Watching your ex move on with someone who acts just like you can be weird, hurtful, or even irritating — clearly, they have a type, and that type is you. But when you and your ex's new partner have nothing in common, it might leave you questioning your entire relationship. Think Elle and Lilian in Legally Blonde, or Rob and Lily in Hulu's High Fidelity. Is this the type of person your partner wanted to be with all along? Are they intentionally seeking out your opposite?
"When a break up is initiated by a partner in a sudden or unexpected way, we're especially vulnerable to self-criticism and self-doubt, which can often be a reaction to the unknown," Elizabeth Ohito, LCSW, psychotherapist and relationship coach, tells Bustle. "Unfortunately, self-doubt and self-criticism can provide you an answer even when it's the wrong one."
Unfortunately, you'll never really know what's going on between your ex and their new partner unless you straight-up have the closure talk. So, even if you're filled with self-doubt and find yourself constantly refreshing their new partner's Instagram profile for new posts, experts insist that you shouldn't take your ex's new relationship personally.
"The truth is, your ex's new partner has nothing to do with you or the relationship that you had together," Nikki Loscalzo, therapeutic relationship coach, tells Bustle. "This new relationship is more likely an opportunity for your ex to explore a new or different side of themselves."
For example, if you're a total ENFJ and your ex is now dating someone more introverted, their new partnership may be pushing them to explore their social boundaries. Perhaps you and your ex to go a lot of hikes or trail walks, but their new partner appears to be a homebody. If that's the case, your ex may now be using their time outdoors to reclaim their space.
"Whatever the situation, your ex’s new relationship is not a negation of you of what the two of you had together," Loscalzo says. It's just a completely different relationship.
Couples therapist Jana Edwards, LCSW, adds that the old saying of "opposites attract" has some scientific accuracy. According to Edwards, our brains look for people who can "fill in the blanks" of our own personalities. "The technical language is that we flip from one side of our ambivalence to the other in an effort to be in touch with the exact opposite issues within ourselves," she says. "It's not a rejection of you, but an attempt to experience the other side of themselves."
Whoever your ex is dating now is more so a reflection of who they are now — not who you were then.
But not everyone is looking to explore another side of themselves in their relationships. As Ohito says, "It might be more random or ad-hoc than you think." In other words, your ex may not be attracted to "one type" of person. There are a ton of determining factors that influence attraction, which include the context in which people meet, as well as the stage of life they're in when they connect. Whoever your ex is dating now is more so a reflection of who they are now — not who you were then.
If you can't stop creating a Venn Diagram for you and your ex's new partner in your head, you can start by setting boundaries for yourself. For example, you have the agency to unfollow, block, or mute your ex on social media. You can also practice using your time intentionally, with friends and family, or by journaling and partaking in your favorite hobbies. By shifting the attention of your ex's new partner and back onto you, you'll be able to exert the energy you had placed on the past back in the present, eventually leading to an even brighter future.
Elizabeth Ohito, LCSW, psychotherapist and relationship coach
Nikki Loscalzo, therapeutic relationship coach
Jana Edwards, LCSW, couples therapist