What to Do When Your Ex Transforms into a Prince… for Someone Else

When I went through a breakup in college, my aunt bought me a little frog-shaped candle and reminded me that I’d have to kiss a lot of frogs to find my prince. What we didn’t know then, and only know now in hindsight, is that I would go on to marry a frog and still be sitting here all these years later with no prince in sight. She wasn’t wrong though.

There have been a lot of kisses. Some just plain bad, some good, some great, some incredibly amazing, and one inexplicable drive-by kiss that I wouldn’t have believed if it hadn’t happened. But, alas, no prince. Of course, it probably doesn’t help that I haven’t really been looking, but still. I’m a great kisser, and not one of these guys has managed to make the leap to prince status. Either my kisser is broken, or these frogs are flawed! Color me annoyed!

But I’ve found another phenomenon that I’m not sure I like. Sometimes we are left by a frog or we do the leaving, and they go off and transform into a prince for someone else. Even if we don’t want the ex one little bit, that still rankles. There’s nothing like watching exes treat future partners like a queen (or king) when they treated us like peasant garbage.

I’ve had this happen on more than one occasion, and even though I didn’t want either man after the relationship ended, it still made my blood boil. And it’s not about envy or jealousy or a sense of competition. It’s about fairness, to be honest. It’s about knowing that I have always treated partners well when they’ve treated me like I don’t matter. To watch them prioritize and lavish attention on the next person or the person after that is, frankly, rage-inducing.

I could give one great example. There’s an ex I have who was a real prize (heavy sarcasm intended). I could list top 5 real things that happened in that relationship, and you would think I was absolutely insane to have stayed with him after that. Those 5 things show so much of his character- and so much of my patience, love, and/or insanity for staying. And I do tell those stories among close friends and family. And am tempted to tell them to the one he now showers with affection. She thinks she’s got a Prince, but I know a frog when I see one.

Not that she would believe me anyway. People never do. It’s so much easier to believe what we want to believe. I probably wouldn’t listen in her shoes, and so I don’t bother to try. Although I will say that, in the future, I think I’ll ask for relationship references because I would rather know ahead of time what I’m getting into instead of stumbling upon all of it later. But I digress. She’s sure she’s got a prince, I’m sure she doesn’t, and yet there he is: doing all the princely things that have got her convinced and have me giving him the evil eye.

When we end up in that situation where we find out an ex has moved on and is now treating someone else so much better than they ever treated us, we might need a few tips on handling this special situation.

First, breathe.

Seriously. Your first instinct might be to rage, and by all means, vent to a friend or family member. Then try to breathe through it.

Remember that they are being a prince right now.

Some of these frogs looked an awful lot like they had prince-potential in the beginning. They typically didn’t start out treating us like garbage. Keep that in mind when you see your ex treating someone else well. That person may very well be in for the same shock we once experienced.

Don’t forget that sometimes we’re just not a good fit for that person.

Maybe this other person is a better fit for them. While it can still be irritating to watch, keep in mind that this means we’re likely to end up with someone who is a much better match for us, too. Let them have their little fairy tale, and go enjoy your own.

Keep in mind that people are allowed to grow and change.

Maybe they realized that they were awful to you and to other partners. It’s possible that they are learning to be a better partner in their current relationship because of what they learned from past ones. While no one wants to be the relationship guinea pig, we all have our own growth processes. Accept that sometimes we get to be a part of the learning experience only.

Remember that we’re talking about exes.

Exes are exes for a reason, right? Remember those reasons when you hear that yours is treating the new person so much better. After all, that new person has to put up with your ex so he or she probably deserves some special treatment for that alone!

Don’t forget to aim any and all resentment at the right person: the ex.

Getting angry or even sad about the behaviors we’re witnessing in comparison to how we were treated is natural. Directing those feelings at the new partner isn’t okay. It’s not their fault. They didn’t have anything to do with how we were treated then or how they are being treated now.

I understand how this can be difficult though. In one situation, I was left for the person he treated better, and she did something manipulative to make sure he left me for her. It’s a long story, but suffice it to say that I found the entire situation difficult. Still, while her behavior was dishonorable, he was still the one who made the choice. Our beef isn’t with the new person; it’s with the ex.

Check your healing progress.

If it bothers us that our ex is treating someone else so much better than we were treated, it’s a sign that we still have some healing to do. We need to dig deep into our feelings surrounding the relationship and subsequent breakup and figure out what areas are still in need of healing. We need to find a way to make peace with our past and to forgive ourselves for our role in those relationships. We likely also need to forgive that person for not being able, or willing, to meet our needs at that time. We need to work on letting go and getting rid of the baggage that we’re clearly still carrying.

Healing isn’t usually a linear process. Oftentimes, we think we’re over it until something happens that triggers us. We know we’ve been triggered when memories and emotions come flooding to the surface. When that happens, we usually get setback some. Then we have to work through it to recover our progress and to further heal that old wound. One day, we’ll either stop getting triggered because we’ve healed enough, or we’ll just learn to cope with it better when it happens.

Remember that it’s not your fault.

It’s not easy not to be the one. We all want to be the person who was treated special. We want to think that our exes will go on and treat other people the same as they did us so that we can believe that it’s something about them and not something about us that caused us to be treated so poorly. When they treat someone else significantly better, it can make us question ourselves. Don’t do that. Please don’t do that to yourself. How they treated us was a reflection of their own journey and their own growth experience. It had nothing to do with our worthiness or value or any other quality.

How we deal with it becomes a part of our growth experience. We weren’t treated well, and that hurts. But it ended, obviously. We got out of those situations- whether by our choice or another’s. How we choose to live and to treat others is important. It’s also important to consider how we allow others to treat us going forward. After a toxic relationship, it becomes absolutely essential to work on our boundaries and communication so that we don’t engage in those types of relationships in the future.

People aren’t perfect. Maybe your ex wanted to make that transformation from frog to prince and just couldn’t do it. Maybe he/she wasn’t ready, and you weren’t the one anyway. It’s completely normal to have some feelings about them becoming that person for someone else. Maybe one day they’ll have some feelings when they watch someone else treat us the way that we deserve. If we all heal the way we need to, we might even come to a place where we’re glad they found the one, and they’re glad for us to find ours, too.

But until we get to that place, just take one breath and then the next and then the next, and know that it’s going to be okay.

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