Moving on from a relationship when you can't do No Contact
February 24, 2013 1:31 PM   Subscribe

I decided to end my "relationship" with someone I saw for nine months. We both have the same hobby, and seeing him there has been stirring both negative and positive emotions. I don't want to give up the hobby. I could handle the negative emotions - because that's what you're supposed to feel - it's the positive ones that are doing me in. How can I get past them?

The relationship resulted in lots of ambivalence, and it's continuing now that I've ended it. I see him and I feel appropriate things: sadness, resentment, grief, disappointment. But there's part of me that still jumps up inside saying "yay it's X!" I've resorted to self-talk reminders that no, in fact he isn't all that she thinks he is, he isn't good for her, she needs to let it go.

This positive side has been made worse by some behavior on his part. Ex: The day after I ended it, he texted me to express concern because of some severe weather in the area. So, I asked him to not contact me outside of the hobby environment. At the hobby he has interacted like nothing changed, being playful, bringing up shared history, etc. I addressed this by asking him to give me space there and to treat me more like a boss or grandmother.

Each time I've had to ask him to back off, it reopens the wounds. I usually process emotions VERY quickly, and would normally be over this by now (considering I was more wrapped up in projections than anything real), but continuing to see him several days a week and continuing to have that underlying positive reaction has complicated things. I'll feel like I'm progressing, then run into him there, and then I'm depressed the next day. It's not working for me.

Is there anything else I can do to help me put it in perspective while I can't get full No-Contact? It's been really hard getting that emotional piece of me to listen to the adult mind that knows she did the right thing.
posted by hungry hippo to Human Relations (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You really need to either temporarily give up that hobby, or find another group to do the hobby with. Or work out a custody arrangement for your hobby so you're there alternate days/weeks or something. From what you say, each time you see him it's slowing your progress getting over him. So you need to figure out a solution that involves you not seeing him.
posted by DoubleLune at 1:40 PM on February 24, 2013 [5 favorites]

How about no hobby for 21 days? Three week break? Go do something really active and body-centric during this time. Hiking. Biking. Weight-lifting. Or yoga and definitely get a massage to start to focus inward and heal and relax.

Because, I don't think it's really that fair to ask him to act in very prescribed ways toward you when you are in the same space. And I think it's a normal and natural part of the process to take a break from each other.

If you really can't then I think you're doing the right things: backing off, talking yourself down, being distant. And maybe give yourself a reward after seeing your ex -- go get a smoothie or head to the bookstore and do some browsing or see a movie that you've wanted to see.
posted by amanda at 1:40 PM on February 24, 2013 [5 favorites]

just give up your hobby temporarily until you are feeling more centered about this breakup. maybe find another place to practice this hobby. i think you need to get creative here so your poor heart can mend.
posted by wildflower at 1:43 PM on February 24, 2013 [7 favorites]

The relationship resulted in lots of ambivalence, and it's continuing now that I've ended it. I'll feel like I'm progressing, then run into him there, and then I'm depressed the next day. It's not working for me.

You're still in the relationship. You say no contact is not an option, but it is. You may not be able to fly across the grand canyon unassisted, or lift a small car but you can stop attending a hobby when you break up with someone.

The ambivalence is going strong. You have not yet broken up with him.
posted by nickrussell at 2:31 PM on February 24, 2013 [7 favorites]

Because, I don't think it's really that fair to ask him to act in very prescribed ways toward you when you are in the same space. And I think it's a normal and natural part of the process to take a break from each other.

I think that she's not asking for unreasonable behavior from him. He's behaving like an ass - almost acting as if the breakup didn't happen.

OP, you really need to take a break from the hobby until you heal a little, since he's not respecting your emotions. And I'd also block his number and email for a while.
posted by winna at 2:47 PM on February 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

I think that she's not asking for unreasonable behavior from him. He's behaving like an ass - almost acting as if the breakup didn't happen.

