I Don't Want To Be With My Ex, But It Still Hurts To See Him Dating

by Lindsay Cushman
woman near window thinking about something
Scary Mommy and tommaso79/Getty

Moving on has been the hardest part of my divorce. Whether it’s been me dating or my ex dating, the situation has been incredibly awkward and painful.

What makes it even worse is that I don’t even want to be with my ex anymore, but seeing him dating someone else is still hurtful. I realize how unfair that is to both me and my ex, but it’s the truth.

I’ve been struggling with figuring out why it bothers me so much to see him dating, and I think I’ve settled on a few reasons.

For one, imagining someone else as a mother figure to my son literally makes me feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach. When I gave birth nine years ago, the thought never crossed my mind that he may someday have a stepmom. A mother-in-law, yes, but a stepmom — no way. Of course, I was in love with my husband at that moment, so the thought of him marrying another woman wasn’t on the radar either. Even if his potential stepmom is wonderful, I think this is a natural feeling to have as a mom. I’m mama. I don’t want anyone else to ever even come close to that role.

Secondly, it’s very difficult to break the habit of thinking of my ex as my husband. When you’re with someone for so long and you have referred to them as your spouse for over a decade, it takes some time to adjust to thinking of them as just your co-parent. It’s a weird place to be in — to be happy that he’s no longer my husband but sad at the same time. A loss is still a loss, no matter how right the decision was. Losses must be grieved properly in order to truly move on from them.

Lastly, the physical portion of it is hard. Knowing he’s touching someone else, kissing someone else, loving someone else — it feels like cheating even though it’s not. When you take those vows, you program yourself not to desire another person in that way. A piece of paper saying you’re divorced doesn’t automatically change what you’ve been programmed to do for so long. I’ve even found myself calling the person I’m dating by my ex’s name. It’s a genuine mistake, but it just goes to show that we’re creatures of habit and that sometimes, it’s incredibly hard to break those habits.

My relationship with my ex was not a positive one for a very long time. There’s a huge feeling of relief and freedom that has come along with the divorce, but there are still these individual issues that come up periodically that make it difficult to fully move on.

I find myself wondering, when will it not feel like cheating? When will I get to the point where it doesn’t hurt to hear him refer to another woman as his girlfriend? Will I ever get there? Will I ever accept someone else as the woman in his life?

This has been an issue that has come up in my relationships since my divorce. I know the fact that it bothers me that my ex is dating is a huge barrier to me moving on and being happy in a new relationship. I’m trying so hard to let it go. It’s not only hurting me; it’s hurting the person I’m dating as well. I know I wouldn’t want to hear about my boyfriend still having unresolved feelings about their ex dating, so why should he?

I hear other divorcees say that they couldn’t care less about who their ex is with. I’ve seen countless memes joking about feeling sorry for the woman who’s now with your ex because he’s her problem now. I want so badly to feel that way. I don’t want this feeling dictating the rest of my life. I want to let it all go and get to the point where I look at my ex as my son’s father and nothing more.

I know it sounds like an oxymoron that I don’t want to be with my ex but that it still hurts to see him dating. Maybe it’s selfish. Maybe I should want to see him in a happy relationship, even if it’s not with me. I think it just takes time to stop thinking about your former spouse as “yours.”

To have and to hold, from this day forward, till death do us part — that statement shouldn’t be taken lightly. Divorce ends the legal aspect of your marriage, but the emotional aspect remains long after the papers are signed.

I don’t know how long it will take to break that emotional bond. It’s been a year, and although it’s gotten a bit easier, when I hear he’s dating someone new it still feels like my heart jumps into my throat for a few moments. When it does, I remind myself of all the reasons why we got divorced and how far I’ve come, and it helps my heart settle down again.

Without a doubt, I don’t want to be with my ex, but it still hurts to see him dating. So, for now, I’m going to let it because I’m human and divorce is hard. For now, I’m going to allow myself some grace.