It's normal to get a bit irrational after a breakup. For a few weeks it's somewhat socially acceptable to break down in tears in the middle of a shopping centre, or live on five-day-old pasta while obsessively scrolling through old photos. Or worse. Because some people take it a hell of a lot further.
We spoke to three people who have acted, well, a bit crazily during breakups. These are people who our friends have labelled as their "psycho exes", who we then chased for their side of the story. Turns out, the psycho ex stereotypes weren't so black and white.
All names have been changed, obviously.
Samantha, 26, Science Student
I've never coped well with breakups, but in my early 20s I was particularly bad. I had been in a bad relationship when I was 19, and I had trouble assessing things properly after that.
I hooked up with this guy a few years ago. He had been telling me personal things, like how he was struggling with depression. And after we slept together, he started ignoring all my messages and my calls. I didn't understand how someone who had been talking to me for weeks on end could suddenly switch to being so cold. He was living with my friend at the time, so one day when I was over I climbed through the window into his room and left a poem I had written for him on his bed.
I knew he had been going through a hard time so I thought it was a sweet gesture. Instead he got freaked out and messaged me to never contact him again. Then he blocked me on all his social media. Then I responded by hacking into my friends' Facebook accounts to message him, or I would comment on statuses and photos he was tagged in. I was so obsessive that it almost became a high, getting some sort of a reaction out of him. He kept ignoring me, or sent me really mean messages telling me to fuck off, and then eventually the thrill just faded for me.
Another time, a guy I had been seeing for a few months left me in a random suburb after a night out because he didn't want me to go back to his house for fear I would meet his family. He threw my handbag out of the car, so then I had to get out and get it, and then he drove off. My phone was dead and I was really drunk, so I had to walk more than 40 minutes by myself in the middle of the night to find a taxi.
I didn't understand why he was treating me like that. I wanted some sort of validation or control, or understanding. So the next day I drove to where he left me, and drove around the streets until I found his parked car. Then I sat outside the house quite regularly for the next few weeks, until I ended up knocking on the door to see him. He didn't know how I found his house and blocked me on everything afterwards. For a few months after that though, he would continue to text me occasionally and sleep with me. While at the same time calling me crazy and a psycho to his friends.
Around that same time, if my housemates had male friends over, I would sneak into their beds at night. I would have sex with strangers in alleyways, in pub bathrooms, and in parks. Even though I acted like that, I was always searching for some sort of validation, and that's why I was very intense when I thought I was forming an actual connection. I'm in a serious relationship right now and I've been dealing a lot better with my own issues. I don't think I'd ever behave in those ways again. I feel a lot stronger in myself now.
Paul, 26, Administration Worker
We met over Grindr, and we were together for just over two years. Although he slowly pushed me away over four months, the breakup still felt sudden and I didn't really understand why it had happened.
I started a fake Grindr profile to find out where he was, what he was doing, and how far away he was from me. I would memorise the distance and know what he was doing, whether he was at work or at the gym. For instance, if he was 4.2 kilometres away, I knew he was at home. It was monitoring where he was and when he was online. It gave me a rush, almost. In the sense of when you know you shouldn't be doing something but you do it anyway. It also hurt, doing it. But at the same time, I had comfort. I couldn't have him, but by doing that, I had some control over the situation.
I would often drive past his house to see if his light was on. He always used to have this lamp that he would switch on to make ambient lighting for when he had sex. I would drive past with the hope that I would never see that lamp on. I would know that if the ambient red light was there, then he was hooking up with someone else. I also drove to his house and stood behind the bushes in the hope I would see him. I didn't want him to see me, but for me to see him.
We had sex once about six weeks after we broke up. I was hoping it would fix everything, but it didn't. When I was over there, I stole a shirt from him, his bed-shirt at the time. It was for the smell of him. I took that for the comfort and to keep him close, in a sense.
It's been 14 months now, but even in recent months I still drive to where I think he is. The feeling is less of a rush though. I'm dealing with it better but I still find myself looking for him.
I know I'm not great at managing loss. I don't think I'd ever do it again, but [my behaviour] was heavily swayed towards how the breakup took place, in the sudden, Band-Aid type way. I haven't looked for any of his photos on social media for about seven weeks now. Now it's at the stage where it's like "don't do it because it'll break your record." It's been a matter of time and self-management.
Frances, 24, Juris Doctor Student
Harry* and I met in 2011, but we didn't get to know each other until 2012.
I got drunk one night and my boss kissed me. I went home to Harry, feeling awful but knowing I had to come clean about it. I told him and he stopped talking to me. All he said was "get out of my apartment, we're done." He was completely silent but not aggressive. He let me touch him and I talked to him but he didn't respond. I was desperate to get a reaction out of him, so I got naked and had sex with him but he still didn't say anything. After, he left and texted me "I loved that." Then proceeded to tell me to move out. And I did.
I would go through intense phases of hating Harry's guts to reading every old letter he wrote me in the four years we dated, including old grocery lists. I'd listen to songs that reminded me of him and read the letters and sob uncontrollably for hours. It was to the point where I'd have at least two [emotional breakdowns] a week. I went to counselling for a while, but it didn't help. I did get prescribed an anti-anxiety medication for the bad days.
I used to talk to his friends for updates. [One of them] told me Harry was dating some girl who was barely 20 from his nasty little hometown. I still stalk her Facebook. That hurts a lot to think about. Fuck that girl. She spells her name stupidly and wears stupid clothes, both of which I know bother Harry.
I got dinner with a friend of mine two nights ago and he told me his version of my break up. My extreme swings from being okay to being hysterical and bawling on the floor. From being almost normal to doing coke every time it was there. And how I either tried to fill the hole where Harry was, and how I tried to skip all the steps and just have guys love me, or how I would have no actual interest in the guys I slept with.
I still fantasise about waking up and driving to Harry's job, walking in and demanding that he love me back. Or, driving there and letting the air out of his tires. Either way, I'd be close to him again.
I still have all the letters Harry wrote and I've read them twice since January. I have had two serious emotional breakdowns since then, but that's a huge improvement. It's been ten months, but I know I've got a long way to go.