The Race to Move On Before your Ex
I Hope I Move On Before My Ex Does. Is That Petty?

When news of Justin Bieber’s quickie engagement to Hailey Baldwin surfaced on Sunday, it seemed like the collective pop culture world turned to see what Selena Gomez was doing. Apparently, as Bieber was pledging lifelong love to Hailey in the Bahamas, Selena was living her best life on a boat in New York City.

I’ve been checking my social media feeds every few hours for updates. More stories about Selena, more photos of her smiling…even as Justin confirmed the engagement news firsthand on Instagram. It seemed we were all waiting for her to react. After all, “Jelena” was a storied young love affair stretching from a teenage IHOP date in 2010 to multiple breakups, seeing other partners and repeated reconciliations. The pair most recently cooled their romance in March 2018, a mere four months ago. Did Selena even know the engagement happened?!

It seems she does, and sources say she “doesn’t care” and has been “over” Biebs since their breakup earlier this year. Other sources say she knows Justin is “rash” and “impulsive,” but “at the end of the day, though, she really doesn’t care.”

Meanwhile, I’m over here wondering if Selena is far more emotionally evolved than I am or if she’s more like, “I’m FINE. I am totally FINE, guys. Everything is FINE.”

I understand that an ex moving on doesn’t have to be sad. I get that sometimes you do everything you can to make a relationship work with someone you love and when it still doesn’t, you’re just tired and ready to move on. But isn’t there always a teeny, tiny, minuscule yet totally significant part of you that wants to move on before your ex does?

Maybe I’m projecting. My boyfriend and I recently broke up. I cared about him a lot; I went big to try to make it work, but we ultimately couldn’t overcome the challenges of being long distance. My feelings towards him are still positive. Our time together and my overall growth in our relationship was definitely worthwhile. I am good: not actively hurting, not overly bummed. I’ve asked for some brief emotional space from him — no social media likes, no surprise text messages — to date around and reorient myself around single life. The space has been good. I am truly fine. And I want him to be happy, move on, find love. Just maybe not first.

The aftermath of a relationship is when I usually process what happened and contextualize its significance in the overall scheme of my romantic life — a process that continues until I meet someone new and fully move on.

If I found out through the grapevine that my ex was with someone new before I was? I’d probably be shook. And over the past 24 hours, alongside the ultimately trivial but inexplicably interesting engagement of two young celebrities, I’ve been trying to unpack why. Though my close friend assures me she’s never not wanted to move on first and it’s totally normal, it was unclear to me why I’d feel that way, she’d feel that way or we are all seemingly waiting for Selena to feel that way.

Maybe it’s a little different for everyone, but I’ve settled on some guesses. The aftermath of a relationship is when I usually process what happened and contextualize its significance in the overall scheme of my romantic life — a process that continues until I meet someone new and fully move on. If my ex wraps this phase before I do, does that mean I was, or will be, almost automatically less significant to him? Or is wanting to move on faster a self-defeating pursuit in that it proves I have not?

Also, for me, emotional ties tend to stick around longer than physical ones. There’s this illusion that after we split, we can still reach out to each other if we need to or if the mood strikes. Once the space between us is finally filled with someone else, there’s usually a recognition that those ties have fully dissolved — sort of like a second breakup, especially for the person who’s still single. So when it’s really over and there’s a new partner in the mix, is it wrong to hope I’m the person who emerges +1?

I’m not sure. What do you think? Is wanting to move on first a petty, reasonable or toxic desire? Is our obsession with Selena’s reaction to Bieber’s engagement proof that we think it’s natural, if nothing else?

Photo by Neil Mockford via Getty Images

Get more Postmodern Love ?

Hi! If you're in the UK or EU and have trouble loading Disqus comments on Man Repeller, that could be a result of updates we've made to the site to be compliant with GDPR. The good news is, you can elect to allow Disqus tracking, which will enable comments to load! You can do this by going to Manage Choices and making Disqus active. See screenshots for how to do this below.