So you and some guy break up. Of course, these things are never entirely mutual - but however it played out, you've now picked yourself back up, busied yourself with other things, and are well on your way down the path to recovery. Fast forward a bit, and you're even dating other men and focusing on your career and your friendships and your hobbies. You don't even think about him that often anymore!
But then why does it sting so much when you find out that he's marrying someone else? And why is that painful feeling intensified exponentially when you realize that he's marrying the first girl he dated after you?
Someone should ask Jessica Simpson.
Oh, I know - judging by the sappy (yet kinda catchy...) songs on Nick Lachey's post-divorce solo album, it seems that Jessica broke his heart. And anyone who's ever passed by a supermarket tabloid stand knows that she's had her own impressive, if humiliating at times, slew of rebound guys - including current beau Eric Johnson, who seems to be making her genuinely happy (if you can determine these things by sifting through Twitter photos). But Jessica is ultimately an old-fashioned girl who's been fixated on walking down the aisle since Day One. And with the recent announcement that Lachey has asked girlfriend Vanessa Minnillo to marry him, Jessica is reported to be in a pretty sad state right now.
Breakups are never fun. But not only is Jessica's ex getting married - he's marrying the girl he started dating only months after their divorce! He's marrying "the next girl." The girl who basically portrayed her (wow) in the music video for Nick's first getting-over-my-breakup single, "What's Left Of Me." Should this fact make Jessica feel better or worse?
She's not the only girl who's gone through this - and I've heard from quite a few of them while on the road conducting interviews for my upcoming book, WTF Is Up With My Love Life?! I met a single woman in San Francisco who swears that all her serious boyfriends ended up marrying the girls they dated immedately after her. Another single woman in Austin had gone ring shopping with several of her exes - to pick out rings for their new girlfriends, not for her. And in this post-dating age of techno-romance, you're going to find out about your exes' future romances whether you remain friends or not. An old boyfriend of mine recently friend requested me on Facebook, but only after he'd gotten married and splashed all the wedding photos across his profile page. Coincidence? Let's not even ask.
So how does it feel to watch (okay, probably just visualize) your ex getting down on one knee and proposing to the girl he met right after you?
I've heard a range of perspectives from the women I'm meeting through WTF?! Some women seem comforted by their exes' decision to commit to the next girl because it acts as further proof that they weren't meant to be together. Much of the pain in breakups comes from wondering if you - or your partner - could've saved the relationship. You beat yourself up asking, were we supposed to end up together? Is he the one that got away? Did we screw up the fated plan of the cosmos by acting too selfish or busy or jealous or needy? Was that the person I was supposed to marry?
But if he's marrying someone else, then nope - he's not! So you can rest assured, knowing that it's not your fault and that you can stop pondering a reconciliation. He found the right person for him. Congrats!
(Of course, this conclusion presupposes that people only get married because they've found the one and only love of their lives. That argument is questionable amidst the current divorce rate...but if it helps you sleep at night...)
However, other women have expressed frustration about handing off a guy to his future wife. I'm the one who prepared him for commitment, they say! I'm the one who trained him to be a good partner, and now some other woman gets to enjoy the fruits of my labor! "She gon' profit everything I taught," as Beyonce would say! And besides, didn't he spend all that time telling me he wasn't ready to get married? Did he just not want to marry me?!
The truth is - as most of these women eventually realize - no, he probably didn't. You can't blame timing, if timing stops being an issue once he meets the next girl. But this realization brings on a whole new level of pain, even stronger than the typical breakup bouts of regret and sadness.
Of course, time heals all (most?) wounds, and there's no point in being upset over someone just because we can no longer have them. Just as Jessica presumably doesn't want to actually be with Nick anymore, we too are usually able to acknowledge that we don't want to go back to our exes. So when they get engaged and married, we do our best to wish them the best. It's not as if we ourselves are that obsessed with getting married, just for the sake of doing it, anyway.
That said...we're only human. And yeah, it's going to sting. Especially when it's the next girl, which seems to intrinsically tie the marriage, and all its promise of lifelong love and commitment, to our own failed relationship. So I say to Jessica, and the rest of us - let yourself feel hurt, cry to your friends for a bit, and then get ready to move on (again). Unlike your initial breakup, this will only sting for a moment.
And hey, maybe you'll get a really great song out of it.
For more on the post-dating world, check out www.WTFIsUpWithMyLoveLife.com.
Follow Jessica Massa on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jessmassa