That last talk.
October 31, 2009 2:44 PM   Subscribe

How to go about the final talk, the post-mortem, if you will.

I got dumped this week. I'd been seeing this girl for about 3 months, a co-worker. Pretty surprising, we had really good times together.

Anyways, we went out earlier in the week, the event we were going to happened to be sold out when we got there, so we went to a favorite bar to hang out. Had a good time, when she's dropping me off, before I get out of the car I get "I have to tell you, I'm getting back together with my ex, so I don't think we should be making out anymore."

I was a little drunk, and pretty caught off-guard by how she phrased this, thinking really? Your going to drop this on me as I get out of the car, after we'd just spent 3 hours having a good time hanging out. And I'm also thinking "Wait, what? we shouldn't be making out anymore? That's all this was?" It wasn't all this was, we were consistently going on dates and having great times. It wasn't just a "hey come on over to watch a movie" type of thing. So I stammered something out giving me some time, she asked for a hug, and then I went on my way.

Anyways, this stings. It hurts that in all the time we spent together, the way she ends it is kind of "By the way...", in passing. It also hurts realizing that I was just some guy she was making out with while she was waiting to get back together with her ex. I haven't met anyone I've gotten along with so well since I moved to my city three years ago, so I know this didn't last super-long, but I'm disappointed.

Since we work together (different departments, but we have to interact quite a bit, and she's close with my co-workers, who don't know we were seeing each other) and since she lives with a good friend of mine, I need to figure out how to be around her without feeling like crap.

I'm going to talk to her tomorrow, since I didn't want to leave things with me drunkenly stammering something, and that's that. I'm hurt, I want to calmly express that, because I don't think she really understands this. And I want to somehow convey that in the interim, I don't think we should try to be friends, and it might be best if she doesn't come down to my department to hang out, which she did the rest of the week at work, making me really uncomfortable, and again, feeling like crap.

Thoughts about how to go about this talk, how I should structure it, how to get the best results out of it (which would be me being able to move on in a healthy way) would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The best (i.e., most dignified) thing you can do is move on without any drama, and any "talk" will be drama. You need to accept that you were her just her rebound. It sucks, but it is what it is.
posted by mpls2 at 2:55 PM on October 31, 2009 [16 favorites]

Let it go... mpis2 is right....
posted by HuronBob at 2:57 PM on October 31, 2009

What exactly is there left to talk about? Just avoid her.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:04 PM on October 31, 2009

I just wanted to say that even if you decide to try to win her back having a 'talk' with her is utterly pointless and will almost certainly put your position in danger. Right now, she's the one who made a drunken declaration which might or might not be put down to a spur-of-the-moment thing; and again, this is unlikely, but if you wanted to win her back, the best thing to do would be to avoid her entirely and force her to make the first move.

Of course, she doesn't sound like the kind worth fighting for, but you never know.
posted by koeselitz at 3:06 PM on October 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

Good lord, thank god she showed her true colors before this went on much longer. You dodged a bullet there.

You don't need a talk, though it might feel like you do right now. If she comes down to your department to "hang out," just go about your business. If she persists in trying to interact with you, then you can have the "Let's be professional and that's all" speech.
posted by HopperFan at 3:08 PM on October 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

Wow. She's a coward. Do the last talk if you want, but all you need to say is what you've said here: you're surprised and hurt, and think it's best if y'all don't hang out for a while, including at the office. Then stop talking to her. Repeated conversations and hashing things out in an attempt to gain closure are rarely successful and eventually become embarrassing, in my experience.
posted by runningwithscissors at 3:18 PM on October 31, 2009

I'm hurt, I want to calmly express that, because I don't think she really understands this.

If she's callous enough to use you as a backup and then dump you in the manner that she did, she isn't going to be able to understand. She has too few social skills or too little empathy to "get it". You were together for three months, couldn't tell your colleagues (I assume there's some reason you kept this quiet?) and no alarm bells rang? There's a reason she kept you in the closet. She comes to your department and socialises (read: rubs salt in the wound)? Think about that, and then think about why you want to be with someone who treats you this way.

Don't talk to her socially. Ever. The fact that you work together is a little awkward, but unless you have to work together, as opposed to hang out at work together, it shouldn't be too much of a problem. If she has a file that you need, ask her for the file and when she gives it to you, thank her. Then walk away. Treat her as you would any other employee you don't really know too well.

To actually get to your request, try to find some neutral territory. Try to decide beforehand what it is you actually want to convey to her. Don't go down the route of "I felt hurt when you dumped me" because she obviously doesn't care. Keep it about work. Just say to her that you'd feel better if she didn't come to the department to socialise. Don't go into long winded explanations, just be succinct. It might be a good idea to tell your co-workers what happened, so they'll hopefully be more sensitive to your moods if/when she turns up.

