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I slated my ex on social media. Why am I so full of hate? | Relationships

The question I am in my 50s with children who all left home recently. I have been in a relationship with a patient and kind man – but it hasn’t always been easy, mostly because of my insecurities. We went away and I spoilt things by starting fights and, consequently, he decided to end it.

Up until this episode, I was a friendly, easy-going, non-confrontational person. The problem is that I don’t recognise myself any more. When the relationship finished, I was out of control. I had created so much drama and upset, mostly drink-fuelled.

I made accusations against him at his work and he nearly lost his job. I didn’t stop there. Overwhelmed by a compulsion and driven by anger, I messaged his friends and slated him on social media so much that he threatened legal action.

I am scared about my unpredictability and lack of control. How can I be so full of hatred, vengeance and spite? My mother, who is dead, was a difficult person and it is her unpredictability that I think I am playing out. I don’t want to become her. I want it to stop. I could end up in court. I let such a good thing go and I will never find that again.

Philippa’s answer I have hope because you have clarity about your situation. You are not blaming your ex and want to examine your own behaviour and impulses. This is commendable. You are on the right track.

We want our children to lead their own lives, but that doesn’t mean we don’t feel deserted when they leave home. This may be a contributing factor to your recent behaviour change.

You say: “I don’t recognise myself any more.” First, you need to rule out anything medical. Make an appointment with your GP and tell them exactly what has happened. It could be that a sudden drop in oestrogen, which happens during the menopause, has made you debilitatingly intolerant. Or perhaps you are on medication that is affecting you badly. It’s unlikely, but you may even have suffered some sort of brain damage so that your impulse control is shot. Perhaps alcohol is also causing you to lose control. Or it could be something else, or a combination of the above… so make that appointment. They can also refer you to a psychiatrist or mental health team.

You mention insecurities. I expect this means you have a deep fear you will be abandoned and might need more reassurance than most, which can be experienced by others as overly demanding and may lead to arguments. When you do not get this extra reassurance, the desperation you feel can drive you to lash out. Alcohol may be fuelling this, too. You may have felt that your ex was the sole cause of your suffering. Your behaviour seems to say: “I hate you, don’t leave me.” You cannot manipulate or bully your way into a healthy relationship and, when the red mist clears, you know that.

Maybe, when you were an infant or a child, it was only through extreme tantrums that you got the attention you craved, with negative attention feeling better than none – and recent events may have triggered this regression in you. Or, triggered by insecurity, as you say, you may feel compelled to act like your mother. Parents’ habits and reactions are often the blueprint for our own. You had nowhere to go to escape conflict with your mother but, of course, another adult can withdraw, and so your mother’s blueprint for close relationships fails you.

When you start therapy, and I think you must, you may get angry that the therapist is only available to you at set times. You will probably want to punish them for not being there for you whenever you want, but with them you can work through this and find better ways of self-soothing and comforting yourself when you feel as though you are in danger of being rejected.

It is one thing to feel vengeful and fantasise about vengeful acts and it is quite another to carry them out, and I’m afraid you crossed that line. I am, of course, sorry for your victim – you must for his sake delete him and his friends from your contacts and leave him to live his life in peace. But I am sorry for you, too. I think this episode has possibly reignited a very old wound of yours, maybe emotional abandonment by your parents? I strongly recommend forming a good working alliance with a therapist, but first visit your doctor.

I would like you to know that I know of many psychotherapy clients who had a “I-hate-you-don’t-leave-me” pattern in relationships who went on to break that pattern and form great relationships. We have more than one chance to get our lives on the right track.

For trauma therapy advice, contact emdrassociation.org.uk

If you have a question, send a brief email to askphilippa@observer.co.uk

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