Ask Casey #2: Spilling My Guts

A new advice column. 



Got a question for Copy Casey? Submit anonymously here.

Hi Casey!

I'm not sure if you're caught up on Olivia Rodrigo's latest release
GUTS (spilled), but luckily and unfortunately for me, track #13 has given me an immense amount of solace and has provided a space for people in a similar predicament to ruminate with a little less guilt. Although I greatly appreciate Olivia's fearlessness in disclosing such an admission, I don't listen to it very often because I simply do not wish to relate to this song. I can't un-hear it or un-know that it's out there, and quite frankly, it's haunting me.

To preface, I am in a wonderful relationship with a partner who adores me as much as I adore them. We’ve known each other since the Spring of 2022 but have been official for over a year. We feel safe with each other, excitedly talk about our future together all the time, and have been able to overcome any issue we've had to face as a team. Ultimately, we trust each other with our hearts and with our lives. We’re healthy! Which is WHY, it is SO annoying that I am obsessed with their ex. You may be wondering if I’ve been given any reason to feel this insecure about this particular ex and the answer is: not really.

My partner—let’s call them “L” for clarity’s sake—does not talk about their ex and does not talk to them at all. L has them blocked on all social platforms and even blocked their phone number before deleting them from their contacts. L has willingly and consistently reassured me that they have absolutely no interest in maintaining any contact with their ex despite several attempts from this person to reconnect via email (?). However, when my partner and I met, they were in the middle of a pretty complicated and nasty break-up with this ex, who also tried to sabotage our connection in a last ditch effort to preserve whatever they had going on at the time.

In this effort the ex contacted me directly via Instagram, and after clicking her profile, it was pretty much over for me. I immediately understood (on a superficial level anyway) why my partner was so wrapped up with this person. She. Is. Gorgeous. Not only is she hot, she’s well-traveled and seemingly well-read. She has money, lives in a beautiful city, has interesting hobbies and apparently has a knack for things that are only dreams of mine.

It’s sickening.

Although I do consider myself to be a pretty girl with notable qualities, at face value, she is all the things that I am not.

Back to the issue with the song. Starting off strong with, “If I told you how much I think about her you’d think I was in love.” I felt so relieved and yet so embarrassed. “And if you knew how much I looked at her pictures you’d think we were best friends.” Like girl—you couldn’t waterboard that kind of information out of me but same! I don’t know her blood type, but I do know her big three, and I have private profiles to quietly stalk her social media accounts. Her Spotify is also public and she still updates the playlists she made for my partner when they were together. I know L loved her *so* much, mostly because I know who they are and how they love me, so yes, I am butthurt and no I can’t help it.

I understand that keeping tabs on her and seeing their relationship through her perspective is not good for me. For context, she still has lots of their posts up and talks about L often, how their time together was magical and legendary like a god damn fairytale. Even though L broke up with her more than once for many reasons. I know that trying to investigate their past relationship and comparing myself to her keeps me from focusing on what’s really important. I realize that my behavior only fuels my insecurities about my partner maybe settling for someone who is not as beautiful and less interesting. I know my partner loves me for me through and through. But I don’t know how to stop obsessing over this girl. I feel less alone being certain that there is at least one other person out there who understands what I’m feeling, but I hate how much power it has over me.

I don’t want to be her, because if that were the case I wouldn’t have my life or my partner, but sometimes I wish I looked as appealing as she does. I wish I could do the things that she’s done. Someone once said that comparison is the thief of joy, and I’ll be damned if I don’t feel like I've been robbed. Casey, how do I get over her and away with this nonsense?


Girl Who Can’t Stop Asking Herself “Why Am I Like This?”

GUTS is a spectacular pop album and if you’re reading this you should give it a listen! Right now!

Dear Girl Who Can’t Stop Asking Herself “Why Am I Like This?”,

I knew it was bad when I was crying into a can of cat food. We’re not talking cute sniffles or Oscar-winning misty eyes, either. We’re talking snot-filled, shouting, gasping sobs. We’re talking slamming my open palm repeatedly on the kitchen counter. We’re talking knees shaking, spine bending, hot cheeks.

