Unless you’re one of those people who married their childhood sweetheart, the horror of seeing your ex move on before you is inevitable, perhaps even familiar. It always happens when you least expect it. You’re having a perfectly good day, going about your business, when BAM: you find out that your ex is on his way to wedded bliss while your life remains exactly the same. Time stops around you while the revelation, the regret, and the resentment sink in.
The moment might seem long, but we can assure you that it doesn’t last forever. People say that grief has five stages, but the journey from “I can’t BELIEVE he got engaged before me” to “Mazel Tov” is so convoluted, it needs about almost twice as many. You’ll recover. You might even grow to be happy for them. But in the meantime, you’ll go through a process that goes something like this.
Stage 1: Getting the news through Facebook
Your friends all told you to defriend your ex, but noooo. You’re too mature to cut someone out like that. You’re an adult, you can handle it. Secretly, you just wanted to keep him as friend in hope that he’d weep sweet tears after seeing how awesome your life is without him in it, but alas, your pettiness backfired. He’s engaged while you’re still single.
Stage 2: Eating your feelings
Now is the time to go full-on Bridget Jones and pour out all of your angst into a diary (or well, into a long rant over SMS) while gorging on your favorite foods. Chocolate ice cream, char kway teow, an entire pizza, anything to get you through that session of clicking through the happy couple’s engagement photos. For added effect, play Adele’s “Someone Like You” while chomping away at your French fries.
Stage 3: Engaging in an emergency stalk-a-thon
As much as you want to be anti-social, you know you’ll other people will have seen the status by now and will ask you about it. There’s only one thing to do: Stalk the guy and his future wife under the supervision of your best friends, who will offer helpful comments like “You’re so much prettier than her,” “the ring is kind of small,” and “girl, it’s time to stop.”
Stage 4: Expressing disdain for the happy couple
And now is where the cockiness sets in. Your ex definitely downgraded. He and his fiancee are so obnoxious with their cutesy couple posts. True love? Weddings? Video proposals that go viral on YouTube? So overrated.
(Of course, you know deep inside that your new sense of superiority is just a defense mechanism against self-pity, but you’re going to ride out the high for as long as you can.)
Stage 5: Relentless depression
And now you are sad. At least after your breakup, you could console yourself with the fact that he was also grieving. But now he is happy and you are alone. You stay in bed all day to marathon Korean dramas, only getting up to answer the door when the delivery guy comes with your order from McDonald’s.
Stage 6: Trying desperately to find someone new
At last, you make your way out of the house, announcing to your friends that your sadness was merely a temporary detour on the way to fabulousness. And by fabulousness, you mean a new relationship. You scour your contacts list and Facebook friends to see if there is anybody, anybody, worth considering, only to start imagining every new guy you talk to as a potential soul mate. You wonder if you’re going nuts. You wonder if you were always this needy. And just when you begin to hate yourself….
Stage 7: Your friends stage an intervention
…and you come to your senses. They tell you that it’s healthy to go out for reasons other than to find someone new. They tell you that you’re not unmarriageable, but that that maybe if you keep eating junk food and wallowing in sadness, you will be. And above all, they tell you that they love you. Maybe you can’t avoid a little heartbreak in this life, but as long as you’ve got friends who have your back, you’ll always get out of it okay.
Stage 8: Realising that the post-breakup stage is not a contest
Lots of former couples monitor each other to see who “wins” the breakup. Who found a great job after the breakup? Who went to the gym and got buff? Who drowned their sorrows in vodka and got fat? But no matter how well you’re doing in your career, health, and education, the ultimate trump card lies in the announcement of one’s engagement.
As your sadness and envy fades away, however, you begin to accept that as long as you’re apart, your lives will continue different trajectories. Maybe he “won” by getting married first, but who knows, twenty years down the road maybe you’ll “win” by having all three of your kids get accepted into Harvard. And you can bet that by then, his success will be completely irrelevant to yours.