Spite and anger are often confusing to deal with. The key realization in dealing with spite is to see it for what it really is. And what it is, is merely another way of expressing love, because it stems from the same need. Ironically, if they no longer cared about you, if they no longer needed your attention, they simply wouldn’t bother. Would you?
They can’t let go
Breakups, both for the dumpee and the dumper, are inherently traumatic. Even if the breakup was mutual, moving on will take us through phases of bargaining and anger on the path to acceptance.
Alternating between love and anger is a natural part of healing. However, for some of us the process is mostly internal. We blame ourselves, our self-esteem takes a hit, we lose or gain appetite and depression ultimately takes its toll on our lives. Our anger is directed internally, and not at those around us.
An ex who is being mean is directing their anger outwards, which is another common way the subconscious mind seeks to vent unsustainable levels of stress. But remember that anger stems from hurt — not from hatred. And that hurt stems from caring.
Think of it this way. A relationship is remarkably similar to an addiction. It creates a day-to-day comfort zone that the brain recognizes as “routine”. If that routine is broken, the subconscious mind will continue to seek it because it has been trained to consider it an important part of life. If an ex is unable to re-establish a missing comfort zone though love and affection, they will do the next best thing by lashing out and prompting a reaction. Why? Simply put, it is a crude way of uniting you. Giving the subconscious mind what it is asking for.
For more information regarding the science behind healing (and anger) please check my article on the five stages of grief.
Don’t play the guilt game
Being mean to an ex serves other, more subtle purposes too. An ex who knows they have lost you, and is having problems moving on, might try to bring you down in order to alleviate the guilt and pain they are feeling.
Ask yourself in what way your ex has chosen to be mean to you. Are they trying to make you feel guilty? Are they impacting your self-esteem by demeaning you? Are they doing so publicly? The way in which they have chosen to operate their spite will tell you what they are attempting to get out of it. For instance:
- An ex who is mean to you publicly might be embarrassed about the breakup and feel they may have lost face socially.
- An ex who tries to guilt-trip you might be trying to make themselves feel less guilty.
- An ex who attempts to bring your self-esteem down is generally only doing so in order to cement their own broken self-esteem.
- An ex who is reaching out spitefully, as discussed earlier in the article, is only doing so in order to get attention from you.
What do all these things have in common? None of them are directed at you personally. In fact, this vitriol is a stage act aimed at shoring up a desperate state of internal defensiveness in your ex.
Why your ex is being mean
While spite is a masquerade for hurt that will diminish with time, it doesn’t mean it isn’t painful for all involved. Tackling the problem head-on might prompt more questions than answers. Equally, feigning indifference might also spur your ex to redouble their efforts to provoke a response. So what can you do?
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer because it is largely dependant on their internal healing process, and that is something you have no say over. Additionally, if you are determined to move on, and the breakup was clean, you are under no moral obligation to haggle with their feelings. Do not let your guilt deter you from finding peace on your own terms.