Breakups are never a smooth, linear process, and the level of unpleasantness will vary from day to day. You may be halfway through a ruptured relationship, maybe at the point where you’re going to collect your stuff from his place – and suddenly he goes nuts as if it’s a brand-new idea and you haven’t been talking about splitting up for several weeks.
The positive side of these unsettled emotions is realizing that under normal circumstances they should subside eventually. Ending a relationship is a process that involves grieving, like a death. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance are the stages of grief associated with a death, and they’re commonly seen in the breakup process as well.
If your former partner continues to be red-hot and full of vengeance a couple months after you break up, beware. If he does any weird stuff like stalking you, showing up at restaurants when you’re out with someone new, or continues to send you texts, tell someone. Any signs that one partner is unhinged and wants revenge should be treated very seriously, including by telling authorities.
It’s normal for a person to go back over the small details of a relationship and try to find the “one thing” that was missing, or the trigger that ruined everything. Suspicious minds will look for any indication that you had someone on the side or were not as honest and faithful as you promised to be. This paranoia will likely be accompanied by accusatory statements – mostly to get a reaction out of you. Stay cool, let this emotion run its course, and you’ll be closer to completely free of this guy. You don’t have to provide any proof to refute the crazy claims, just try not to engage in an emotional battle that will go nowhere and solve nothing.
He feels that he invested time and money in this relationship and doesn’t want to “lose” that investment, so he wants revenge. He wants the ring and jewelry back, he wants to slash the tires that he paid to put on your car. There’s a line between emotional venting and violent behavior. Don’t be shy about seeking a restraining order to keep him away. If there are valuable shared belongings in dispute, suggest that you consult a mediator or attorney to make the decisions. Most often that will require one person paying the other for their share of the valuable item, or liquidating major purchases and splitting the funds. Go along with what’s reasonable because, again, engaging in an emotional dispute will only reopen wounds.
A breakup can take the sweetest gentleman into the gutter, so try not to be surprised when you hear that he’s been talking smack to your friends, it’s just the hurt feelings being vented and they should evaporate over time. This stage is when you’re most likely to get snarky text messages about him trying out new partners, or asking, sweetly, about the name of that swanky Paris hotel because he wants to go back (with someone new of course). Be like teflon and let it slide off your back.
Let his friends pick him up when he falls. It isn’t easy, but it’s important that you step away from being his crutch. Lots of people have to hit rock bottom before they can move on, and that could mean getting evicted or losing his job, but none of those things are your responsibility. You have to think of yourself. Once you’ve made the decision to get out of a relationship, his self-pity and inability to cope with reality can’t be a reason to look back.
Yes, that’s right: there will be a glimpse or two of the old partner you fell for, and you must keep it in perspective. It’s rare for exes to actually be friendly, and that usually takes a very long time and good reason (such as shared custody of a child). If it happens soon after the breakup, beware, it could be a trap, because people don’t change. He was just more comfortable fighting and making you miserable than he is starting over again. Being nice could also be part of denial, as in he thinks you’ve cooled off and will want him back and you’ll go back to the way things used to be. If you’re sure the breakup is the best step for you then guard yourself against backsliding. You don’t want to go through this twice.