With regards to your friends, don't go to the house. Meet them out and about, again in situations that are more neutral in case you run into her. And if your friend is callous enough to let her tag along, or worse, bring her along, that person is not a friend.
posted by Solomon at 3:25 PM on October 31, 2009 [6 favorites]

I would avoid the last talk to, especially since you work together. If you try and hold on to this, which you "talk" would, if only a little, it could get real awkward for you and possibly affect your career. I'd let this one be a lesson learned.

Also, yeah, she doesn't sound like the best person in the world.
posted by elder18 at 3:27 PM on October 31, 2009

You should have the talk for your own sake. For closure. It's not about her, it's about what you need to do for yourself.

And you should definitely set the rules and boundaries for the relationship at work. Tell her what you want. You're not asking a lot, you're not asking for anything strange. You have every right to ask her to keep her distance. But of course, all you can do is ask. If she's going to be a jerk and ignore you, then nothing you can do.
posted by conrad53 at 3:37 PM on October 31, 2009

Completely avoid the talk. She made it clear what is going on. I can't see what a talk would add for you. Basically stop hanging out with her all together. Avoid giving her her cake and letting her eat it too.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:47 PM on October 31, 2009

Obviously, I don't know what's going on, but the other possible interpretation of what she said is that she doesn't want to have to stop having great times together, she wants to stay really good friends who have lots of fun together, but because of this other thing, she does recognize that the most obviously sexual/romantic aspects of your relationship can't continue. It is a rather young way of looking at and communicating things, which sidesteps needing to recognize the seriousness of what you had together and the change that's occurring.

I think you could have a conversation where together, you acknowledge that seriousness in a way that would leave you feeling better. But as you hint at, you'll probably need to get yourself in a better head space before doing that. I'd tell myself, "okay, she's immature, so I have to be the mature one here." Then, I'd try to feel a bit less hurt by the whole thing. Ex-relationships can have this really primal power over someone. So I'd look at it as this inevitable and sort of natural force that has nothing to do with you, like ocean currents pulling your two icebergs in different directions.

Then, I'd imagine that she'd said something like "I have something to tell you. I am getting back together with my ex, and so even though our relationship had all this potential, I actually will need to stop the romantic and sexual parts. I don't even really want to talk about or face this change, but I can see that it's definitely going to happen, despite how torn I feel about this, so I want to let you know now. We always have such a great time together, and I hope all of that can continue, just without the makeouts."

Obviously, she's wrong, so what I'd do is to say that you understand and accept why she's made this decision, but that as for you, you're hurt, and you're going to need some time apart to deal with this, so the friendly visits will have to stop (not just the makeouts).

Then, I'd let her know that what she said was actually hard for you. It gave you the impression that this was just a sideline, unimportant, makeouts-only thing to her, whereas you thought you had a good thing going. I'd ask whether that was what she meant. Since you feel so hurt by this, you owe it to yourself to know if it's the truth, or just a miscommunication. I think it's equally likely she just feels conflicted and can't accept the full implications of the decision she's made, leaving her unable to deliver the message to you in a way that respects the seriousness of what is happening and acknowledges the full impact on you.

It sounds like you feel really blindsided and hurt by all this. As much as that is a logical reaction, feeling like a helpless victim whose fate was entirely in her hands is only going to preclude any chance of ever being friends. To rebalance the power dynamic, you might try looking for ways that you could have done something differently to prevent this outcome. (Maybe along the way, you assumed one thing when she thought another, and if you'd asked you'd've known?) I'm not trying to shift a bunch of blame on you, and maybe there was nothing you could have done. But I think you'll feel less hurt and resentful if you find a few ways that you were in the driver's seat, to whatever small degree. It'll also make your conversation go better (less accusatory, less you vs. her, less defensiveness on her part, more likely to lead to a sense of mutual respect and closure).

In summary: maybe she's weak or immature, not evil; maybe she miscommunicated because she likes you so much, not because she doesn't like you; so don't feel super-hurt until you know what the truth is; and see if you can set up a conversation where the two of you acknowledge that you're actually breaking up in a serious way, and say goodbye in a way that respects what you had together.
posted by salvia at 3:54 PM on October 31, 2009 [3 favorites]

You're a pretty lucky person. Have you been wondering why she did not tell you before the date to the sold-out event, or even before the fun times at the bar which was the backup plan? Yeah, she wanted to be taken out one more time before dropping the bomb. Classy!