My neighbor’s cat was probably terrified. I always fed her while my neighbor visited her adult children in central Florida.

I want to tell you that I was heaving in tears because I lost a loved one or broke a bone, but no. I was crying because my bestie—we’ll call her Jo—tried to warn me about my boyfriend’s former partner. Jo was doing her best-friend due diligence by making sure I knew that things ended in a rocky place between First Boyfriend and his ex—we’ll call them “Glasses.”

First Boyfriend and Glasses had been together for a while, partially in secret. They had sucked and fucked unbeknownst to their friends, and eventually, they became an item. Glasses was tall, brilliant, and beloved in our circle. Their break up was as abrupt as their genesis.

Now, Jo was trying to give me a gentle heads-up that the waters were still rocky. Apparently, Glasses was pissed that First Boyfriend and I were together so soon after their breakup. Glasses was still gunning for First Boyfriend, and I needed to watch my back. Jo told me this while I opened a can of wet food.

Poor Jo. I snapped at her. And I mean, like, snapped. I screamed at her to shut the fuck up, and then I began to ugly cry. Jo, being a better friend than I deserved at that moment, hugged me and apologized for bringing it up. Even without the impending threat of Glasses’s Revenge, I was already insecure to the point of paranoia that First Boyfriend would leave me for someone with more interesting hobbies and whose speaking voice sounded less like Squidward.

There was no turning back. I went into full monomania. I began to scope out Glasses like they were trying to kill my entire family. We had enough mutual friends that I was able to get a sense of their social calendar from Instagram and Snapchat. I knew where they worked, what they did for fun, and who they were still close with.

I started having nightmares. Glasses would try to kill me in a room with a red carpet. Glasses would appear in a white tunic. Glasses would grow wings and fly. I would wake up, short of breath, and check my phone to see if First Boyfriend had texted me good morning. Most mornings, he hadn’t. I took it as a sign that we were near the end. I was a spiraling, insecure detective with an unsolvable case. It is a monstrous thing to recall.

In my more self-critical moments, I was tempted to ask, “What the fuck is wrong with me?” Or, to use your words, “Why am I like this?” These are worthwhile questions. After all, we’re smart, attractive people with fabulous personalities, and yet, we become obsessed with a person who exists mostly inside our phones. It bears repeating: why are we like this?

The answer, my friend, is because we’re human. Jealousy, insecurity, and fear are powerful enough to swallow every bright soul on this spinning green marble. We’ve watched enough rom coms and lived enough life to know that anything is possible, including having the love of your life taken away by their gorgeous, worldly, soft-skinned ex. We’re all afraid of being Meredith in The Parent Trap: a shiny new toy that ultimately gets ousted by our husband’s bratty twins before he remarries Natasha Richardson. Really? We’re supposed to compete with motherfucking Natasha Richardson?

You articulated this experience in perfect terms. You underline that your relationship with L is trusting, open, and destined to continue. I love how you describe your love. The question you’re asking—“Why am I like this?”—comes up because love often makes us act like people we’re not. When I was googoo for First Boyfriend and subsequently obsessed with Glasses, I was terrified of the depths of my jealousy. Who was this insatiable demon that possessed my body? For years, I was unable to answer this question.

First Boyfriend and I broke up many moons later for reasons that had nothing to do with Glasses. I moved on. I had no good explanation for who I became when we were together, and to this day, First Boyfriend and Glasses—as far as I know—never learned of my stalking side hustle.

It wasn’t until years later, when I started dating Second Boyfriend, that I was reintroduced to these obsessive feelings. Thus began my quest to tame The Demon.

Second Boyfriend and I were sitting in a park, and he began to tell me about his ex from a few years ago. He didn’t use specific details about them, not because he was being secretive, but because they just weren’t relevant. The Demon began to wake from their slumber. The Demon demanded I ask more questions. The Demon needed an Instagram handle, a home address, a big three. The Demon recognized the threat of this nebulous ex, and The Demon begged me to perform market research.

