How (& Why) to Stop Hating on Your Mother %^&*ing Ex

on May 13, 2013 | in Relationships | by

stop hating

(& Other Tales of Overcoming Envy. Plus, a vocabulary lesson! You’re welcome.)

“Your ex is married,” my friend told me, running back from the tailgating tent where she’d spotted him amidst the crowd of blue-and-orange painted football fans. He was standing by the barbecue, she said, one hand wrapped around the blonde at his side, the other around a can of Bud Light, when she noticed a glint of gold reflecting from his left hand: a wedding band.

My jaw dropped.

“Uhhhh… what?!

Less than five months ago, we’d broken up amidst rumors of unfaithfulness.

Less than three months ago, he’d moved in with the blonde.

And now this?!

I felt physically ill, seething with envious hatred and dreaming of the day I could blissfully witness the demise of their relationship.

The truth is, I wanted him to be miserable — like, horribly, terribly, insanely miserable.

And lonely. And cold. And broke and alone.


Schadenfreude (German: [ˈʃaːdənˌfʁɔʏdə]) is pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.

Now, listen up: this post is actually about more than just exes, because exes aren’t the only ones who turn us into envious, Schadenfreude-prone b*tches — in fact, there are lots of people who do that.

You know, like your friend who posts on Facebook like 20 times per day about how awesome her life is:

FB Status



I want that!” you moan to yourself like a whiny 8 year-old.

Or like your friend who just got a major promotion at work, while you’re still stuck working in the crappy, life sucking position you’ve been in since 2008.

I want that!” you bemoan from your cubicle.

Or last but not least, like the blogger you follow who’s all, “I reached 400,000 Facebook fans today! All my hard work over the past three months really has paid off!”


(Ok, so maybe that’s just me, but whatever.)

There are plenty of envy-inducing situations and circumstances and people in the world that can cause you to covet thy neighbor, leading you to want to punch them in the face because if only their lives could become a bit more miserable, I’ll bet yours could finally be happy!

But wooahhhhhh there, Nelly.

Why the desperate Schadenfreude?

Slooow down for a second. Hold your horses.

Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my days of jealous Schadenfreude, it’s that knocking the wind out of someone else’s sails will not fill your own.

Believe me: it just won’t.

You know what will, though?

More wind.

That’s right: The more you can fill the sails of others, the more you realize how much you already have.

And the more happiness you realize that you already have, the more you begin to understand that joy, unlike a bag of Peanut M & Ms, is not a finite resource. You don’t have to take it away from someone else in order to get your own.

He can be happy — you can be happy, too.

Your friend can post about her ah-maaazing life on Facebook all she wants, and you can still be happy as a clam.

Life doesn’t have to be a zero sum game, and your happiness (or lack thereof) need not be dependent on that of another.

Rather than bemoaning someone else’s happiness or good fortune, the answer lies instead in more joy, more Mudita, more loving kindness.

Mudita (Pāli and Sanskrit: मुदिता) means joy. It is especially sympathetic or vicarious joy, the pleasure that comes from delighting in other people’s well-being rather than begrudging it.

You know how I knew I was over my ex? It wasn’t when I witnessed his new relationship deteriorate or once I got my “revenge.” It wasn’t when he ended up cold and alone and broke — those things never happened.

Instead, it was when I began to feel this really weird feeling — compassion? — flowing out from my chest.

So maybe it was a faint feeling, a flutter as soft as a butterfly’s wings (err, moth’s — ok, so maybe more like a fruit fly’s) — but still, it was there.

Oh yes, that micro-flutter was there.

Somehow over the past year I’d stopped wishing for the demise of his new relationship, the destruction of his happiness, and the amputation of his you-know-what.

In fact, somehow I’d stopped caring much at all, until one day the strangest words escaped my lips and radiated from my heart: “I hope they can be happy.”

And I meant it.

I was finally able to separate myself from him and from the hurt he’d caused me enough to realize that we are all one.

Separate from him.

We are all one.

(How’s that for paradox?)

I felt Mudita again when, months later, I was a bridesmaid at a good friend’s wedding.

That night I swayed solo in the middle of the dance floor, surrounded by a sea of twirling couples, when a tear began to softly trickle down my face.

But unlike so many weddings I’d been to in the past, it wasn’t a tear of frustration or loneliness, not of envy or bitterness or sadness. I wasn’t crying for what was missing — not for the love I didn’t have or for the hole I felt in my heart.

Instead I was crying for what was already here — for the fullness of my heart and for what my friend and her husband had found together: Love, joy, deep connection.

