt-me’s dream of how things could’ve turned out instead, for the better.

    Perhaps it is just the exercise of being thankful that things didn’t turn out worse, but it helps me get in a better state of mind where I don’t feel so frustrated at my situation.

  • Kumquat

    It’s kind of awesome reading all of these comments with tips!

    Here’s a few I’ll add: first, try out some different ways to release some of your anger (screaming in a pillow, playing drums, kickboxing, punching bag, finger painting or just throwing paint, breaking plates in a safe environment, writing a letter and then destroying it (i don’t recommend leaving it intact, in case someone finds it). I also recommend that if you do write a letter, with the proviso that you’ll destroy it, try expressing all of your wildest fantasies of what you’d like to do to him. Go out on a limb. It’ll seriously make you feel better. I think for me, at least, at first I had a really hard time expressing anger (and still kinda do) because anger scares me, and feels uncontrollable. My therapist let me know that expressing anger (in safe ways, like the ones described above and in the comments) is VERY safe, because you get those feelings OUT and they don’t stay bottled up inside. Also, therapy might be a good way to find out if there’s anything else at the root of your anger or that’s getting in the way of letting you let go and move on. You could even draw what you want to do to him, or make it into a comic or something. Embrace your inner super bitch! She’s there for a great reason– you’ve been terribly wronged. Let her come out and have a tantrum or two.

    Seriously though, your story should get you free drinks at any bar, and would make an AWESOME country song.

  • Denzi

    SAD ONE, That sucks. I’m sorry. I offer you internet hugs and wish I could offer you bits of your life back.

    The real reason I wanted to comment, though, is: LIZ I AM YOUR ANTIQUE PLATE-THROWER. We buy stacks of them at the thrift store and leave them around for really angry days. My best advice is that hacking away at the thing with a hatchet or a baseball bat is extra satisfying (more smashy bits; more exertion; more exercise endorphins), but please, for the love of God, wear safety glasses. Because getting pottery in your eye would just make you more mad, but you’d be in the hospital and unable to throw plates. That would suck.

    • KC

      I love that angry-plate-smashing has techniques. :-)

    • Margaret Thatcher

      One day shortly after my breakup with ex-fiance, I noticed a pile of trash my parents were about to get rid of from cleaning out a barn. It was a bunch of old screen doors and windows, and a weed-eater. Bashing the glass out with that broken weed-eater was the most cathartic thing ever and since, and fortunately we were far enough out in the country that no one called the straitjacket brigade.

  • I had an ex that I was very angry at and my anger wasn’t even nearly as justified as yours. I couldn’t seem to let it go. I hid it because we had mutual friends, but it still ate at me as the years went by.

    Four years later, it just suddenly released. I don’t know why. Nothing special happened. I saw his name on something and then that night I had a dream where we talked things over and I woke up feeling closure from the situation for the first time.

    Lots of people had told me to let it go, but it just wasn’t something I could consciously decide to do. When my sub-conscious was ready, it let go. But it needed that time.

    I don’t know if it helps, but I just try to forgive myself for feeling emotions that I wish would go away and trust that eventually my psyche will work through it and release me from the anger.

  • Hila

    Girl, this bastard owes you some money. GO AND GET IT. Then you won’t be angry anymore.

  • My fiance left me the day after I bought my wedding dress (which was, of course, non-returnable, just like all the other deposits and things that he insisted on for his large, Catholic, 200 miles away from my hometown, ceremony – I’m a private person, Jewish, and have a beautiful family home that would have been lovely…) about a year and a half ago. To make matters worse, we had known each other for 10 years and still share a grad student office in our PhD program. So I can very much sympathize with the hurt, the horrible financial situation, and, most definitely the punching people in the face desire.

    That said, absolutely nothing but time, I think, really helps. You’ve done the thing that helped the most, which is find someone else (or multiple someone elses, or whatever) who makes you feel like it’s not YOU, it’s most definitely HIM. I also find doing things that I loved that he didn’t, or that I wouldn’t do as part of a couple usually, helped. You sound like you’re doing awesome – occasional bouts of rage at people from our past aren’t bad, I don’t think – it shows we still can feel something, even if it’s rage.

    I’m so sorry that happened to you, especially if, like me, you didn’t have any warning or idea. Just remember that you are way better off and happier because you’ve seen and lived through the awful!

  • Nikki

    I’ve been there and am still there on occasion! I agree with a lot of the other posters, you have to forgive yourself a bit. I still get angry at my ex. However writing letters never worked for me. I end up getting angrier and crying. For me, taking a long drive or walk really helps. I need to be able to vocalize what I am feeling by talking aloud. The car is great for that! I talk like I am sitting down with that person right there. Yelling included! Talking gets it out and let’s me hear my side. Sometimes it’s amazing what we’ll say and surprise ourselves with in the heat of the moment.

  • natalie

    I have been in your shoes. I know what this feels like.

    I had a boyfriend to whom I was almost engaged. He still owes me money. I am newly married, and it has taken every ounce of strength NOT to punch my ex in the broadside of his friggin head.

