Why Did My Ex Move on So Fast?

We just broke up and they’re already gushing about their new SO all over social media.

Years ago, I went through a breakup and ran into my ex the following week. It was totally unexpected — I was walking through a neighbourhood she never went to, and all of a sudden I saw someone who looked like her in the distance, holding hands with some other guy. At first, I thought, “no way it’s her.” And then I got closer and realized it was her. When I got to the restaurant and met my friend for dinner, I felt sick. How was she already dating someone? I wasn’t present at all during dinner, so consumed by the question of how she had moved on so quickly. 

Of course, it’s now easy for me to say it was a beautiful gift. I’m here, I’m happy, I’ve been in fantastic relationships since then, and life is grand. And I now know one way to get over an ex is to see that they’ve moved on. It’s painful and quick, like ripping off a band-aid. Perhaps the hardest part of getting over a breakup (unless you’re the one who left) is seeing them happy in a new relationship. Once you see that, it’s the official closure that you’ll never be in a relationship with them again. 

It’s easy to classify all new relationships as rebounds, but that’s not always fair to say. I will say this: if you do not take time between relationships to look at why you showed up the way you did, how you contributed to the outcome, and how you could’ve been better, then you are missing an opportunity for growth. I don’t care how a relationship ends — we are all part of the dance. People don’t often like it because it means taking responsibility and accountability for your part in the dynamic. 

How did I contribute to the end? What did I miss? How could I be better moving forward? These are all questions to ask —  questions requiring humanity and curiosity, which are both essential qualities of a great relationship partner. So you may not be getting back together with your ex, but you’re developing the qualities you’ll need to be a great partner.

In the meantime, you learn to cope with seeing your ex happy in a new relationship. You take a deep breath. You ask yourself, “How is this actually a win for me? How am I actually winning here?” Because here’s the thing: if someone jumps from lover to lover faster than a cheetah on speed, it usually means they’re not comfortable sitting on their own. So you were with someone uncomfortable being on their own, and perhaps a part of you is also not comfortable being by yourself. Relationships are mirrors, and they can show us where we might be codependent, or where we might need to work on ourselves. 

Seeing your ex happy with someone new is triggering for many reasons, and someone in the Create the Love community once wrote in to say it was especially hard for them because their ex was doing “all the things they didn’t do” in their previous relationship but with this new person. The ex posted photos of themselves with the new partner, and took them on fancy dates, for instance. Whether we’re in a relationship or just out of one, we usually take issue with a thing that stands in for something else. So let’s say your partner refuses to post pictures of the two of you on social media, saying, “I don’t really use my Instagram.” Meanwhile, they’re posting pictures of friggin’ fettucini alfredo, but not the relationship. It’s safe to say they’re full of shit, but if you sit there and accept gaslighting or lies, then you’re selling yourself out and abandoning yourself to keep the relationship together. You’re making the connection with them more important than the connection to yourself and your needs. 

And it’s never just about the photos. It’s usually about wanting to feel secure within the relationship. I made it a rule in a past partnership that I wasn’t willing to be with someone who didn’t celebrate me. That didn’t mean we had to pose for Instagram photos all day. What I meant was they actively wanted to share me with their friends, family, and community. If someone insists on keeping your love a secret, that could be a red flag. (Sure, there are circumstances where privacy is important like if someone is in the witness protection program or they’re waiting for a divorce to be final. We can honour a few exceptions, but reasons like “my ex is crazy I gotta keep us a secret” is not one of them.)

It’s okay to be mad! This person didn’t post pictures of you two on social media or take you on fancy dates! You didn’t get the relationship you wanted! And you know what? You should be happy they’re with someone else because you really don’t want to be with someone who won’t do that for you. You do not want to settle for a relationship that wasn’t really a relationship. You’re mad they’re in the relationship you wanted and that you never actually got this person in the way you wanted, which means they were never actually a great partner.

In one of my courses, we go through and audit the previous relationship to look at where we settled. There’s nothing better than finding out what you settled for so you can learn not to do it again. It’s tempting to blame them, but it’s not entirely about the other person. It’s about our standards. What are our deal breakers? What’s the bottom line that we’re willing to settle for? And you will find that you’re often way below that line. 

You might even realize that you’re so used to having a below-average partner, that you’ve accepted that’s just what it’s like, and everyone you’re surrounded by also has a below-average partner, which might be great because you all take your below-average expectations to the bar to drink some below-average wine to bury and numb the pain of staying in a below-average partnership. There are entire industries created to numb this experience, and if you stop settling for less, if you start raising your standards, you’ll have fewer reasons to numb yourself, you’ll find healthier habits, and you’ll maybe even drink better wine because you realize you’re done settling for less. Let’s toast to that! To you, raising the bar. Cheers!