Q: My ex and I broke up about a year and a half ago. He had been running around for years, and I finally got sick of it and left. But I’ve found my own little secret way of paying him back. He kept the old phone number that was tied to gas discounts at our local supermarket. Every so often, I sign in and use his gas reward. He doesn’t know, and I don’t think he realizes it. Is that really bad ex-etiquette under the circumstances? Am I breaking any laws? He really was a jerk.
A: I always try to get exes to think outside of the box when having to deal with a former partner – and I have to say, that’s creative – and had me laughing, but I can’t comment on the legality of it all.
In terms of good ex-etiquette, if you don’t share anything after the breakup, there’s really no reason to interact, and I think that’s what you are telling me – you don’t have kids or a business, or even a house together, but now and then, because he betrayed you, the devil horns sprout and you use his gas discount as paybacks when no one’s looking.
I’m sorry to say (because I’m still laughing), technically, payback (revenge) in any form, is bad ex-etiquette. It specifically breaks good Ex-etiquette Rule No. 5, “Don’t be spiteful,” and No. 6, “Don’t hold grudges,” not to mention, Ex-etiquette Rule No. 8, “Be honest and straightforward.” More than that, the need for revenge indicates there’s a problem. You haven’t put this behind you. It has been a year and a half, and you haven’t gotten this guy out of your system. Just because no one knows doesn’t mean it’s not time to stand back and take a look at your reasoning and your own mental health. Betrayal is a tough thing to get over – but you have to do it and move on to stay healthy. Revenge, even as amusing as your brand is, keeps you “stuck.” If your ex doesn’t even know you are doing it, you have to examine your motivation. The need to get the better of someone you broke up with over a year and a half ago is a huge red flag.
That said, another thing that might keep you “stuck” is continuing to associate with the same friends and going to the same places you did when you were a couple. (Try a new gas station so you won’t be tempted!) Friends often feel compelled to take sides and fill you in on your ex’s whereabouts because they think you want to know. There he is partying up a storm with your old pals on Facebook or Instagram, you get angry and you’re using his gas discount again – or the last four digits of his Social Security number. Very, very bad ex-etiquette. Time to make a concerted effort to move on.
Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of “Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation,” and the founder of Bonus Families, bonusfamilies.com. Email her at email@example.com.