We all like to think that our exes will never find someone as perfect as us — in our heads, that’s the gospel truth. But sometimes the fantasies we build don’t end up quite translating into reality. Rude.

And nothing stings more than finding out your ex is with someone new, except for getting the impression that their new relationship is going loads better than the one you two previously had.

“When you see your ex is in a new relationship, and it looks better, you fear that the problem might’ve been you,” says intimacy and relationship expert Ken Blackman. 

Why We Compare

When I found out that my ex was dating someone new it, quite obviously, hurt. But when I saw he and his new guy in countless photos on social media, it killed me. I never got a single Instagram story shoutout during our entire eight-month relationship, and this dude got selfies and cartoon illustrations of himself with my ex in the span of less than six months? Needless to say, I was pretty pissed.

“Anyone is naturally at risk of having thoughts of envy or jealousy when this kind of thing happens,” says Blackman. “We risk over-indulging in these feelings by constantly comparing ourselves to the new significant other.”

At times like these, we can’t help but feel like our ex didn’t recognize our value. According to Vienna Pharaon, LMFT, these feelings are rooted in insecurity.

“Actively comparing ourselves can be quite overwhelming, painful, and even harmful,” says Pharaon. “However, we don’t need to shame ourselves for noticing jealousy come up. It means we need to check in with our insecurity and see what stories we’re telling ourselves about ourselves.”

When I felt envious of my ex’s new relationship, I knew that I had to ask myself if having a photo of us on his Instagram really mattered. We weren’t together anymore, and even if we had a grid photo together, he probably would’ve deleted after we broke up. When I looked at it that way, I started to feel slightly better, in part, admittedly, because I figured that if things go south with my ex and his new guy, photo evidence of them together will most likely disappear.

Social Media Isn’t Always Accurate

Victoria*, 23, found out her ex was with someone new after he posted on Instagram for the first time ever. Victoria and he had dated for two-and-a-half years, during which he only used his account to look at friends’ profiles — never to share anything. 

“I was really upset about it for a few days,” says Victoria. “I felt like I had to know everything about her since they got together not that long [after] our breakup.”

Victoria fell down a rabbit hole, only to learn that this new girl had already met all of her ex’s friends and followed his family members on Instagram. It took Victoria more than a year to meet so many important people in his life, and she was hurt that her ex’s new girlfriend had checked the same boxes in roughly four months.

“[It] made it feel like she was more important and he liked her more than [he ever liked] me,” says Victoria.

However, according to Blackman, your ex’s bright and happy social media posts with their new boo are probably not an 100% accurate portrayal of what’s happening.

“What you see on social media is a highlight reel,” says Blackman. “You don’t get to see all the dirt, and it’s likely your ex’s new relationship isn’t as glamorous as it looks.”

Even if your ex and their new S.O. are only putting their best selfie forward, looking through a recent ex’s feed isn’t exactly healthy — although many of us are guilty of doing it.

“You need to keep in mind that the goal is not to find out whether a new relationship is better or worse than the one you had,” says Pharaon. “That is a distraction from your own work and healing.”

How To Cope

Although Victoria’s social-media journey was emotionally draining, she eventually realized that she had to let go. Even if her ex’s new relationship was going better than theirs ever had, there was nothing she could do about it. So she blocked him on social media and turned her attention to her own healing process.

“It doesn’t matter if I know what he’s doing or not,” says Victoria. “In a weird way, seeing that he’s with someone else helped me accept that we’re over, and I have to move on.”

That’s because as much as it hurts to see our exes living their best lives, it can also help us put things into perspective.

“Sometimes seeing an ex having a great time helps you let go,” says Pharaon. “It buries the fantasy that the two of you might get back together.”

And while it’s tempting to draw comparisons between your relationship with your ex and their current situation, it’s worth remembering that every relationship your ex has had or will have will be different from the one they had with you. 

“Put any two people together and their interactions are going to be unique,” says Blackman. “Focus on how your ex wasn’t a match for you, and recognize that their success isn’t going to affect your future relationships unless you let it.”

*Name has been changed to protect innocent daters everywhere.