Before and After


As those of us who actively date know, the days after something has ended is often more fraught and emotionally charged that when you were actually dating. But not a good way.

Before you were excited to see his number pop up on your phone screen and curious as to what he had to say, now you cringe and hit delete (while feeling somehow ‘invaded’) and pray that he doesn’t resort to text. Before you spent time thinking about the time you’d spend together and the things you’d do, now you pray that Denver is big enough that you’ll never run into each other again.

And the biggest ‘before’… before you didn’t give a thought to what type of an ex he’d make, because he was lovely enough for you to date. ‘After’ ..well all of those things you noticed and appreciated about him.. frankly, now creep and annoy the heck out of you.

In my mid twenties I dated one of my neighbors. It was easy, heck it felt like we’d created a kind of ‘Threes Company’ featuring me, him and his cat. He was just a flight of stairs away and we saw each other all the time. We drank wine on his patio, ate breakfast on mine. He played piano as I read the Sunday papers, and I sometimes felt like I was living in a movie – it was just so lovely.  He was easy going, funny and warm, he liked taking care of things for me and I felt adored. Traits I loved about him. Right up until the relationship ran its course. At which point he became all of those things x 100.

Well he didn’t, but the need to disentangle from him brought all of these personality traits to the fore. And loving and warm, kind of becomes claustrophobic and creepy when you’ve just dumped someone.  I’d have dealt better if he’d have cut off contact like any normal guy.. instead he was just the same, but more eager to prove himself on the off-chance that I might change my mind.

Did I need help carrying my groceries? How was my day? Did I want to check out his new jazz CD? How about I come over for a glass of wine? Was I sure I didn’t need help carrying that from my car?

I had to move.

Did I need help packing my boxes? Did I need him to arrange a moving truck? Was I ok?


To be honest, he was just being nice and trying to make it easy, but within a few weeks every single thing about him made my skin crawl and the air suck out of my lungs. Thankfully once I moved, he adopted the usual post-relationship model of ‘see you around’ and I never heard from him again.

(sorry people who stay friends with their ex’s… but I think you’re really weird)

My neighbor currently finds herself in a similar situation. Before she thrilled at the sight of her new boyfriend across the courtyard.. now he’s an ‘ex’, she skulks around unless she’s looking her best. Before she was warmed by the sight of him through his window.. now she has to watch him date other women though the very same window.  We don’t ever think of the ‘after’ when we’re in the ‘before’ stages, but I’m betting she’ll give it a thought before she dates again.. and I sure will after the latest foray.

What once was intensity and focus has become obsessive and weird. The traits which advertised him as a good catch – consistency, rigor and thoughtfulness – have resulted in text after text, email after email looking for explanation, throwing accusations and character assassinations every which way. This morning I am apparently ‘mentally ill’ and ‘a complete nutter’ and that was just the text I read.

Before I was smitten.. two weeks later, I’m frankly, quite scared.

Which leads to today’s advice. Always spare a thought for the ‘after’ before you start. All those characteristics and personality traits which you find so charming today.. spare a thought for what they’d look like turned against you. Because while you’re hopeful and sure that this one is going to work.. likelihood says that it might not. Whether you dated for 2 weeks or 2 years, one day you could be ducking and dodging, screening and blocking at some point in the future.  And while we might wish that they’d just ‘go away’ once we’ve pressed delete on their number.. not everyone does.

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