We all know about the psycho-ex trope; she (yes, she, because let’s face it, it is a heavily engendered trope) turns up at your house crying for you to take her back, she blows up your phone with messages and calls, she will go to extreme lengths to take out her rage and upset on your new partner who ‘stole’ you from her. She may or may not have severe mental health disorders which are often used against her – and she is old; she has cropped up across history from Jason and the Argonauts, to Jane Eyre, to present days Gone Girl. Of course, whilst men can be psycho exes too (feminism is for gender equality after all), the trope itself is often used against women due to patriarchal forces which have consistently labelled women as emotional, irrational and untrustworthy.
A ‘psycho-ex’ however, is never really asked for their side of the story. Why would they be? Oftentimes social circles for relationships don’t really overlap, especially in today’s age of dating apps and meeting strangers instead of through mutual friends. Your partner has their friends, and you have yours. Whilst the two overlap sometimes, they are often two separate spheres. Of course this means that you only ever hear one side of every conversation or shared experience between two people. Rejection does interesting things to one’s mind, how stories can be skewed to fit a point of view, people remember situations completely differently depending on how they interpret information. And within this, sometimes innocent people will get tarred with the psycho brush. When people are broken up with – unexpectedly out of the blue when they still have feelings – an initial reaction can be to look for any excuse to hate the person who dumped them.
It’s an understandable reaction – rejection stings. The term ‘psycho-ex’ is tossed around so casually nowadays it seems to be less of a sting, just something your friends will label your ex that none of them really liked in the first place. This doesn’t deny however that the term itself does nothing to help promote mental health discussions – the term in its narrowest sense casts people as having mental health problems as being dangerous. This never helped anyone. It’s about time we tried retiring the old, inaccurate and damaging ‘psycho-ex’ trope.
Sometimes, whilst you may be called the ‘psycho-ex,’ implying that you are dangerous, unstable, unpredictable and not to be trusted, you might just be a ‘villain.’ You broke up with someone and your rejection of them hurts, they insult you, may even twist situations to others for sympathy – but in your reality your story is completely different. You’re just a villain in their story. In their eyes you have intentionally set out to hurt them, but villains are often misunderstood right?
You will be the villain in someone else’s story – and that’s ok. You might already be a minor villain in other ways – maybe you had a job as a waitress where a customer felt you gave poor service on an off day, maybe you stepped on the back of a stranger’s foot whilst they were walking, or you were annoyingly loud on public transport. Get comfortable being the villain in someone’s story because at some point in life, it is inevitable in some shape or form – but it’s their story, not yours.