Okay, but OP broke up with him. In my book, that says it's up to her to kind of deal with the relationship fallout. There's a number of ways you could read how he's acting toward her, one charitable read might be that he's trying to just put on a good face, soldier through and move on. If she doesn't like the person who she dumped acting in a certain way then I think it's up to her to put up the necessary space between them to let them both cool off from things.
posted by amanda at 2:55 PM on February 24, 2013 [9 favorites]

There's a choice to be made here.

By steeping yourself in his presence you're choosing to continue the relationship. You're delaying the emotions of the breakup because you see him several times a week. If he wasn't engaging with you, then you'd be upset that you can't be friends with a shared hobby. Continuing to see him is choosing to stay in the drama. Right now, the drama feels a little less scary than the breakup.

It's a hobby, not a job. Find something else to occupy your time for a few weeks. If you read through lots of breakup posts, the advice to keep busy and keep moving forward is very common. And it's good advice too.

Here's your choice. You can opt out of seeing him for a few weeks or months or you can stay emotionally connected to the whole thing.
posted by 26.2 at 2:56 PM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Do not let this awful person manipulate you. I read your previous question, and it sounds like he's a textbook control freak who only loves you when you're leaving.

Do not buy into it. Cut off all contact for at least 30 days. Find another group or hobby. Do not respond or engage.

Go for lots of walks or runs if you can. It helps.
posted by mochapickle at 3:27 PM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

There's the likely possibility that this hobby is also a commitment. She could be part of a community play, a soccer league, a band, something where she can't take a few weeks off. Maybe we should try working from the assumption that if she could take time off she would.
posted by greta simone at 3:28 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

There's the likely possibility that this hobby is also a commitment...

One door closes, one door opens...
posted by nickrussell at 3:39 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you can take time off, do.

If you cannot, don't respond playfully to his playfulness. Cool, detached civility is the watchword.

You need to do your own work on your own time. It will get better. Promise.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:00 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Can you tell us what the hobby is? We might be able to suggest ways to keep doing it while avoiding him.
posted by Ragged Richard at 4:02 PM on February 24, 2013

Ragged Richard - sorry, no. This is a public question and all. It is a commitment of sorts, in that I will lose out on something if I pause with it (money and other results of my efforts). I may ask him if we can have "joint custody." This week and next weekend I know I will see him there, and while I could get out of the experience, it would mean cutting losses I don't want to cut.

I may look at stopping or joint custody arrangements after the weekend.

I'd really prefer to find a way to manage the feelings without quitting the hobby. I don't want to stop going because of this. I mean there has to be a way you can grieve/process without NC. I have heard of people who split and share an apartment for a while, or ask for divorce but can't go NC because of kids. It's not unheard of.

So yes - we have established that quitting the hobby would be the easiest thing. I would still prefer to hear ways I can process the ambivalent feelings without NC - while my unconscious still sees this person sometimes.
posted by hungry hippo at 4:16 PM on February 24, 2013

I've been the person who split while sharing an apartment. I couldn't process the emotions until I moved out. It still took time after that.

My parents have been divorced twice (each! ...separate remarriages/new second divorces)
Communication went through the lawyers only; they did not see each other or talk at all once they'd started the proceedings. That's how they knew they were done.

He's still acting friendly because...well, who knows why he is, but you're not in that space and you need to not talk to him. If you have to continue your hobby through this coming weekend, try not to engage with him there. Be cordial and friendly if you must interact, but you are not currently friends.
posted by RainyJay at 4:38 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Something that has helped me is wearing an elastic wristband in a bright color to remind me of what I'm trying to remember, and snapping it lightly as a negative reinforcement when I forget. This helped me with quitting smoking, and with not losing my cool with my father when I was caring for him; it might be useful to you in your hobby meetings.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:59 PM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

I also want to say what a positive step you took in ending the relationship. Go, you.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:07 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have heard of people who split and share an apartment for a while, or ask for divorce but can't go NC because of kids. It's not unheard of.

