The Phantom Ex

Updated: Feb 21

And How It's A Form Of Gaslighting

At some point in our dating journey we have all heard these three little words..."My Crazy Ex." The phrase is usually followed by a list of trespasses by the ex, everything from; called too much, had jealousy issues, never let me do x,y,z and so on. Or perhaps the ex topic falls on the other end of the spectrum, something like "Oh my ex never did___" and is usually followed by a list of praises. Such as my ex never; yelled, wore things like that, had a problem with it, etc. While these phrases seem common and innocuous enough in reality, they are far more insidious than they may initially appear. In fact, they are a form of... gaslighting. Here's why.

My Ex Always...

"My crazy ex." I generally advise people when they hear that phrase to...RUN! For a variety of reasons but mainly because, you are probably about to walk face first into the "crazy ex" gaslighting scenario. That is the situation where you fall in the shadow of the phantom ex, are held accountable for their mistakes and then held to an amorphous standard and advised to never, ever be like that ex, or things just aren't going to work out.

But here's the thing. It takes two to tango. Yes, always. So that means each person played a role in the relationship and the breakup. And someone not being able to take at least minimum accountability for the relationship, or lessons from it, is a big ol' red flag.

And let's remember you are getting one side of the story, and who knows what version of it you are truly getting. Sure, it may seem a little, shall we say, intense, for an ex to key someone's car for example. But if that ex did it because their significant other drained their bank account, cheated with their best friend and burned down their house, then yes, we might understand it a little more. While that is an extreme example, the point I am trying to make is, you probably aren't getting the whole story.

But regardless, whatever went down between your partner or potential partner and their ex, has nothing to do with you and them holding you to the measuring stick of that person or experience, is only going to end in frustration and failure.

Because it is not your job to "not be their ex" it is only your job to be you. And having the dark cloud of not being like their "crazy ex" is going to tank your relationship and not to mention your self esteem. People have reactions. Relationships are hard. No one is perfect all the time and maybe their ex was doing triggered things, because your partner was triggering them. So yes, if they cheated on their ex, and the ex didn't like it, if they cheat on you too, then you might find yourself acting a whole lot like their ex.

And that's the point I'm trying to make. A person not taking any responsibility for a past relationship, is a huge red flag. Someone then expecting you to make up for the mistakes of a past relationship, also a red flag. Trying to trauma bond with you over bad past relationships then hold you to impossible standards of no outbursts, mistakes, feelings, whatever. simply because it's what their ex did...RED FLAG CITY. So when you hear those three little words...My Crazy Ex... then you know it's time to pack it up, and hit the road!

My Ex Never...

On the flip side of the Gaslighter's Manual is the phrase, "my ex never." This is the case of the idyllic, never did wrong, too good to be true, phantom ex. And too good to be true is exactly right because obviously if they were so great...your partner would still be with them! And if they were dumped by this oh so perfect ex, and are still bringing them up in a new relationship, then they are just plain not over them. There are no two ways about this. Phantom ex's are ghosts of the past, and that is exactly where they the past!

Once again, being held to the measuring stick of an ex, is not fair to you and is not realistic. We tend to romanticize our past relationships. Somehow in all the pain, we tend to forget the reality of it. We think of all the good things, the things we will miss, that we think we will never have again. But to bring that into a new relationship, simply means that person is not ready to move on. That type of romanticizing generally only happens in the initial breakup phase, as time passes and energy dissipates, usually we begin to see the truth of the situation. That it was not perfect, that our ex had faults, that the relationship ended for a reason and that's ok. But in the case of serial monogamists, (those who jump from one relationship to the next with no downtime in between) they often have no time to make it out of the initial romanticizing phase of a breakup, so they often carry it with them, right on in to the next one.

So do yourself a favor, when that ex file gets opened and a comparison chart comes know it's time to politely excuse yourself from that relationship and never look back.

Close The Ex File...For Good!

Here's the bottom line. Ex's belong in the past. They do not belong as a phantom third wheel in current relationships, in any capacity. A new relationship should be just that, new! Free from all the baggage of past relationships and those we were in them with. So cheers to moving on to a gaslighting and ex file free, new relationship! Because you deserve it!

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