I Still Hate-Stalk My Exes (And So Can You!)

[Editor’s note: I do not advocate actual stalking.]

Nearly two years ago–okay, one year and eight months ago–my longest and strongest relationship ended. Actually, “ended” is a mild word for what happened. The relationship combusted.

Image: Footage of a nuclear bomb detonation.

Big boom.

The breakup started off fairly amicable. I was living in New Hampshire at the time (where I’d moved to be with him for his final year of college), and he was doing an internship in New York City. Our communication was faltering. Our dialogue was stilted. His “I love you” sounded like about as genuine as a three-year-old’s “I’m sorry.” So I asked if he wanted to break up–assuring him that I did not want to break up–and he said yes.

For a few hours I was okay. And then the enormity of what had happened hit me: I’d just been broken up with. In rural New Hampshire. After three years (okay, two years and nine months). In the ensuing weeks, I cried all the time forever, had fantastic but emotionally crippling breakup sex, failed miserably at my first job post-college, and contracted shingles. “God got confused and added an ‘H’ to single,” I would tell my friends through a pained smile. Then I would escape to the bathroom to cry some more.

I started dating somebody new. And then somebody newer. And so on. I slept with boys of all shapes and sizes. And I did it well. I enjoyed these things for what they were, but in the back of my head I couldn’t shake the feeling that I would never be “over” my ex, that the nature or form of our breakup had damaged me and that I would spend the rest of my days angsting about what had gone wrong. I checked up on his Facebook incessantly, hoping to catch some glimpse of what he was feeling towards me.

Animation: Clips from TV show Bob's Burgers. Bob says, "I'm not obsessed with him!" Linda says, "Yeah you are! It's like you're stalking each other." Scenes of Bob stalking someone.

Maybe don’t *actually* stalk your exes, though.

And then, one day, it hit me: we broke up because we were not compatible. In fact, we were worse than “not compatible;” we were toxic. I was emotionally (and professionally, and sexually) unpredictable, and he was compulsively regimented. I tended towards polyamory and he was obsessively monogamous. I liked the word “partner” (or no word at all) and he liked “boyfriend.” I wanted to stay private; he wanted to be Facebook official. During finals, I liked to bake cookies and sing raucous songs, and he literally locked himself in his room. And we were simply not good at working these things out because I talk to think, and he has to think for weeks before he can talk. We were not for each other. If we’d stayed together we would have ended up miserable or dead.

But I still stalk him on Facebook.

Um. Am I two years old? Isn’t that unhealthy? Doesn’t my current partner feel a little bit weird about the fact that my ex’s name is one of the first to pop up when I click on the Facebook search bar? Probably. But I’m not going to stop, and here’s why: if I sever all ties with him, he will cease to be a real person. He will become a concept. Specifically, he will become The Person Who Broke Up With Me Because I’m Garbage (remember, I have historically suffered from low self-esteem). And this is a problem, because as a concept my ex is really amazing for me (anyone can be amazing as a concept, it turns out). The actual things that he does, though–what he posts on Facebook, how he interacts with people–prove to me over and over again that I am happier without him.

Let me be clear: he’s not a horrible person. If your ex is a horrible person, there are probably better things for you to be doing than stalking them. Mine, however, is simply a flawed person who caused me severe amounts of misery. I don’t Facebook stalk him in the hopes that he’s miserable or worse off than I am; I Facebook stalk him to remind myself that we were a shitty couple.

So go ahead. Take a look at what your ex is doing or saying on Facebook. See beyond their glitzy vacation photos or how many awesome friends they seem to have. Do not compare your life to theirs. That’s not the point of this exercise. Instead, look for the things that annoy you or simply don’t interest you. Remember the worst moments in the relationship–the bad behaviors that you pulled out of your ex and the bad behaviors that they pulled out of you. Feel whatever rage or anger or sadness you have to feel, and then remember: those were things you felt in the relationship. They’re gone now.

Animation: Pikachu sighing in relief.

Pika… thank god.

Of course, that exercise (activity? meditation?) might not work for everyone. For a lot of people–especially people who are trying to get some emotional distance from their exes–Facebook stalking is not helpful and can be crushingly painful, so proceed at your own risk.

I’d advocate for this sort of indulgence above “letting go” or “getting over it” any day of the week, though, and here’s why: people and experiences should stay with us. If we forget what our old relationships were like, we’re liable to repeat the same mistakes over, and over, and over again. My relationship with my partner is kind, caring, and peaceful because of the lessons I’ve learned (and continue to learn) from considering my past relationships. Maybe Facebook stalking is a particularly immature way of accessing this form of self-awareness, but sometimes it’s important to be childlike.

Maybe one day I’ll unfriend my ex or simply for get to look at his profile. Until then, I can rest happy knowing that I deserved better. And he deserved… well, I hope he gets what he deserves.

(Just kidding! He deserved better, too).


  1. Andrew

    Dear Noah, this is the second time (officially) I visited your blog since your posts were sent to me by my exbf. Please let me correct, modify, and explain. I love him after the second meeting. He and I agreed to be in the relationship (he called long distance relationship). He and I were totally fine since He and I agreed to share everything including his sexual adventures. He ended the relationship and changed his tone from a sweet person to a stranger since by accident I found out many wrong things hidden from me. I don’t want to talk about wrong things. No one is prefect. I find out that I was in one-side love. He said: we are not for each other. You know what? I cant believe how much I love him just after a month. Let me be clear. He is not a horrible person. Like you Noah, he tends toward polyamory and I prefer monogamous. Hidden things will make gaps bigger and bigger. Like you Noah, in order to forget him, not thinking of him (I decided to love him forever in my heart and soul, don’t care much he love me or not), I slept with boys and man of all shapes and sizes (all safe sex). I also cried a river and have asked myself many times why do I love him. I am stupid, I am totally stupid. Now I keep my love for him down and deep in my heart (don’t care much he know or doesn’t know) and live healthy to let him go with his polyamory and adventures. I so hate him (the one go with his sex adventures), but I always love him and promise that it will be my second and also final love. Within a month, I spent time to read what he wrote and his blogs to understand him. It made me love him much and also hate him much by what he has hidden from me. I don’t read and stalk my ex any more since it is his business, his life and also his game. I agree and disagreed with you at some points. Never mind. I don’t know what to say now. But I know I am not the only one. Good luck to you Noah and him. Have you watched Sam Smith – I’m not the only one? See the link here

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