About every eight months or so, I can feel it coming on, the way my knees ache before it rains. It arrives with either the advent of spring (although in NY right now that seems premature), or around thanksgiving, where I get a message from an ex I haven’t heard from in awhile. And the more time that accrues since my divorce, the more exes (unfortunately) exist.
After my husband and I separated, I had the classic rebound. Although at the time, of course it didn’t feel like a rebound. It felt serious. I was in love, and had all the symptoms to prove it, including the depression and heartache that followed after he broke up with me, with no warning (in retrospect, there was naturally plenty of warning that I couldn’t see). It took me a long time to get over that one. But regardless, I knew it was over, and whether it was pride or the practical acceptance that there was never going to be a round two, I deleted his information and never initiated contact. Not a single impulse text was sent (doesn’t mean I didn’t write them).
Everyone handles breakups differently. For me, it's like the flip of a switch. No matter how powerful the yearnings or temptations to reach out can be at times, when I know something is over, I resist. I’m not sure if it’s how I’m built, or a protective reflex - or both - but I am grateful that needy post break up reach-outs are just not my M.O. I always hear a voice (I think it’s my Israeli relatives, or my father’s), saying, “What’s the point? What do you want to get out of it?” And if I know that the guy can’t provide me with any more answers or closure, and it is something I need to find within myself, the option to abstain is obvious.
But that doesn’t mean it’s the same on the other end. Just last week, I heard from my last boyfriend (not a surprise since it’s recent), my ex-rebound, and my ex-husband. The last two relationships are 4-5 years old, and so I’m always surprised by the sporadic reemergence of their names in my inbox. The content of the emails vary, yet they all seem colored by the hue of regret, no matter how veiled the attempt. It feels like the metaphorical pebble is being thrown at my (closed and locked) window.
Why now? Do they sense that I’m single again, or is it just the natural cycles of time, or the weather, that sparks discontent in their current relationships, and the consequential remembrance of the “one that got away?”
I have to say, it is not flattering to hear that you’re the one that got away. Especially when you’re the one who was broken up with or it seemed mutual. For some women it might provide a jolt of vindication and ego inflation (and I get that. You’re allowed to say “yay!”) But for me, at this stage in my life, it incites frustration. I can’t help but wonder whether it is just a pattern I should accept, or whether it is me, and my choice in men - if I date guys that aren’t able to make it stick. But then why do they come back (not that they actually would, or that I want them to).
Is it ego, or the pretty lens of nostalgia that tempts them back as a potential solution to their current relationship dissatisfaction? And of course it begs the question, what does it reveal about them, when they are in a relationship and emailing an ex-girlfriend?
Will I ever know the real reason, even if I decide to write back? Are these men able to express the underlying motivation for their sudden engagement?
Do they even know for themselves, what “the point is”?
Note: I intentionally didn’t wrap this post up with a neat little answer bow. Because I don’t know. (But I can rhyme!) So I’d love to hear what my readers have to say in this regard.