Community health
January 25, 2010 6:33 PM   Subscribe

What's the best method to be ok around an ex?

We broke up last summer. I was not in favour of it. There were issues, yes, but I was willing to do whatever it took to try and improve things. Partner was not and made the decision to leave.

We'd been together for 2 years and are very much a part of the same arts community.

We've managed to avoid each other over the past months for the most part and in fact organically started emailing the other when we were going to be at an event or function where we might cross paths. We've even given specific times to allow for both to attend and not have to see each other. This has felt both respectful and caring, and heartbreaking at the same time.

I just sent one of those emails about this week, which prompted me to ask for some ideas or help from those who have experience or guidance.

I want to be able to be ok, and not feel like I'm going to be a sobbing mess if I see the ex. I know being apart is the best method to deal with breakup fall out, this part I'm doing. But I'm looking for ways to try and get to an ok place when we do come in contact as I don't like losing my community too. I know the ex wants this as well. Any ideas how we work through this?
posted by miles1972 to Human Relations (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Any ideas how we work through this?

Time. As in, you need more of it. I know it hurts to think about. If you like imagining that you will one day be friends, that's just fine. It just may be a little farther off than you (or he) had thought. And if that bothers him and he misses you, well he should have thought about that before he broke your heart.
posted by hermitosis at 6:39 PM on January 25, 2010

At this point, it may be that you've hit a wall in the getting-over-process and should meet for coffee or something so you can have a chat and normalize a bit. In the beginning, it made sense to give each other a heads up to avoid having to deal with watching each other socialize or having to make small talk in public, but as it goes on it seems like you're giving each other more power over your emotions than makes sense. Everyone's timeline varies, but you "should" be able to accidently be at the same event without it being a big deal at some point - I would think that the mutual warnings and tab-keeping would keep things sort of special and electric between you when what you want is for things to be vaguely friendly and no big deal.
posted by moxiedoll at 6:42 PM on January 25, 2010 [5 favorites]

This is like a band-aid. You have to just yank it off, hard and fast.

Every second you spend dutifully emailing to coordinate times is time you're spending S-L-O-W-L-Y pulling off that band-aid for maximum self-hurt. You are very deliberately hurting yourself.

Screw it. Just go. It's YOUR community, too. Who cares if the ex will be there? You have friends, right? Friends that understand the situation and won't make a big deal out of it? Dandy. You're all set. Go be awesome.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:47 PM on January 25, 2010 [7 favorites]

Now that a few months have passed since the breakup, how do you feel in general about your whole relationship and breakup? i.e. have you accepted the fact that your partner did not want to work it out - are you still angry that he made this decision? If so, this is what you need to work through (and other emotions, like grief, sadness, etc.), and then, let all that go. This is how you will be ok with being in his presence - when you're ok with yourself.

It might take some time to get there. In the short-term, try to muster up everything you can to just go to the event and be yourself, whether or not he's there. This means talking to other people, networking, looking at the art, presenting your work, whatever it is that you do at events. The way to carry on in your life is to carry on with your life. Make sure you have some supportive friends (preferably who aren't friends with the ex too) there if you feel like you are going to break down, and just head for the nearest washroom.

Avoidance takes a lot of work and just prolongs what you have to do - taking care of yourself and moving on. At the same time, if you absolutely feel like you can't be at an event where he is, then don't go. Don't force it. But don't be afraid to be in your community as well.
posted by foxjacket at 6:50 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

teleport yourself about 10 or 20 years into the future....where this two year relationship will be a vague memory.... and, start living your life...

it is all about the perspective... I can barely remember the girls/women that I was in a two year relationship when I was your age....

life is about the now...not the then...
posted by HuronBob at 7:01 PM on January 25, 2010 [4 favorites]

Oh, I know this feeling very well. Over a year after my ex and I broke up, I would still run to the bathroom when I saw her walk into the coffee shop where I worked because I knew if I had to talk to her I would cry. Sometimes I cried anyway.

