I'm A Nightmare Ex-Girlfriend — & I'm Cool With That

Photographed by Rachel Cabitt.

There are certain things about myself that I’ve had to come to grips with when it comes to sex, dating, and relationships. I’m not a “cool girl;” while I can get down with some casual coitus, I tend to lean pretty heavily toward monogamy; and I can absolutely be a complete and utter fuckboy at times. But the biggest part of myself that I’ve come to accept — nay, embrace — is that I truly am a nightmare of an ex-girlfriend.

I have never understood people who can be friends with their exes. Every time a relationship ends, I go scorched earth. I block the former apple of my eye on every social platform. I put them in my phone as “DO NOT ANSWER IT’S THE ASSHOLE.” I delete every single one of our photos together. You want a lesson in erasing history? Check out my Instagram feed. Would you ever guess I’ve even met a man, let alone dated multiple?

It’s not for lack of trying. My most recent ex, Jude*, wanted to be friends once we put the final nail in the coffin that was holding our failed relationship. And I tried. Honestly, I did. We even met for dinner and attempted to exchange pleasantries over tacos. But the conversation eventually turned to the issues in our relationship — namely, how we stopped having sex early on because he was emotionally unavailable due to the fact that his ex came back into his life. He eventually cheated on me, causing me to loudly dress him down for an hour while he sat crying on his couch. By the time our tacos came, I wanted to throw them in Jude’s face.

You’re probably thinking, Of course you don’t want to be his friend, Maria! He cheated on you! You’re completely right. But the truth is, I feel this angry about most of my exes. And if I rewind the tape on this most recent crash-and-burn episode, it points to the real reason why I don’t want to be buddy-buddy with these guys once the relationship goes out: When I’m in a relationship, I have a tendency to ignore red flags and let things get to a toxic place before it finally ends (on my terms or theirs).

In a nutshell? I have a hard time letting go. One of my biggest downfalls is my intense desire to make other people happy and to fix things. (Hey, I’m a Pisces.) So I tend to hang on to relationships far beyond their expiration point. Jude and I hadn’t had sex in weeks before he cheated, and it was because he was hiding the fact that he’d been seeing his ex. But I stuck around, thinking that I could change the situation. My first boyfriend, Andrew*, slowly turned into a passive narcissist who blamed me for everything. But I kept him around, thinking that he’d eventually pull his shit together and be the nice boyfriend he was when we first started dating.

Every time a relationship ends, I go scorched earth.

This tendency to hang onto failing relationships is, as far as I can tell, the biggest reason why I have a hard time transitioning into friendship post-breakup — and knowing when to cut ties is definitely something I’ve been working on. Jude was actually a step in the right direction. In the past, I’d likely have kept dating him after he’d cheated on me. When I was younger, I held on because I didn’t want to be alone. But now that I no longer fear my single status the way I fear grim death, letting go has become easier.

That said, I’m not shifting the blame entirely on myself — when someone treats you as poorly as some of my exes have, you don’t owe them friendship. I’m just acknowledging my role in the dynamic so that I can hopefully learn from these situations and grow. And who knows? Maybe if I had exited these relationships sooner, I still wouldn’t have wanted to be friends with these people.

If I’m being honest with myself, I don’t think being friends with an ex will ever work for me. I know that lots of people are able to do this, and it sounds really great. But I just can’t get comfortable with the idea of being 100% friends with someone who’s been inside of me (that’s an honor literally none of my other friends hold). My friendships are very different from my romantic relationships; they come with less emotional baggage and have a strong foundation of trust and mutual respect (also there’s the part about not having been inside of me). Like I said, I’m okay with the fact that I’m a staunchly un-chill ex.

So, for the time being, once the dust from a breakup settles, you’ll find me sitting in bed watching Gossip Girl, eating pizza straight from the box, deleting all photographic evidence of my previous relationship, and unfollowing my ex on social media. (I don’t really need to see you and your new girlfriend eating waffle tacos at Smorgasburg, buddy.) Is this immature? Maybe. But I’ve found that it’s the best way for me to cope with the trauma of breakups. Perhaps one day I’ll meet someone I’m willing to maintain a friendship with. Until then, I’ve got a full roster of pals to hang out with who never broke my heart.

After being raised on a steady diet of Disney movies, I expected to meet someone and fall passionately in love — but wound up collapsing under the pressures of modern dating. Luckily, I eventually realized that there's no "right" way to date, and that I need to find happiness within myself, no partner needed. It’s Not You is where I write to calm the voices in my head — and hear from all of you. Follow me on Twitter, on Instagram, or email me at maria.delrusso@refinery29.com.