One of the most common feelings after a breakup is of curiosity about the other’s fate. Even the one who actually initiated the breakup will do all they can to know how their ex-partner is faring. Seldom does this interest come from genuine empathy, though. More often than not, it comes from an ambivalence that reminds me of a seesaw. On the one hand, seeing someone so close to us suffer makes us sad; on the other, it’s good for our vanity. In a way, it’s gratifying to know our ex is not doing well away from us. This less than noble aspect of human personality, unfortunately, tends to predominate.
If the ex-partner is recovering quickly, searching for companionship elsewhere and seems to be adjusting well to their new singleness, it’s surprising and depressing; we realize we’re not as essential we thought we were. Our pride takes a hit, because we need to feel important, we need to feel like our absence causes pain. If our ex-partner is happy, we doubt ourselves, and that is debilitating. “How could they possibly move on with their life faster than I did?” we ask, and knowing that something so absurd actually happened is upsetting. Many people still confuse this feeling with love. Are we still in love? Was this breakup too hasty? Maybe. But the main component of these emotions is vanity and hurt pride. Sometimes, we try to hide these base feelings by hiding behind an unexpected heartbreak. It’s a way to deny thoughts we wish we didn’t have.
Of course, the process is more evident, at least at first, when we didn’t initiate the breakup. In this case, the desire for revenge tends to be explicit. We hope our ex-partner only has terrible relationships. We even wish them professional failure. This attitude is meant to rescue our self-esteem: everything going wrong for our ex-partner would be definite proof of the positive influence we had in their lives. Their happiness, on the other hand, discredits our worth. It’s as if, from the breakup on, we must find who’s responsible for the relationship’s failure.
However, these comparisons also happen to those who initiated the breakup because they fell in love with someone else. Then, another kind of revenge comes into play. If someone has felt, over the years of a relationship, attacked, humiliated and rejected, this will be the time to effortlessly turn the situation around: just waiting for fate’s justice and turn the oppressor into the oppressed.
We shouldn’t think we’d never be this petty. Under certain circumstances, we all might have emotions we consider negative an undignified. They blend with our nobler instincts and become a very complex mix.
Love, hurt pride, and thirst for vengeance… it’s hard to assess how important each of these components is. Actually, this assortment of feelings is also present during married life, when one of the partners refuses to please the other, just so they won’t feel put down and belittled. Sexual rejection, for instance, can be avenged by financial humiliation – or vice-versa.
At the moment of the divorce, all these processes are heightened and create the seesaw: when one’s self-esteem grows, the other one’s withers. It’s not enough to be happy; it’s important that their partner is not. This seesaw can keep moving for several years, or even their whole lives.
Tradução: Amanda Morris