    But you know what else?

    This anger has caused me multiple health problems. My ex gave me a disease that I can’t get rid of, and the aftermath has been quite damaging to my body. My stress and anger towards him has made it SO MUCH WORSE. The mind-body connection is HUGE and after years of therapy and renewal through building positive relationships and learning how to manage my anger, I have found that forgiveness has saved my health and my life. It is not right for everyone, and it all comes in time. Personally, it has taken 6 years,

    Be gentle with yourself.
    Seek help and allow yourself to heal.

    This quote continues to help me:

    “In forgiveness, I set a prisoner free
    and discovered that the prisoner was me.”

    God bless you and I hope that you continue to find peace and healing. xo

    • natalie

      I re-read my post and realized that I sound extremely condescending. What I mean to say is that it’s not right for everyone to forgive immediately or easily. It is actually very hard and has been so hard for me. I went to therapy and found that it takes time to forgive the most important person: yourself. SO HARD. You will get there. Time will heal all things. Sending my love your way in hopes that you find clarity. I know that it is SO HARD. :( xoxo

  • Staria

    Add me to the list of people annoyed at my ex. I won’t go into our situation, just say that I really sympathise with the still having anger, the urge to punch him in the face and particularly the anger about going through all that crap while other people around you were having fun and getting their lives together. Here are some things that I have done to feel better about this stuff and deal with the anger.

    It’s one thing to release your anger, but it’s also good after you’ve done that for a while to ask yourself: do I WANT to continue to offer this person my time, in my head, when they are not here? I didn’t want that and I don’t think you do either. What I do when I get on a little hate spiral for that guy is, I notice it without judgement – oh, I am getting angry at a person who is not here! – and then I imagine myself punching my fist into his face. His face shatters, and I let my rage go then.

    It’s a bit harder, I think, to let go of the thought that you could have had fun times in the past. I also had a terrible breakup while I was watching everyone around me, it felt like, get engaged and married and have babies and buy houses. It sounds small, but you have to remember: you are only getting the happy side of everyone else’s lives. And just because those people had a happy past 5 years does NOT mean their luck will continue into the future. I am a firm believer that because I had some shitty years in my 20s, my 30s are kicking ass and I am better equipped to deal with the good and the bad later in life. I can already see some friends who seem to fall apart at the least little life problem. What happens when something really bad happens to them? I truly believe that later life can be similarly awesome for you – you’ve had bad times, you know you can recover from ANYTHING and that belief in yourself should absolutely be something you are very proud of. Here’s a hug from me :hug:!


    Hey, holy hell, this is my post! The one day I don’t check APW first thing in the morning… ;) Thank you so much to Liz and everyone(!!) else for taking the time to respond!

    When I originally wrote this post, my husband and I were going through a period of super-high stress related to financial problems, and while the situation with my ex certainly was part of the lead-up to these problems, I think in some ways, it was easier to direct all of my anger at him than to deal with the issues at hand. My husband and I are now working on moving forward with resolving these issues, and that feeling of productivity in and of itself has been HUGELY helpful in not focusing on the anger.

    Love the smashing china and many other amazing suggestions re: working through anger! I tend to be a talker/ obsessive thinker, and tend to talk myself in circles. I am learning that sometimes, just doing something is so much more powerful emotionally.

    To the comments re: being thankful for him, I absolutely am! I really have it pretty awesome with my life/ husband/ doggies. I try to remember that when the anger starts to flare up…and it works about 90% of the time ;)

    Finally, the feeling of solidarity in this community is absolutely the most amazing thing ever. What a lovely V-day gift! Thanks, y’all!

  • Amy March

    Oddly, what often helps me deal with lingering anger is owning my own role in things. I decided to stay in a bad relationship, I agreed to a wedding I didn’t want, I bought a house without enough legal protections. Not in a way that feels like blaming myself, but more to understand how much I’ve learned and how my choices now would be different. I always feel the greatest rage when I feel powerless, and this helps me get control back.

  • Elizabeth

    I twists my stomach to think of the way you were betrayed. I don’t meant to scare you, but I do want to speak to how damaging these feelings from a traumatic event can be when never resolved.

    My mother has never been able to get over anger at her parents and siblings for an incident that happened in her teenage years (I’ll spare you the details.) She’s now in her 60s. The truisim that “time heals all” has not been true in her case. About once a week, she would get angry about what had happened all those years ago and go off – yelling, sobbing, angry… in the last few years, she has cut all contact with those family members, and these incidents are limited to about 1x a month now. Growing up, the impact of her anger on me, my sister and my dad was huge… The only thing that ever helped were the occasions when she sought professional help.

    My mother’s feelings override her, and she didn’t get professional help until late in life. If your feelings seem out of control, or bigger than you, consider going to a therapist – it can really help to just talk things through with someone unrelated. This also eases the burden on family members and friends of supporting you through this – they love you, but they don’t always know the best way to help.

    Good luck, and may you find peace!

