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Airing dirty break-up linen online

Moving on after a love gone sour is not easy. But why would people turn to social media to share unpleasant things about their exes?

Harriet James @harriet86jim

They are couple goals. The envy of their online fans. Their Instagram posts are filled with lovey-dovey stuff with captions such as “Having lunch with bae. Issa snack. #Baecation. At the gym with #mine. #bestdad. My small world”

Then…drum rolls… break-up happens. The online-in-laws must know! He is a community husband.  (Hello Lilian Muli). He has a small member! (Hello Vera Sidika)! She is a sex addict! (Hi Otile Brown). He doesn’t take care of his child, (Hi Hamisa Mobeto).

Character assassination

Watching celebrities and even ordinary people air their dirty linen in public has become the norm on social media. A while back a video of a couple quarrelling and exchanging not so pleasant words was circulating on social media.

Facebook post.

“You are not the only man. I will get a man-and-a-half! Mwenye atakuwa ananisaidia na watoto si wake (a man who will take care of my children and I even though they are not his),” the woman ranted.

But what happens to all the lovey-dovey stuff? Did the lover turn lousy or grew a small member overnight? Or was #couplegoals just a lie?

Wendy De Macker, a relationship therapist for 17 years, says the deep connections that people experience on emotional, mental, spiritual, physical and logistic level are so intertwined as part of the relationship that it can push people to love those magical moments and at the same time, when the journey of the relationship gets challenging, it can also feel as a pitfall to pain and hurt.

Emotional flooding

“Intense feelings, thoughts, or sensations overwhelm your ability to integrate them into the present moment. Your system doesn’t know what to do. Your ability to think clearly about the situation goes out of the window and your fight/flight/freeze reactions kick in.

Gottman, a counselling method based on more than 40 years of research, referred to this process as emotional flooding,” Wendy says.

A lot of times cruel, nasty and damaging escalations between two people who dearly love(d) each other can come out and in these digital times where there are possibilities of venting and (mis)use of extra communication channels such as social media, these platforms can be an opportunity to express anger,” she explains.

Hamisa and Diamond.

According to Wendy, this wall of anger is more often than not, as a result of a whole layer of fear. “The fear of losing your loved one, fear of being alone, fear that your heart will never heal.

In the end, I always share with my couples that if this anger steps into the relationship, you are heading and feeding a power struggle, which in the end always has two losers,” she adds.

Not a solution

The thing is, we all have ugly stories we could tell about the people we’ve loved or hooked up with over the years. “In some instances, such stories assist in reminding us why we’re better off without those people. In others, they help us to better assess who we’re with currently.

And sometimes, with a few close friends, they simply make for hilarious happy hour conversations,” she says.

Dishing dirt on exes makes people appear experienced, observant and witty, but more often than not, what goes around comes around. “Unless you want to open yourself up to criticism about your personal quirks and defeats, don’t complain to strangers about your ex’s,” Wendy advises.

She adds: “Social media can out of dignity and respect for yourself and your former partner never be the platform for ending a relationship. The ‘We’ unit transits with all the pain and hurt into an ‘I’ unit. However, this doesn’t mean that other people don’t care,” she notes.

According to Wendy, the real “Firefighters” are your reachable 24/7 friends and family. He advises couples to talk, share, open up, cry, be angry, release and heal through them instead of going to air their dirty laundry on social media.

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