What is it about exes? And I don’t mean those unfortunate saps that you sadly, but necessarily of course, had to dump. I refer to the ones that have callously left you in a torrent of unflattering tears at some point in the past. I’m talking about that lover – or lovers – that you’ve sacrificed your all for on that bloody altar of true and everlasting love.

Then again, isn’t heartbreak usually little more than a severely bruised ego: the level of agony directly related to the physical attributes of the person who’s done the dumping? The thrill of being desired by a very attractive person is possibly one of the biggest boosts to the ego. Ergo, the fall from an ego-high is a pretty painful, and, as my mother calls it, “a character building” experience. Pathetically, this tends to be a particularly male phenomenon. (One of the joys of a gay relationship is the fun of two oversized male egos bumping into each other on a daily basis.)

Of course, I’d prefer to believe that I’m a little more evolved than the ordinary male and my heartbreak comes from a deep, deep well of pure unconditional emotional truth. I’d also like to believe that good deeds get rewarded, bad thing only happen to bad people, and that one day scientists will uncover Santa’s lair in the North Pole. But whether you’re gay or straight, male or female, I’ve come to accept that those dastardly exes will haunt us until the day we die.

I recently had an encounter with just such a soul-rattling ghost; the return of the living-dead-ex-lover if you will. The crux of the tragic tale is simple: I fell all over him like a lovesick fool, offering my soul on a bejewelled platter, and he walked away into the arms of a friend of mine (it would be utterly indiscreet and possibly cynical of me to mention who had the considerably larger bank balance between that friend and yours truly). I felt betrayed, destroyed and damn pissed off. Oh, the drama! Three years of self-administered ego-boosting therapy, underpinned by a deep sense of relief that he’d entirely dropped off the gay social scene, meant that I’d successfully moved on. Hell, I’d even stopped thinking about him more than once a day!

Cut to a couple of weekends ago: The party was fun, the people were cute, and the company was damn pleasing. I didn’t recognise him at first (after three years, I’d almost happily convinced myself that he’d emigrated to a small island somewhere in the Pacific). But, with a sense of sudden real physical shock, I realised who it was next to me. He greeted me and, just as though nothing had happened, he proceeded to inform me that he’d broken up with my (former) friend. The rest of the conversation remains a blur. He then offered me a drink, which I accepted. We chatted a little more, but feeling entirely shaken by the experience, I made an excuse and walked away, not seeing him for the rest of the night or since.

A few things struck me about the experience. Firstly, I annoyingly found myself trying to put on an unflustered, suave and cool façade (not easy or particularly successful at the best of times I might add); I could have taken the opportunity to boldly strike him across the face or throw a drink over his head and walk away in a dramatic exit worthy of Scarlett O’Hara. But no, another opportunity to expose my passionate, seething Latin roots was once again lost to time. Secondly, the attraction (from me at least) was still there. He remains easy to talk to and part of me desperately wanted to get close to him again. Thirdly, my head, or rather my brain, did the thinking (for a change). I walked away. I didn’t stick around on the hope that his declaration of recent singledom, and purchase of a beer, meant anything more than a friendly exchange. It was actually rather easy to do and I’m quite chuffed at myself.

Now, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have feelings for the ungrateful bastard, despite his many, many unredeemable faults and unforgivable behaviour. Rather, I’ve learnt to place those feelings in a more appropriate place in my emotional storeroom. This time, I was in control. It’s a liberating experience: one I’d recommend to any heartbroken schmuck. Incidentally, the success of this form of therapy is also directly proportional to the amount of weight gained by the ex in question since the break-up.

The life-changing revelations that I’ve gleaned from that party, and which I’ve documented herein, have gotten me thinking about a possible career change: Author of a best-selling self-help book, or lobbying for a relationship advice slot on a TV talk show? I could do it, you know. I really could.

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