  • I can really relate to this too. I spent four years of my life with someone that I felt like I wasted. A year and a half later, even after I started dating my current boyfriend who’s amazing, I still found myself going on crying jags in anger over how he treated me and ruined my life. So I emailed him out of the blue to say that I hope he treats his new girlfriend better because no one deserves to be treated the way he treated me – I sincerely hope that for him. He never wrote back, which is for the best, and that was what helped me have some closure. I still get angry sometimes, but at least I’m not embarrassing myself by crying drunkenly at parties.

  • I have learned for me that resentment is a poison I administer to myself hoping to hurt someone else. How painful! For me, letting go of my resentments has taken time, as others have stated, and working with someone else who has helped me see my part in it. See, I’m not a perfect angle. I’ve not only done some not so nice things, but I’ve also stayed too long and let myself be treated poorly. I’m NOT saying, Sad One, that this is your story, but that this is MY experience. Some of my anger has dissipated recently, I think because I’ve started to accept the adage that ‘hurt people hurt people’. I hope you find some ways to work through your pain, and that peace and serenity replaces that pain.

  • Tina

    The time that I was completely devastated by a former love, it took me forever to “get over it”.

    I needed to talk about it with everyone, my girlfriends (multiple times), impartial new friends who did not know me or him, and a few that had previously seen him as the good guy.

    After all that talking (and crying) I had been able to move into a LESSON LEARNED phase, where most of the pain was gone. But. It turned out that my final piece was tracking down the friend that seen me break down and still had done nothing – because the friend had been on the lover’s “side” – and confess to that friend how much he had hurt me, that I thought our friendship had been worth more, and that I found it hard to trust him. Until I did that, I had not even realized how upset I was about it.

    I’m not saying that my story has anywhere near the historic levels of craptastic as yours, but for me, I will always be a little sad/angry at my love, but once every single person involved knew how I felt, I could let go of the extreme emotion that gripped me whenever I thought about the whole situation.

    Also, you may want to to check out The Language of Apology, by Gary Chapman. That’s how I learned that I need someone to just acknowledge what they did to feel apologized to. Maybe you need something different, like an actual “sorry”. But understanding what you need to to hear/see in order to let it go could be a big step. (Go to http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/apology/ to take a quiz).

    one last thing-
    I know this is off topic, but I love the nail polish job in the photo. How can I do that??

  • Sarah

    When we’ve been wronged (and you’ve been WROOOOOOONGED) even when things are better, it’s hard to think back on the situation without drudging up the anger and resentment. As much as you wish this person that meant so much to you would acknowledge the hell they put you through or attempt to make amends, these are not things you can control. Your job is to ensure that the toxins from that relationhip and its ending don’t poison the new (better!) one.

    The good news about forgiveness is that it does not depend on any action on the part of the other person. Nothing he does or doesn’t do affects your ability to forgive him, because forgiveness isn’t about releasing him from any responsibility or guilt for what he did. It’s about making sure that you release yourself from the pain he caused you.

    One way is to visualize yourself being over it. After you’ve written the angry letter getting everything you want to say out, write another one from your future self. Write it from the you that’s over him. What kinds of things do you wish you could feel? What kinds of reactions do you wish you had when someone mentions him or something reminds you of him? Write down exactly what you wish your train of thought was. And then burn the angry letter and focus on the new one. I’m not saying you pretend you’re not still hurt or that you fake it til you make it, but have a destination written down so that when you actually do feel one of those things, you’ll smile and see how far you’ve come.

  • I am so sorry you went through something so difficult. Sometimes it helps me to think from the perspective of ” Judge not lest ye be judged” meaning I have hurt a lot of people in my life, and maybe they think of me exactly the way I am thinking about anyone with whom I am angry. Often o come to the conclusion that my anger is more justified but for a few moments I can let go and know that we all hurt others to various degrees.

    When all that saintly thinking and praying for the strength to love my enemies wears off, I listen to a lot of Kelly Clarkson. She has some great angry songs.

  • Slade

    I have an ex whom I dated for two years. In the course of those two years, I bled my savings into supporting us, worked shitty jobs (including one from which I came home in shoes soaked with dog piss), got knocked up, and thought he was The One. In those two years, he never got a job, played a lot of flash games, and gave the Cowardly Feminist Male’s response to my pregnancy test: “It’s your body, it’s your decision.”

    I actually did punch him in the face. And the shoulder. And the chest. And (because I love Fight Club) the ear.

    We’ve only had to see each other once since we broke up, when our son’s adoptive family came to visit and there was a great partying of the families. That’s when the punching happened. (He punched me back, too, which was somehow also cathartic.) I also discovered that my son’s older adoptive brother loves to wrestle, and I sicced the kid on the ex all weekend.

    It helped. But it’s not what saved me from eternal spite and anger. Seeing him in person two years after I’d left him, I realized what a small man he is. I let myself recognize him as a whole person with his own issues, a whole person whom I had at one point loved even though all I could see anymore were the bad times. A person to whom I owed nothing, with whom I shared nothing (save biological parentage to the best little boy ever), and who meant nothing to me anymore.

    Sometimes I still want to deck him again, though. I think that would always be fun. :)