Sunday, July 27, 2008

Post-Breakup Etiquette & Moving On

Yesterday, I learned that my canine-loving ex Shawn is engaged. I don’t know what surprised me more, the news itself or the fact that I had to hear about it from one of his friends.

Because Shawn is the third ex-boyfriend whose betrothal news I heard secondhand, it seems to me that there is a lack of etiquette when it comes to telling an old flame that you’ve moved on for good.

The question of if/when to divulge this doesn’t apply when you make a clean break and cease all communication post-breakup. For better or worse, though, that has rarely been the case in my relationships. I’ve maintained amicable ties with most of my ex-boyfriends.

As I rationalized it to one of them, the end of a romance doesn’t mean you stop caring about a significant other or what happens to him. The fact that none of the men I’ve dated ever committed any truly egregious acts (lying, cheating, etc.) has made keeping in touch platonically--following the breakup mourning period, of course--somewhat easier. The thing about keeping in touch after a breakup, though, is it deceives you into thinking you’ll be one of the first to know when your ex’s status changes. I now recognize how foolish that assumption was.

A decade ago, Mark, a long-distance love from L.A. who continued calling at least twice a month, suddenly dropped out of sight. When I picked up the phone to find out what was going on, he dropped the bombshell that he‘d gotten married.

“I’m really glad you called,” he said. “I just didn’t know how to tell you. I still care about you…I love you.”

Talk about your mixed messages.

In the same vein, I found out in cyberspace that an old flame (and now good friend) from the Midwest recently tied the knot. I was visiting when the site informed me that he had updated his profile status to married. Like Mark, he was apologetic about how I learned the news, insisting he hadn’t meant for me to find out that way.

Apart from not being told directly, I wondered what was most troubling to me about learning that each ex has found happily ever after. Was it the realization that the possibility of a reconciliation, however improbable or only vaguely considered, no longer exists? The ego bruising of knowing he’s no longer pining away for me? Perhaps it’s a little of both--and the selfish resentment that a former boyfriend has found his soulmate while I’m still searching for mine.

Fortunately, the shock of Shawn’s engagement was tempered by an amusing tidbit -- he met his bride-to-be in a dog park. Given that Shawn’s devotion to his two dogs was one of the deal breakers with us, I couldn't help thinking that everything really does work out the way it’s supposed to in the end.

It’s reassuring to know that, even when it’s unexpected and unceremoniously delivered, closure is always a good thing.


Gary A said...

I have had a similar experience with old girlfriends getting married. I always find out through third parties.

I think it is for the best. They need to move on and live their lives. Notifying me isn't a priority. I can't say I'd notify them.

Melissa said...

Completely agree about the importance of moving on. I'm curious, though, were you in communication at all with your old girlfriends? I think the stinging part for me was being in touch and then not being told.

Emily Yee said...

It's amazing to know that someone else is sharing the same thought as yours.