Sticks and stones hurt. And so do words, especially if it's trash talk by an angry ex-boyfriend. Breakups are never easy, and an ex talking poorly about you can hurt a lot because it's coming from a former "attachment figure" -- a term psychologists use to describe someone who once gave you a sense of validation and support. If you find out that a former lover is saying terrible things about you behind your back, overcoming the situation requires a multipronged approach.
Don't Stoop to His Level (This Isn't a Game of Limbo)
It's easy to trade barbed words for barbed words, reacting to what your ex is saying by saying similarly cutting things about him and his character. But just because you have the inside advantage and know his intimate faults and weaknesses doesn't mean you should stoop to his level and trash talk him the way he's talking about you. "Take the high road," writes Nancy Berns, a professor of sociology, in her article "Bad Breakup? How to Get Beyond Closure" for "Psychology Today." "Try to let go of anger and desire for revenge; vengeance is not a path to healing." While reacting angrily can temporarily make you happy, it prolongs the healing and delays the process of you finding closure and true peace in this breakup.
Look at Your Responsbility in this Ruined Romance
In even the most miserable of breakups, there is a life lesson to be learned. Whatever the reason you and your ex broke up, have enough courage to take responsibility for your own faults, errors and mistakes. Own your role in this romance falling apart. When you hear your ex-boyfriend gossiping about you, ask yourself honestly if there is any truth in what he is saying. This is likely one of the most difficult steps in handling a situation like this, but possessing the self-awareness to acknowledge and accept your faults will empower you to resolve the underlying issues that your ex is talking about. This may help to slowly remove the power behind his gossip and also will protect you from having this happen again in your future relationships.
Grow Bigger Than His Gossip
When you first hear that your ex is talking badly about you, feelings of anger, frustration or pain may flare up. Acknowledge those feelings and let them pass through you. Then consider an alternative viewpoint: His words do not matter. Your ex-boyfriend's criticisms and judgments are coming from someone who is no longer in your life. You can't please everyone. Accept who you are, accept that it's impossible for everyone you meet in life to like you, and rise above the gossip and see yourself as being untouched by your ex's angry words. This shift in perspective changes how you perceive your ex's words and changes how you react to them. You can only feel what you allow yourself to feel.
Draw Boundaries Like an Artist
Breakups are messy, and there can often be a temptation to maintain some sort of contact with an ex. If he is talking about you behind your back, cut off contact as much as possible. This serves two purposes. First, it creates a boundary between you two where you are less inclined to share feelings or information that further fuels his trash talk. Second, it guards you emotionally from maintaining an attachment to your ex, helping you to find closure. As you heal and experience the closure process, your ex's words and actions will mean less and less to you.
Joshua Duvauchelle is a certified personal trainer and health journalist, relationships expert and gardening specialist. His articles and advice have appeared in dozens of magazines, including exercise workouts in Shape, relationship guides for Alive and lifestyle tips for Lifehacker. In his spare time, he enjoys yoga and urban patio gardening.
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