No, it's not unheard of, but it can be a big fat mess. If you speak with people who have carried on living together after a break-up, it ranges from "not ideal" to "never again". Sexual attraction is a biological feature – meaning that it physically modifies the body itself. It's how the system is designed to work. The same chemicals that cement attraction also make break-ups a nightmare because the brain is wired to have certain responses to a person – regardless of the conscious desire to not have a certain response to a person.

This is often why people stay in abusive relationships or have such trouble making what would be positive decisions for themselves. But I digress.

If your is that you must share space with this person, what you probably need to do is wall yourself off from your physiological responses whilst you are in the space with him. That does not mean you have to let him back into your lift writ large. Rather, it means for the duration of your shared experience, you have to deaden yourself to your default emotional response.

If that sounds difficult, people do it all the time. When someone's boss craps all over them (figuratively), they don't tell Boss to go take a flying leap... because they still want their pay check. When you are pulled over for speeding and want to tell the cop exactly what you think of that ticket, you don't (hopefully). Because whilst the ticket is annoying or even unwarranted, it could get a lot worse very quickly.

So we are capable of inhibiting our natural responses when required for the sake of a greater gain or purpose.

In your case, you know very specifically why you are putting yourself in this uncomfortable situation – because you have something to gain from it. Thus, when you are in the situation, allow that to be your only focus. You are putting yourself in the situation with this person because you want to get something out of it. Therefore you are tolerating their presence to achieve your goal. That means you can have a very civil, transactional relationship with them whilst you are in the same place.

Your biology may draw you to them. They may get into your head. The trick is you have to bound that to the situation. When you leave the situation, you need to decompress and allow the emotions to flow again. Thus, you need to honour your emotions, but you do not necessarily need to do that whilst in the situation.

The trick to this is NO CONTACT OUTSIDE THE SITUATION FULL STOP. The compromise is being in the situation with him. That can be a bit difficult, but you can manage it because it has very specific boundaries. That can be managed.

For two people living in a flat after a break-up, they are doing so because they cannot leave the flat until a future date. They know exactly why they are doing it, and they have boundaries. They don't go hang out like a couple outside the flat. For parents who have to interact around children, the parents are in the situation because of the children. They do not interact outside of the situation with the children.

So in your case, you need a hard boundary to only interact in the situation. It may throw you emotionally and there may be some fallout, but that is the cost of putting yourself in the situation. And it should be manageable if it happens within the boundaries, for it's specific. On Saturday morning, you will see him. On Saturday afternoon, you will be emotional and upset. On Saturday evening, the cycle will be complete.
posted by nickrussell at 5:27 PM on February 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Journalling or blogging might help. I have done a lot of that type thing over the years. I also wrote fiction for a bit. Writing out my romantic fantasies usually tells me pretty quickly how utterly stupid they are. Perhaps it would help give you some objectivity as well.

I have also found that a new romantic interest is good distraction from the old. That has to be handled carefully. I don't like just using people and I was very careful during my divorce to stick with long distance situations with no real hope of getting too hot and heavy because I wanted to resolve my personal crap before getting into a "real" relationship. But there are plenty of lonely people in the world and some of them are pragmatic and will cut a deal. So I did not lack for male attention when that mattered to me and no serious drama ensued. That helped save my sanity and helped keep me moving forward under incredibly difficult circumstances. YMMV, of course.
posted by Michele in California at 6:43 PM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

What you're trying to do here is something that's inherently difficult. Maybe it would make it easier on you to consciously acknowledge that to yourself. When you see this guy and the painful emotions come up, simply saying something to yourself like "I'm dealing with some really, truly difficult feelings right now!" might help you get some perspective on the situation, and also might help you have some compassion for yourself.
posted by MrOlenCanter at 10:34 PM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

i'm in a very similar situation, except that we both agree to no contact. with our shared hobby, we don't have to have any contact if we don't want to - - other than seeing each other in common areas, on the way to and from the locker room, etc.

i think if you can't keep your emotions in check when he does stop talking to you, or treat you as you'd like him to treat you now, you might need a break from the hobby.
posted by thatgirld at 1:38 PM on February 25, 2013

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