Not What I Wanted: That Moment You Learn an Ex-Boyfriend Got Married

Awesome Guest Post by Lilly Vanek

They looked happy.

Maybe she wasn’t as cute as me, and someone had clearly blurred out his chronic acne with Photoshop, but they looked happy.

I made the mistake of looking at the Facebook page of my first college boyfriend, who, apparently, had just gotten married.

With a dull ache in my chest I imagined their wedding, no doubt in a sunny field somewhere in rural Maryland. I imagined mason jars full of twinkle lights on linen covered picnic tables, one of those stupid photo booths with the fake mustaches, dozens of cute decoration ideas pilfered from the annals of Pinterest.


I was at once bitter and relieved.

There was a time that I would have loved to have been the girl in that picture. But about a year into our relationship, I realized that he wasn’t what I wanted.

He was sweet, and good, and kind, and had a really cool red resonator blues guitar which he used to write crappy (but well-intentioned) songs about me. We’d go to college parties and smoke weed together and watch stupid television shows, content to not do much else.

But he never saw himself leaving Maryland. He never thought it was realistic of me to want to live in New York City, when it was the one thing I dreamed of since living in Manhattan briefly as a teenager. I was devastated when I realized that I would have to break up with him if I wanted to move, if I wanted to do something more with my life than marry my first serious boyfriend and make babies in suburbia. (Which, just so we’re clear, is a perfectly noble pursuit, if that’s what you’re into.)


My dad wanted to apologize to him on my behalf, apologize for me breaking his heart. I feared that I’d ruined him. He had loved me, and I screwed it up.

But there he is.

And here I am.

I sat on the subway thinking about that picture, of him and his (admittedly pretty) new wife smiling and holding flowers. I was jerked out of my melancholy by a clap of hands and a boisterous shout of “SHOWTIME!” I looked up from my seat on the L train. A bunch of “showtime” kids, those low-budget acrobats native to the New York City subway system, had begun flailing their bodies in time with music pumping out of a tiny boom box. In looking up I narrowly avoided getting kicked in the face with a size 12 Nike Air Max.

I smiled.

This is what I wanted.

I continued on my way to the Trader Joe’s near Union Square, on a Sunday afternoon, because I am, apparently, a glutton for punishment. Shockingly, I did not have to wait in a line around the block to get into the grocery store; I did, though, narrowly avoid being crushed between two hipsters and their carts full of kale and quinoa.

This is what I wanted.

I ate a pizza slice, folded in half, then took the L train back to my Bushwick apartment.

This is what I wanted.


I imagine they have a lovely little house full of furniture from Target. I imagine they both have office jobs or maybe he’s still working as a carpenter. I imagine they have a circle of suburban friends who all also have office jobs, who gave up creative dreams in favor of white picket fences. I imagine they have a sweet, simple life.

That wasn’t what I wanted.

I don’t have a house, I don’t have a husband. I live in a rented basement apartment in Bushwick with three jazz musicians. I work full-time as a nanny, taking care of rich people’s babies while I finish college and pursue a career in writing. I have a boyfriend who I met at an east village rock club during a show that his garage-punk band was playing. I play the banjo in several all-girl music projects. I write my own songs now.

I write haikus about New York things like rats and roaches. I have learned that when you find a coveted empty space on a subway car during rush hour, it’s most likely because a homeless person has peed themselves nearby. I have learned that when you have a roach in your apartment, it helps to scream “DIE MOTHERFUCKER DIE MOTHERFUCKER DIE” while wielding your can of RAID. I’ve learned that I will never not take a deep breath while walking through the Village or see the Empire State Building in the distance and think, Holy Shit, I live here. I actually live here.

I’ve figured out a way to make life work in New York City.

This is what I wanted.

I imagine my ex got what he wanted, too.

It just wasn’t me.

Lilly Vanek is a musician, writer, student, and manic pixie dream nanny living and working in New York City. You can find her musings on babies, bands, and being a lady at 

Thanks so much for sharing this story, Lilly! It is certainly an ever-increasing phenomenon to see exes pop up on Facebook with a bride on their arm. Will this ever be anything but weird? 

If you’ve had an ex pop up in such a fashion (or worse) please share in the comments below! If you you’d like to share a full awesome guest post for New York Cliché, too, I’d love that! Email me at

About New York Cliche

NYC lifestyle blog by Mary Lane. Events, adventures, epic mistakes, dating, life, humor. A 20-something trying to make it (and make out) in the city of dreams.

10 thoughts on “Not What I Wanted: That Moment You Learn an Ex-Boyfriend Got Married

  1. I don’t’ think ANY of my exs are single anymore…well maybe one, but I’m scared to check his page…for just this sort of reason.

  2. You escaped a lifetime prison sentence. Sounds like you are enjoying life here in the big city and making it work for you. Don’t ever look back. I’m sure living life in boring suburbia is fine with him and his wife, but it’s not for people like us.

    Oh, and Trader Joes in Union Square? Woman, you are crazy!
    Phil recently posted…Come get your cheesy Mac Daddy on in NYC March 29th!My Profile

  3. My ex-fiance keeps on trying to pop up into my life, and I hate it more than seeing an ex-boyfriend married, to be honest. I’ve actually written a rant on the blog about guys that keep on crawling back, and I think its one of my most popular posts, which makes me laugh. But reading this story reminds me not to be bitter that things didn’t work out with my ex, because, if it had, I’d live a life full of bitterness. It makes our hearts ache to see our exes because of the times we have shared, but they are exes for a reason. More than anything, I wish that my ex would move on! It’s been over two years and he lamely uses other people’s accounts on Facebook (mostly girls) to try and tell me he still loves me. *queue the rolling of eyes* (His page is blocked). The other exes? Eh, its awkward to see info about them, but doesn’t bother me as much because we were never engaged.

  4. I absolutely loved this piece. Sometimes it’s just as freeing to know what you don’t want in life as it is to know what you do.

  5. Very well done! You’re story reminded me of my story. I once looked up my high school sweetheart. She’s married, with kids, to some fatso with a beard in a small town in the middle of nowhere.

    After many years of glorious bachelorhood, I settled down with the love of my life and we have two awesome boys plus an up and coming business together.

    Thanks for sharing. #BeAwesomeInstead

  6. This post really spoke to me. I found myself in the same situation, except I didn’t want to live somewhere-I wanted to live everywhere. I now have an amazing career that takes me all over the world, living for a year or two at a time in a totally different culture. I love it. I see him on my FB feed, taking his adorable daughter to her weekly ballet class and proudly sharing photos of the paint in the living room.

    So perfectly captured in this guest post. Thanks, Mary, for giving Lilly a place to share.

  7. Oh boy, this resonates do much with me! I recently ended a 6-year relationship so that I could live all over the world. I currently live in Mexico…and next year, who knows? The amazing thing is that I don´t have to consider what my boyfriend wants to do or where he wants to go – I CAN GO WHEREVER I WANT! I am sure it wil be hard to see him get married, have children, but I know it was the right decision, for both of us. Beautifully written post, Lilly!

  8. So crazy to read this! I am the girl that didn’t move to NYC for the boy. Boy isn’t around anymore, lol. But thankfully I don’t regret not moving because I too discovered that this is what I wanted… I just didn’t know I wanted it back then. Kudos to you though for following your dreams 🙂 xoxo
    Sonya recently posted…The World Needs More Love LettersMy Profile

  9. I love this post! I considered staying in-state for college to stay with my then-boyfriend, but I decided that if was meant to be we’d end up together regardless. I’m so glad I left–we’re still on good terms, but I can have my own life now.
    Sabina recently posted…EphemeralMy Profile

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