The only thing that helped was time. It took a lot of it. But eventually it did get better. Fast forward 4 years and we are now good friends. I think a big factor for why it took so long was my having convinced myself that seeing her would make me cry, or that having to talk to her would be this Huge Deal. I don't have any specific advice for convincing yourself otherwise, but maybe being aware of it will help. Tell yourself that you've built it up too much because you've gone so long without seeing him/her, and that it really won't be the Huge Deal you're expecting it to be.

And if you do decide to start attending social functions without the email exchanges, I promise it will get easier each and every time you see the person. Like Cool Papa Bell said, it's like ripping off a band-aid. You know it's going to hurt--it's just a matter of how long it will hurt.
posted by a.steele at 7:07 PM on January 25, 2010

A few people have said something like this above, but I want to re-iterate.

Just going to the event while she is there is a good start. Time really will heal this rift, eventually. But for a two year relationship, six or seven months means that things are still raw. Go to the event- it's good practice, and it's your community too. But go into the event knowing that things WILL be weird, difficult, strange, etc. Just accept that fact before you go, and make the decision beforehand that you will just deal with it.

I also suggest maintaining a veil of ignorance. Sure, say hello, and be polite and cordial with the ex. But there is no unwritten rule that you need be best friends, or have intense and revealing discussions during the course of the evening. Just keep things cursory. Remember that there are other people at the community who value your presence and attention. You don't have to ignore your ex entirely, but make those other people the focus of your mental energy. Try not to let the evening become about your old relationship, at least any more than it has to. That way you will limit exposing yourself to raw feelings and emotions that may cast rain on your parade. (Sorry for the overused metaphor).

Expect it to be difficult. It will suck seeing your ex out there, being happy and flirty without you. But remember afterwords to compare how crappy you actually felt with how crappy you THOUGHT you were going to feel. I would wager that there's a big difference. My own experience went like this: "Wow, that was shitty. I feel fairly upset after that encounter. But, I had thought the world was going to fall apart....and here I am, intact! That was actually a manageable amount of suckiness."

Finally I suggest bringing a friend. Someone who knows the issue, and can distract you by being funny or engaging. It's always good to have backup.

And good luck! I really feel for you: I've been in a very similar situation before, and I can only commiserate about how much it sucks. The one thing I can tell you is this: it really is good practice.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 7:21 PM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

As a general rule, always anticlimatic. You'll do whatever when the time comes.

What you're really asking is "how do I deal with fears I have about seeing my ex."

In otherwords, you shouldn't be looking at ways to handle the inevitable encounter, but ways to deal with your current fears about what will happen when you meet her. Those are what's bothering you now.

The answer is the same for all fears: train to recognize when you feel them, train yourself to feel them and not try and escape them. Instead, accept and experience them.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:24 PM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

Everyone else has given great advice, so I'll just repeat:

You may need more time. Four or five months is not so long to get over a two-year relationship that you didn't want to end.

That said, I think it would be a good idea to stop planning around your partner at some point. Try going to your art events when you want. But bring a friend, and don't feel that you have to do more than say hello to your ex. Keep the contact cordial and minimal, at least at first.

And if you're a sobbing mess afterwards (not during), so what? Sob a bit. It's a sad situation and it's normal to feel sad about it. But then dry your tears and continue on.
posted by Paris Elk at 11:44 PM on January 25, 2010

More time. You'll know when you're ready. Until then, I Would avoid him and justlive your life.
posted by bananafish at 12:15 AM on January 26, 2010

This whole emailing situation seems like a bad idea and just prolonging healing. If you see her, deal with what you feel and eventually it won't be so bad.
posted by mattsweaters at 2:36 AM on January 26, 2010

Thanks all. Very very helpful to hear your perspectives.
posted by miles1972 at 11:15 AM on January 27, 2010

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