An engaged writer unexpectedly learns the power of breaking digital ties with an ex.
After six tumultuous years of being lovers, worst enemies, exes (three times over), and pseudo-friends who would only catch up occasionally via Facebook, my ex Jack finally cut the cord on our online relationship: he unfriended me on Facebook.
How did this come to be, you ask? I declined an invitation to his upcoming wedding even though we hadn't had more than one real conversation since we had broken up more than two years prior. Why I was invited to the wedding in the first place—which screams all kinds of awkward given our tumultuous past and the fact that both of us have clearly moved on (I'm getting married this summer)—I will never know. And I suppose I will never have the chance to find out, since immediately upon receiving my regrets to the wedding, he kicked our "friendship" to the virtual corner.
Since Facebook came into our lives in 2004, it has morphed itself into our culture in innumerable ways. Facebook also played a critical part in the relationship between me and Jack. When Facebook came to our college campus in the spring of 2005, Jack and I did what any normal couple did—we entered into a Facebook relationship. I graduated later that year and found my first "real" job and apartment; Jack still had to complete his last year of college. With none of the security settings that Facebook currently has in place, every flirty comment and conversation that he was having with other women were shoved in my face.
Our first breakup came that fall, and as we continued to make up and break up over the next two years, Facebook played a large part in this vicious cycle. Every time we broke up, I would get mad and un-friend him and then he would get upset and we would become friends again.
In a recent YourTango survey, 72 percent of respondents said they have or have considered un-friending an ex on Facebook after a breakup. Eighty-five percent of the same respondents also agreed that, "most people have a hard time getting over a breakup and could use a breakover (a makeover aimed at helping them move on from a breakup) to help them recover." I couldn't agree more. Jack and I exemplify the very quandaries that many deal with after attempting to move on from a long-term relationship. Being my first love, I desperately wanted to hang onto what we had despite the fact that what we were doing was destructive. In the years just out of college, I stayed stagnant in a bland office job because I believed that I needed to support him in his career path and dote on him endlessly for him to see that I was everything that he wanted in a woman.
According to the YourTango survey, some of the most common ways that women seem to deal with breakups are losing weight, buying new clothing, or getting a new hairstyle. Once I woke up from my lovespell, I decided to take my "self-improvement" one step further: I decided to move. Having lived in the Midwest my entire life, I decided that our third breakup was my opportunity to explore myself further: this led to grad school in New York City, moving halfway across the country knowing only one person, and essentially moving away from the faux life that I had created in Minneapolis. Three years later, I am armed with two master's degrees, an East Coast-born fiancé and a new life back in Minneapolis.
The "Save the Date" to Jack's wedding came while we still lived in Boston; I decided to simply RSVP "no" after the invitation was sent in order to not "rock the boat." Though we have both clearly moved on in our lives, it wasn't until he de-friended me on Facebook that I finally felt a gigantic weight lifted off my shoulders. No longer did he appear in my newsfeed. No longer did I see the communication between him and other mutual friends. For the first time—even though I am desperately in love with my fiancé and cannot wait to marry him—I felt like my relationship with Jack was totally in the past. Though the politics of who we are friends with on Facebook can often be complicated, I genuinely wish I had never allowed myself to become friends with him again after we broke up.
My own personal "breakover" was not just about honoring my need to become the career woman I always wanted to be, even if it meant losing a man, but about completely cutting the ex who dragged me down out of my life. For me, this final severance came from losing my ability to see his every move on our favorite social networking site. What an unexpected gift.
More juicy content from YourTango:
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