I was crying tears of pure, unadulterated joy. Her happiness had become my happiness, not my downfall.

Mudita: Delighting in other people’s well-being rather than begrudging it.

The green envy monster had de-reared its ugly head, leaving in its place a compassion, a joy and a fullness I had never known before.

Sometimes I sense the monster coming back around for a visit, but these days I know just what to do: I pause and I take a deep breath, filling my lungs with air and my sails with wind.

I remind myself that there’s more than enough to go around: Enough love. Enough money. Enough time.  Enough smart & sexy, honest men (wink, wink ;-).

Enough, enough, enough. This world is filled to the brim with enough.

And I bring to mind a Buddhist prayer that goes something like this:

“May all beings experience happiness and the root of happiness. May all beings be free of suffering and the root of suffering.”

That, please.

I want that.

# # #

[Image by bark]

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  • Rob

    Altogether now, ♪ ♫ All you need is love! ♪ ♫ Thank you, T-Shizzle. This post sent me through a whole range of emotions, but left me with a big smile. ☺

  • Hey Therese: Thanks for sharing this. While reading I initially thought that you might have been hard on yourself. I mean I think most people’s reactions to hearing their ex was married 5 months after breaking-up would be a mix of anger, frustration, confusion and yes schadenfreude. I see that initial reaction as a natural human impulse when we lose a connection with somebody we were close with.

    In my view, it’s what happens AFTER that initial mix of emotions occurs. Do we stay in that place or look for ways to move on? One reaction is healthy and the other is unproductive at best and unhealthy at its worst.

    It’s great that you found that piece of compassion and made the choice to move on. I think that conscious decision to move past that initial emotional mix is the key. I’m learning to do so myself and it’s not always easy but the more I (we) can be conscious about it, the easier and more habitual it is to do.

    • Rob

      That’s a great point, Reggie. The Buddhist ideas of first and second darts are relevant here. Thanks for the reminder to be gentle with ourselves.

      • Thanks Rob. The gentle with ourselves part is something that’s SO easy to say but difficult to put into practice. In my experience I have had to remind myself sometimes that being patient with myself is actually an act of self-love/respect. And I’ve found that’s been habitual the more it’s been put into practice.

        • That’s true, Reggie. You DO have to be gentle and patient with yourself and the range of emotions that are bound to arise… I don’t know that it’s possible to FORCE a certain emotion or feeling; I guess it’s just that I knew I’d found healing once I could feel this kind of compassion and joy for others rather than envy or hate.

  • This post really hits home for me. As you know I am interested in the literary/entertainment industries and sometimes looking at actors/writers/directors that have made it will make me want to give up on my interests altogether. It can hurt to see someone happy and fulfilled and be difficult to be happy for them. I also recently dealt with someone I liked taking a job in another city, and while I’m happy he found a better work situation, I’m bummed his relocating put any chances of a relationship between us on hold.

    I think it’s hard to be patient when we can’t relate to being at the point where we’re in a job/relationship that made all of the struggles and sacrifices worth it. It can make us wonder why we even tried in the first place. I’m glad articles like these are available for immediate encouragement.

    • It is hard… but the alternative of settling is harder, at least for me. It’s a blessing and a curse… :-/ It helps sometimes to know that most of the people who’ve “made it” have struggled through similar phases…

  • I’ve been searching for months for a lost word that means the same thing as mudita. I think it began with the letter C, but I am glad to have this word. There is more than enough Schadenfreude to go around. Not nearly enough mudita. Marvy post, Therese!

  • vanessa

    omg therese! i love this! this is how ive been feeling and i think i can finally move on from a certain boy, i mean, what if the love of yiur life dies? so you die to? no! im not saying move on fast it takes time but dont let it define your future love life or you

  • Diana

    yet again, another relevant post at the perfect time. thanks for the positive vibes :)

  • What if I feel compassion for the people who married my exes…does that count? Kidding (somewhat, lol).

    I have found that allowing hate to take up occupancy in your heart does nothing to hurt them, and everything to hurt YOU.

    • Hahaha, yes, that too ;). I definitely feel that. And yes, I think it definitely counts. Compassion is compassion is compassion…

      And you’re absolutely right on with your second point.

  • Helen

    Therese, thank you for this story. Since reading it when you posted it, your image dancing alone in the crowd, wishing happiness to the just married, thinking “there’s enough love for everybody!”, has become in my mind the illustration that it’s possible to wish love (or other thing, for that matter) to others while not having it yourself. There’s enough for everybody! ;) So, thank you! :)

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  • vivian

    You are a wonderful being. :)

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