Do you have a friend who hates her ex? Are you surprised that her animosity toward him has not dissipated over time? Do you wish the two of you could dedicate less conversation time to him and more to, well, pretty much any other topic -- including her second-favorite topic of all time, Zumba? (Yes, that's how bad it really is.)
If this sounds familiar, your friend may be suffering from Obsessive Repulsive Disorder. ORD strikes a small percentage of folks who have gone through a bitter break-up or divorce, causing them to become obsessed by their ex even though they are repulsed by him. But although they are small in number, friends and family know there is nothing insignificant about the condition. Perhaps most tragically, the victim herself is often completely unaware of her condition.
Luckily, there is something you can do to help -- something other than changing your cell phone number and email address and never talking to her again.
Helping your friend requires you to have the guts to step up and take the following actions:
1. Print out this story
2. Take some scissors and cut off the top half of the story from these directions on up
3. Put the bottom half in a plain envelope with no return address
4. Seal the envelope with a wet paper towel to eliminate any possibility of DNA tracing
5. Send it to your friend via old-fashioned U.S. Mail.
You know I care about you a lot. Not enough to tell you this to your face, you might be thinking, but I feel that's more a reflection of how you're acting right now, not what kind of friend I am.
Anyway, ever since your break-up you haven't been acting right. Because I want to continue being your friend, I've taken the courageous step of mailing this to you anonymously. (Like I said, I care about you a lot.)
You say you can't stand your ex. But there's a disconnect between what you say and how you act. Let's say you hated a certain vegetable -- like celery, for example. If you couldn't stand celery, you wouldn't slowly push your shopping cart by the celery stand every time you went to the grocery store. You wouldn't talk about celery all the time to anyone who would listen. You wouldn't wonder what new recipes celery might be getting included in these days. If you truly didn't care for celery you wouldn't stalk it. So if you really can't stand your ex, why are you stalking him?
What I'm getting at here is this: When it comes to your ex, I think you're suffering from an acute case of Obsessive Repulsive Disorder. And there's nothing cute about it.
Let's review your symptoms:
Oh, the places you'll go. He's a gym guy. You're a yoga girl. Before your break-up, that was one of the things you cited as evidence of how the two of you just didn't connect anymore. But now that you're in divorce mode you've given up your membership at your neighborhood yoga studio and joined a gym. Maybe you're telling the truth when you say that you are totally burned out on hot yoga and working out with a personal trainer is way more fun. But there are at least a dozen gyms that are closer to your house than the downtown gym to which your ex belongs. So I can't help but think the endorphin rush you're getting from your new routine has less to do with your work out and more to do with knowing you're making him sweat.
Enough about you, let's talk about him. You never liked his old college roommate and his wife. He is a mullet-sporting, muscle car-driving moron and she owns the complete series box set of Touched by an Angel. Now you call her once a day, volunteer to babysit their kids and invite yourself over to their house every weekend. You're not keeping up with them because you like them. You're buddying up to them because you want the scoop on your ex.
You're just not that into him. When you talk about the guy you're dating now, rather than telling me what you like about him, you gleefully speculate about how your ex will react when he finds out you're dating his former business partner. I agree that it is likely to really bother him, but since that's the only thing you've told me about your new beau, that says more about you than it does about your ex.
When it comes to battles, you pick all of them. The saying goes, if you love something, set it free. But your philosophy is more like this: If your ex loves something, fight tooth and nail for it even if you have zero interest in whatever's at issue. You thought his grandmother's china was hideous. Not only did you never use it, you never even took it out of the box. But since the china is important to your ex, there is no amount of attorney's fees that you won't spend to keep him from getting it back. It's hard enough to watch you do this over possessions, but it is excruciatingly painful to watch you apply this philosophy to your custody battle for your children.
Might as well face it you're addicted to hate. There are people who are hooked on positive things like the "runner's high" brought on by strenuous exercise. And there are folks who are addicted to negative things like drugs. Hate is your drug of choice, and you're never more blissed out than when you think you've succeeded in making your ex miserable. But each rush unravels a little more of the fabric of your personal relationships and eats away another chunk of your soul.
You might think your crusade to make him pay is totally worth it. But that's just the disease talking.
The good news is you can overcome ORD, but it's going to take some self-discipline. You're going to have to go "cold turkey" on your ex. Every time you find yourself thinking about him you have recognize that you are allowing him to own you -- and that's your fault, not his.
In these moments, you have to consciously redirect your thoughts to something -- anything -- else. No talking about him. No thinking about him. No going places where he's likely to be. No concocting schemes to get to him. No trumped up fights to force interaction with him.
This black out will be hard at first, because obsessing over your ex has pretty much been your full-time job for a while now. It will require a conscious effort on your part to fill your time with constructive activities. But you will get to the point where you are so busy with healthy things that not thinking about your ex won't take any work at all. That's when you'll know you've overcome your ORD.
Start living your life for you. Pick up the phone and call your friends. But when we answer, don't start in on your latest beef with your ex. Remember what I said about vegetables and use this chance to turn over a new leaf. Invite us to dinner and when we go, don't mention your ex at all. Because what we're all really craving is a heaping helping of the old you.