Since the beginning of time, it has well been known that the person who moves on to the next relationship first wins. (It’s why Henry the VIII had such rapid-succession marriages—he was highly competitive.) The better looking, more talented and richer the successor is, the harder you win.
In actuality, if you really “win” the break up, you don’t care, because you’ve moved on. It’s the loser who really feels the effects. And it isn’t necessarily an “I’m better than you and wanted to prove it by dancing around your lonely existence with my hot new boyfriend who has Brad Pitt’s face and Jesus’ abs” kind of way (yes, I quoted “500 Days” no, I’m not going to try to pass it off as my own). It’s that unfounded, but nagging conclusion that if he found someone first, the demise of your relationship can clearly be attributed to you—not him—after all. This thinking begins the ugly self-deprecating hate spiral wherein all the things that make you so obviously undateable swirl around you until you are nothing more than a shell of the confident woman you were when you convinced yourself that you could do so much better than that cad.
It doesn’t matter how wrong your relationship was or how right this vapid new schmoochie is for your daft ex-boyfriend, you are alone last and therefore you suck. I consider myself a reasonably level-headed individual and yet I get caught up in this ridiculous self-flagellation nearly every time I hear an ex has moved onto the next. (With only one notable exception at this point and that might just be because his life is seemingly in shambles despite his pretty wife, 2.5 munchkins and golden retriever.) And now social media makes it even worse. Not only does it increase your odds of being made aware of your former flame’s future nuptials, but now you can see how pretty she is, browse through photos of the sickeningly happy twosome and lament the fact that she has the job you’ve always dreamed of as well as the guy you no longer want.
I don’t even have to be dating the individual for long enough for any truly lasting impression to form. I could be in a situation where I actually didn’t even care for the guy in any real way, but if he takes up with some blonde chippy just months after we’ve gone our separate ways, it won’t take me long to go all Blanche and decide I am destined to live a lonely, hair-ball filled existence. And if they get engaged it’s even worse. At least if they are only dating I can quietly, cynically believe the relationship is going to end for the very same reasons my relationship ended, thus further proving my original theory that he is an unworthy ball of complexes.
OK, I realize that all of this makes me sound like a terrible person thereby suggesting that maybe I am right in my meltdowns. Maybe I am the reason for each failed relationship. After all who would want to continue a relationship with a little twit with such a fragile ego? But in my defense I don’t think I’m alone in this. I think that our rational sides understand that a new relationship for an ex should say nothing more about you than you weren’t right for each other, which you knew anyway. But the tiny little touch of crazy in each and every one of us tends come out when we’re feeling vulnerable and sometimes we indulge it just a little bit. I’m not the only one. Right?
The fact of the matter is that no break up is any one person’s fault. So making it your fault or his regardless of who moves on first isn’t going to actually make you feel any better in the long term. That’s why it’s probably best to avoid acquiring the knowledge of their new-found bliss if at all possible, which means no Facebook stalking. If you insist upon traipsing through your ex’s profile from time to time, be prepared for the emotional consequences when their status goes from “single” to “in a relationship” to “engaged” to “married” because you really don’t want to spend the rest of your life waiting for it to flip over to “divorced” just so you can have a fleeting moment of gloat as you knit your 1,380th cat sweater.