I’ve heard this saying too many times and believe me, I’ve tried. However, weekend after weekend I find myself in the same spaces as my ex boyfriend as we have the same friend group. I repeatedly have to say hi, repeatedly have to play beer pong whilst his eyes loom over me. Occasionally after he corners me into a conversation about how my life has been since we have broken up, he sheds a few tears in my arms. I stay polite, I listen to him rant about his family, and then he’ll blithely ask me about mine. I smile but I don’t flirt. I ask one question, to not seem rude, but not two. I try to “be the bigger person” and not let myself fall back into the familiar habit of being his girlfriend and best friend. But as I attempt to channel the perfect ex, how he acts toward me on a given night is a crapshoot.
Too many times I have seen my friends have to endure men’s indecisive ways as they engage in conversation or attempt to hookup. And now I find myself subjected to the same. As I sit contemplating the array of nights I have to endure whilst my ex comes up to me regularly to chat or decides to flirt with other women right next to me, I find myself holding back more and more anger towards the unfairness of my situation.
In breakups, universal logic seems to accept that when two people end a relationship, the man is always going to go out and get very intoxicated, maybe flirt and then end up going home with another woman. On the contrary, women usually take more time for themselves following the first weeks or months of a breakup, stereotypically crying and eating ice cream whilst watching romcoms. Why do we put up with this gendered double standard? Why is it acceptable to say to me, as my ex is flirting with another girl right next to me, “you know men just deal with breakups differently.” Why is the burden on women to “take the high road”, while men can decide whether they are going to take a breakup well or not, whether they feel like flirting with a girl in front of their ex, or whether they instead feel like catching your attention? If both people suffer the hurt of a breakup, why is it that the man always seems to be given room to express that hurt however he feels like on any given day? Stop saying “men deal in different ways.” It is about respect and there should be no double standard.
I don’t have the solution but this topic is too rarely discussed, and it leaves us women feeling disempowered. It feels good to rise above and “be the bigger person” in the face of an ex’s actions every weekend. But as you are repeatedly struck with rash behaviors from someone you used to care about, the sturdy walls of “rising above” begin to crumble.
So if you, like me, are tired of fighting to keep your head high, your spirits up and your smile wide, just know that I see you. Get some space for yourself.