To have gotten a chance to know her true colors within 3 months is lucky. Take your good luck, and mentally wish her well. If she talks with you at work, tell her you'd like to keep it all business at the office. Don't have the last conversation. She'll just reiterate what you already know, and it won't make you feel better.
posted by Houstonian at 3:56 PM on October 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

By the way, I don't mean to say you shouldn't feel hurt and blindsided. The way she communicated about this sucked and was incredibly thoughtless. All I'm saying is that even though the way she communicated that night wasn't thoughtful or caring, it doesn't mean that in general, she doesn't care about what you guys had. It might, but it might also mean that she is just kind of immature or that she feels conflicted about what's going on, or that she made a stupid decision about what would be the best way to tell you.
posted by salvia at 4:09 PM on October 31, 2009

There are likely (at least) three parts to how you feel: 1) hurt, 2) angry and 3) disappointed. What you describe as feeling uncomfortable and "like crap" is likely because of the hurt.

The challenging thing for you is that your drive to have that last talk and your goal of moving on without feeling "like crap" are somewhat opposed to each other.

The hurt is largely an ego thing. As such, there's a tendency to want to win back the lost sense of self and to do so through examination and discussion hoping for an aha moment or some other form reassurance. However, those things (i.e. discussion and examination) tend only to purpetuate the feeling of lost self, since all those things generally do is make the experience a bigger part of your reality and further give away your power to the other person.

The hurt, anger and disappointment will all fade over time. To sooner you move on in thought and in deed, the sooner that will happen.

It may be helpful to remind yourself that you are WAY, WAY, WAY more than this relationship. You seem very capable of socializing and finding your next honey. Go do it!
posted by c, as in "kitchen" at 4:42 PM on October 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm joining the "no talk" crowd.

Also, joining you in the freshly dumped crowd. It hasn't been 12 hours yet for me.

Do not call her.

Do not.

Just don't.

Put that phone down.
posted by bilabial at 4:51 PM on October 31, 2009 [8 favorites]

Open up Notepad. Pretend it's your email client. Compose a message to her with all of these feelings and hurts and reactions; dig really deep, be very honest.

Then, close it, and don't think about it again.

Alternately, if you don't feel like you're quite ready to lose all of those thoughts, save it somewhere deep on your hard drive and close it, and promise yourself to revisit it in a month. Or maybe three months, or six. Then, open it back up with fresh eyes. Chances are, you will have worked through a lot of the issues on your own, and won't need her feedback (or lack thereof) to find closure.

There's a reason that the stereotypical response to another person being dumped is a loud "She didn't deserve you, anyway!" It's because most of the time, it's true. You are worth so much more than she was willing (and probably able) to give, and now that you are free of all of this, you can continue to move forward and upward and toward those people who will care deeply for you. Good luck, I know it ain't an easy journey.
posted by sarahsynonymous at 6:09 PM on October 31, 2009

Sounds like one that could hurt for a while. I say go and see what she has to say for herself. If the talk could prevent future tension and stop you from having a pit in your stomach going to work every day, it might be worth it. I see this as a separate issue from whether she was thoughtless.
posted by johngoren at 8:55 PM on October 31, 2009

I've done the Final Talk. It does not give closure. It does nothing good. It's a waste of your time and just commits more of your emotional energy to her.

Take it from Lou Reed:

You say leave and I'll be gone
without any remorse
No letters faxes phones or tears
there's a difference between bad and worse
I'm a New York city man, blink your eyes and I'll be gone

posted by argybarg at 10:01 PM on October 31, 2009

I'm going to disagree with most of the people here, and say that I think it is an okay idea if you want to discuss the breakup tomorrow. Doing it tomorrow won't delay your healing process (rather than doing it in a month, which would be a bad idea).

Do not expect anything from her. You will not get it. You are doing this only because you want to say some things to her. You feel like she has treated you badly and it is okay to say that.
posted by grouse at 11:11 PM on October 31, 2009

I'm with angrybarq... that talk won't help. I too have done 'the talk' and would undo it in a heartbeat if I could. This is not someone capable of empathy or she would not have been playing fast and loose with someones time and emotions.

If you have to get some things off your chest then I can see why you'd want the talk but really if you just need to express that the way she handled things wasn't cool your silence and distance will do just that.

I'm not talking about the silent treatment - you work with her so if you need to interact for work then that's fine but you don't have to be friends and frankly she has no right to expect that you would be friends after dating for 3 months and then going back to her ex.

Good luck, and whatever you decide to do I hope it does help you move on.
posted by Weaslegirl at 11:18 PM on October 31, 2009

The real question is what are you going to say to her. Here I think you can be honest. There's a code of sorts used to enter into contentious discussions. When you , it makes me feel , because . Just say When you told me we shouldn't make out anymore, it hurt me, because I thought we had a much closer relationship than that. Then tell her you need some time to process your feelings before you can hang out with her again. Keep this short. When she asks to hang out, you're busy.
posted by xammerboy at 11:32 PM on October 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'll give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she realized during your date that the old boyfriend is The One for her. At the end of your date, she ended it with you. It was awkward, but she did it as soon as she got it figured out in her head. Or maybe she's just someone who wanted to mooch dinner, drinks and an evening's entertainment.

