In the queer, polyamorous, and kink communities, we like to eschew many cis-hetero-mononormative relationship tropes. One of those is the idea that you must hate your ex.
I think letting go of this trope is a good thing. Relationships end for many reasons, most of them nothing to do with one party being a garbage human. Our communities and friendship circles and dating pools within these subcultures are small, so if we go out of our way to avoid our exes, we might end up not going to a lot of things.
But sometimes I think it’s okay to hate your ex. Sometimes I think it can even be a source of power and healing.
I don’t hate you because you’re my ex, I hate you because you abused me
At this point in my life, I’ve had quite a lot of relationships varying in seriousness from “very casual” to “genuinely thought I’d marry him”. That means I’ve amassed quite a few exes.
I don’t hate, or even dislike, the vast majority of my exes. There are those I remember fondly as a beautiful presence in my life that lasted a limited time. There are those I think of wistfully once in a while, allowing myself to think of what might have been in another life. Some I can happily wave or chat to when we bump into each other at the occasional event. Others I really don’t think of much at all any more.
But that ex? Him I hate. Viscerally and deeply and with a power that sometimes frightens me. Not because he’s my ex, but because he abused me. Because I sometimes still have nightmares. Because I had to wade through so much pain and spend so much money on therapy to escape him psychologically long after I escaped physically.
I don’t hate him because he’s my ex. I hate him because he abused me. (I’m reliably informed he hates me, too. That’s fine – his feelings have no impact on my life whatsoever at this point.)
Anger and hate aren’t always toxic
Toxic positivity would have us believe that “negative” emotions are always bad and to be avoided. I don’t believe that’s true at all. Yes, anger and hate can hurt us and eat away at us. But they can also be sources of incredible power.
My friend Sarah wrote this incredible post about not forgiving their abuser. I return to it again and again when I need a reminder that yet another well-meaning “forgive him for YOUR sake, hun!!!” is not good advice for me. I return to it when I need reminding that:
“Survivors never need to forgive our abusers. We don’t need to accept any apology, no matter what others think about its strength or veracity. We don’t need to be thankful or grateful or appreciative. We can be as angry and disgusted and unforgiving as we want to be.”Sarah Brynn Holliday
I don’t forgive my abuser, either. I’ve tried. I have cried and yelled at the sky and punched pillows and been through years of therapy and burned everything he ever gave me. But I do not forgive him. If anything, the older I get, the less I forgive him.
But that anger gives me strength. It helps me to keep myself safe, to ensure that I will never again ignore the parade of bright fluttering red flags I ignored to be with him. It allows me to support other survivors, to speak out against intimate partner abuse in all its forms.
You’re allowed to hate people who hurt you
Whether they abused you or cheated on you or emotionally neglected you or something else entirely, please hear this loud and clear: you are allowed to feel anger, resentment, and even hate towards people who hurt you.
Being friends with your exes can be great in some contexts. But it’s not mandatory and sometimes it would do more harm than good to even attempt. Don’t feel obligated to listen to the people who tell you that forgiveness is the only way. It isn’t.
You are allowed to feel indifferent. You are allowed to be cordial but distant. And it’s okay to hate your ex if they caused you harm.
Will I ever stop hating my abuser? I don’t know, but I know I will always hate what he did to me.