My desire not to appear bananas in front of Second Boyfriend outweighed The Demon’s thirst for information, so I managed to hold myself back from asking questions. Second Boyfriend kept telling his story, and by the time it was over, I didn’t have enough information to scope out this ex. Second Boyfriend wasn’t active on social media either, so I couldn’t follow the clues in reverse. Because The Demon didn’t have The Data, they couldn’t gain control over my behavior in the same way they had previously. I began to observe The Demon how a zoologist would monitor an animal in captivity; The Demon was my new subject.

Here’s what would happen:
  • Second Boyfriend wouldn’t answer my text for a few hours. I would take it personally. The Demon asked me to research their ex.
  • Second Boyfriend would seem irritated after a long day at work. I would take it personally. The Demon begged for subsistence. “Just a quick Google…”
  • Second Boyfriend went on a ten-day family trip with minimal phone service. Somehow, I managed to take that personally. The Demon scratched at the walls. “RESEARCH, BITCH! RESEARCH!”

At this point, I sat down with The Demon and asked it some questions. Why are you so scared? What are you trying to protect me from? What will we accomplish by behaving like someone we’re not? The Demon just screamed in panic. There was no fate worse than being left alone, and The Demon was convinced that if we could research the ex, we could anticipate all the reasons why Second Boyfriend would eventually leave.

The more I spent time with them, the more I allowed them to spin out, the less they appeared to be The Demon and the more they looked like My Teenage Self in a Bad Halloween Costume.

Wait, it was My Teenage Self in a Bad Halloween Costume all along?! Jinkies, Scoob.

I invited the teenager to take off their Party City mask and talk to me. They did. They were this shivering, anxious mess, like most teenagers are. You name it, they remembered it: they were sad after getting rejected for that movie date freshman year. They were mad at that one cutie for ghosting after we exchanged numbers at a cast party. They were traumatized from that time someone made out with us as a prank. This Teenage Self was carrying all of that rejection with nowhere to put it, and they were convinced they had to protect me from ever feeling it again. They were trying to shield me from the harsh realities of being in a relationship. People leave! People cheat! Help! Red alert!

Except, most of the time, there was no red alert. Most of the time, I think, people are good. Sometimes, you end up with an incredible partner, like your L. You connect with someone who lights up every room in the vacation rental inside your head. Your Teenage Self in a Bad Halloween Costume cannot bear the thought of losing such a gem, so they ask you to research. They implore you to prepare.

I’ve talked about myself enough. I’m going to turn to the specifics of your brave, articulate letter and give you two pieces of seemingly conflicting advice. They are:

1. Talk to your Inner Demon. I mean this literally. Ask them non-judgemental questions. This is not: “Why are you making me act like a stalker, you sack of shit?” This is instead: “What are you scared of? What can I do to help?” Listen to whatever they have to say. Write it down. Allow them some dominion over your behavior, if they need it that badly. Come up with a game plan full of clear, actionable rules. This could be, “We can only research the ex for five minutes a week, no more.” Set a timer. Let them reveal themselves to you. My guess, sweet friend, is that they are just a Teenage Self in a Bad Halloween Costume. This unmasking may take time. Allow such time to pass.

2. Then, once you’ve established trust with this Teenage Self in a Bad Halloween Costume, you must stop researching the ex. You must log out (or even delete) these secret social media accounts. Give your bestie the password and have them change it. You must block the ex, if that’s what it takes. Whatever you need to do to get yourself off the treadmill of ex-obsession, you must do it. Not because I think that’s what’s best—it’s because it’s what you think is best. You say it in your letter. You know this cannot go on.

When you describe your partner’s ex, I could only think of Jessica Rabbit. Maybe the ex is that gorgeous, but let’s lean into this comparison and underline that you’re more afraid of the cartoon you’ve created than the real person. She cannot hurt you, not in a way that matters. Is she walking around this earth gorgeous and interesting? Sure, maybe. But deep love—fleshy, humiliating, fabulous—needs stronger legs to stand on than “gorgeous” and “interesting.” Your letter alone proves you can take some wind. How lucky L must feel to have someone capable of such thoughtfulness and humor.

Go forth and love. Talk to your Inner Teenager, and when you’re ready, my friend, you must stop the stalk.

My favorite song from GUTS is “love is embarassing.” We’re so lucky to have Olivia.

xo Casey