The problem is you'll never really know which one it was. The last talk, isn't going to tell you anything you don't know this second.

Let it go and let her be gone.
posted by 26.2 at 12:13 AM on November 1, 2009

I'm hurt, I want to calmly express that, because I don't think she really understands this.

Why? What good could it do? If she doesn't realize she hurt you what good will it do you for her to come to that realization? Is it simply a case of "you feel bad, so she should feel bad"?

Just avoid her. I mean, in theory it's possible that things won't go that smoothly with her ex, and she could come back to you. But do you really want to be "the second guy"? And if you are OK with that then complaining about being hurt is just going to make that less likely.

If you want to talk to her. The best thing for you to do would be to focus on how much you enjoyed spending time and making out with her. You can add that you feel sad that it's over, but don't weaponize your pain by saying crap like "You hurt me." say "I really enjoyed our time together and I'm going to miss it :( Because you were wonderful."
posted by delmoi at 1:20 AM on November 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Of course every relationship is different, but this is my general advice.

If you want her to know that she hurt you, then just ignore her, pretend she isn't there.

DON'T try having a conversation about how she hurt your feelings, as I've learned from experience, women do not respect that type of man, it will make her think that you're a loser and that she made the right move. but if the subject comes up, be as curt and cut it as short as possible - what's there to discuss? you both know what happened.
posted by moorooka at 1:58 AM on November 1, 2009

I read this post last night, and didn't respond because I didn't see any harm in having a final talk, but wanted to make sure that my own flaws were not generating poor advice.

It doesn't sound like you want drama, and working closely together can make things awkward, especially if there are all these unspoken things between the two of you. I see nothing wrong with saying to her, "I just wanted to let you know that I thought we were more serious than apparently we were, and I am disappointed at how things turned out. Obviously, I will have no problem being professional and cordial, but if you could give me a little space and not hang out socially in my department for a couple of weeks, I would really appreciate it." I think that's reasonable, let's her know that she hurt you more deeply than she may have realized, and will give you a chance to make your peace with how this went done and move forward at work with relatively little awkwardness. Good luck, and I'm sorry you were on the receiving end of what sounds like truly, crappy behavior.
posted by katemcd at 4:27 AM on November 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

Kate's advice is spot-on.

You violated a cardinal rule and that's don't crap where you eat, aka don't date co-workers. Sure, there's a few edge cases where it works out, but more often than not it's a train wreck. One that's often ruinous for both people and their employer. There's something to be said for a bit of compartmentatlizing your life. Too late now, of course, but a lesson to avoid repeating. We call it work for a reason, confusing it with fun ends up ruining that too.
posted by wkearney99 at 1:58 PM on November 1, 2009

I agree with kate, and think it would be fine to let your ex know how things are on your end.

Remember that the cultural mythology is generally that young men don't get emotionally invested and won't be hurt as long as they have the chance to get some action. I know that I made that mistake at least once in college, of basically subconsciously assuming there couldn't be a down side for a guy to a casual fling, and so there was no need to clarify ahead of time what our intentions / hopes were.

If you follow moorooka's advice, you're perpetuating that storyline; follow katemcd and at least you'll help one person be more sensitive in the future.
posted by mdn at 6:21 PM on November 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

follow-up from the OP
I want to thank everyone for some great insight and helpful answers. I did end up having a talk with her tonight, and I am satisfied with how it turned out. I don't think ignoring it and completely ignoring her would have worked in this situation, although I understand the sentiment and don't plan on interacting with her socially for a long while, if at all. I kept things very short and to the point. I reasonably set boundaries about how I'd like to interact at work. I took Kate's advice and said that I was surprised and disappointed how things turned out, but it's neither here nor there, what I'm more focused on is being able to move on, and that limiting my interactions with her at work, except for business purposes, will help me do so. I didn't say that I never want to see her again, but set a reasonable amount of time that I'd appreciate if she doesn't come to hang out in my department. And I think I conveyed how I was feeling through my tone. I was very calm, to the point, serious.

It was actually helpful for her also, because she thought that by not coming down for lunch (which she normally would do), but continuing to stop by to hang out with my coworkers, was giving me enough space that I needed. I let her know that this wasn't the case.

It's pretty amazing how right on some of you were with the analysis of how things happened and what I was thinking. Houstonian, that's exactly what I was thinking! Others were spot on in that yes, I should have seen the alarm bells, and in hindsight, it's easy to. Looking back, it's not to hard to see that she was hung up on something, but was pretty ambiguous about ever really talking about what was going on. I'm disappointed for letting myself be treated the way I was. But, it is what it is.

Thanks again.
posted by jessamyn at 9:07 PM on November 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

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