I’m Not Your Ex

Recently, I’ve noticed how often people will compare you to their past experiences with others. I think we see this most commonly with romantic relationships where someone gets slighted, so they hold onto that one experience forever, but people actually do this all the time with friends, family and business relationships.

I’m not sure why I’ve become so heighten to noticing when people do this, maybe I’m just tired of being compared to the shitty things other people do that should bar no relevance to the current situation, but I just think it’s an interesting coping mechanism. At the end of the day, you’re only hurting yourself. You can’t take past experiences and project them onto other people. And why would you? It just makes no sense to me.

So many people let their past experiences and relationships dictate their future ones, and it’s really too bad.

You let the person who wronged you win. That person still has control if you’re making decisions because of what happened with them, how they treated you or made you feel. To form new, healthy, lasting relationships, you have to look past what happened “last time” because every new relationship, every new person you meet is different—they aren’t your ex. Their past experiences and relationships are different, and they bring a different perspective to the table than the last person you were dating or friends with did.

I hear so many times:

“Well my ex did this..”

“My last client lied about this..”

or my personal favorite,

“Well it didn’t work out the last time I tried this with my ex, so it’s probably not going to work with you.”


I would like to say:

“okay…well I’m not your ex, but thanks for putting that on me.”

“Okay, sorry your buddy’s girlfriend sucks, but that’s not me.”

“I’m so sorry you went through that with your previous vendor, but I can tell you that’s not how our company treats clients.”

I understand the instinct. People want to protect themselves. They don’t want to get hurt again. They don’t want to be vulnerable again or get screwed over at work, in life or love. I get it. I just can’t help but think it’s a really unfortunate way to approach relationships of any nature.

You can be cautious and smart without closing yourself off emotionally to others. We’ve all been wronged in some way, felt heart break and betrayal—and these feelings are real and they’re valid. It’s easy to not want to trust again or put yourself out there at the risk of being hurt. I do think though it’s important to remember there is big difference between not trusting the same person again and not trusting anyone after that because of that one person. Why let one person or bad experience dictate the rest?

I give everyone new a clean slate. I try very hard not to project any part of my past relationships or negative experiences onto new ones. I learn from past relationships. I choose to grow from them. And I reflect. Why didn’t it work out?  What can I take away from it that will make the next relationship or friendship succeed? What was in my control that I can change or make better? What qualities in another person should I be looking for in order to enable a better outcome?

I’ll be the first to say I’ve been hurt and heartbroken probably more because I choose not to guard myself and hold the belief that trust should be given until proven otherwise. That being said, I would always rather be open and honest with my feelings. I will always take the risk for the possibility of experiencing something filled with passion and life than keep a wall up and miss out on something great because I was projecting an experience that happened with a completely different person, in a completely different situation in a different point in my life onto someone else who isn’t related in anyway.

It’s seems so silly when you break it down.

If they cheated, were bad at long distance, lied, manipulated…whatever it was, remember it was one person, it was one situation – it’s not a common result that should be extrapolated to all future relationships and experiences.

It’s also important to note that you’ve changed and grown too. You’re not the same person you were in that relationship or during your first job. Now, you’re better equipped to handle certain situations, you know red flags to look for. You’re more stable in life and have more direction and purpose. All of these things play a role.

People can be really crappy—I think we can all acknowledge that however, it doesn’t mean the next person or company won’t appreciate and value the effort you put in to be with them. The next person, the next job or partnership is in fact different because you’re different. Maybe I’m naive, but I have to believe there are people out there who will see you and value what you bring to the table, it’s just a matter of letting them. People will surprise you in the best ways, when you least expect it if you let them.

I’m a firm believer that you attract what you put out. If you drop your guard and show your true authentic self, than that’s what you will attract in a partner, friend and business.

Trust yourself that you learned from your past and sought out new relationships that fill the holes your last one didn’t. The risk of getting hurt will always be there, but if you’re intentional with the people you let in the payoff is that much greater. You hurt yourself and the other person involved when you project misplaced feelings of fear and frustration — I am not your ex.

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Gabrielle Gentile

Gabrielle Gentile is a 24-year-old Cleveland native. She works in the Commercial Leadership Program at GE Healthcare where she plans to pursue a career in sales. Gabrielle has a huge passion for equality and women's empowerment, which led her to numerous leadership roles with female focused groups and her position with SheInTheCLE. She believes in lifting others up and helping women find their voice and confidence both in their personal and professional lives. When she is not at her day job, you can find Gabrielle at 5 a.m. OrangeTheory or running around town training for her next race. While she may be a bit or a cardio junkie, Gabrielle's passion for her work and helping others achieve their goals is the driving force behind everything she does.

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