How to do "no contact" when you can't disappear, or ask them to?
July 15, 2013 2:43 PM   Subscribe

I'm a part time trainer for a very specific type of sport. I started dating someone that trains at my facility. She ended it. I fell way to hard for her, and seeing her at the facility is not helping me heal. The only way for me to get over her is no contact, but I can't quit my job (or augment my teaching schedule) or ask her to not come to the facility during times that I teach. I have already changed the times when I go to work out myself. Seeing her makes me feel like I've been punched in the gut. How do I go no contact, when there has to be some contact?

FWIW we are both women. There's also a metric ton of back story, but I'd rather not go into detail as it would bring into question her character (and heck, my own!) and that's not the issue.

She knows I want to be more than friends. I respect that she does not want to see me romantically. I also respect myself enough to know that this is not the be all end all relationship that my heart thinks it is right now. I do not engage her socially outside of the facility. No text, no email, nothing. All engagement at the facility is civil, and related to training. This boils down to about 6 hours of time for the week when we're definitely in the same space at the same time.

Is there anything besides curt civility that I can do? I don't want to tell her I'm having such a hard time with this, as it will only inflate her ego further. At this point, she doesn't need to know how busted up I am. What can I do to keep my own morale up? This has been coming to a head for me for the past 2 months, and even though I am actively trying to meet other people and do new things, these feelings don't go away. Short of quitting, or saying "I need you to not come in." I don't know what I can do to enable myself to heal.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This might seem odd, but think of this as exercise, as a regimen you have to maintain in order to get results. You can put yourself through a training regimen that's physical, and there's already a mental component to that, so now you're doing one that is mostly mental (curt civility when necessary, and otherwise diligently and steadfastly ignoring her and focusing on other things when she's around) that has a physical component (physically avoiding watching her, or being in close proximity to her.)

Beyond that, really just time is all you can do. She can't help you with this, and you're right not to share your woes with her. So use it as an excuse to build up your ability to distance yourself emotionally, with active training six hours a week. Sooner or later you'll fold that emotional discipline into your physical discipline, and then you'll realize you've moved on.
posted by davejay at 2:58 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

"I also respect myself enough to know that this is not the be all end all relationship that my heart thinks it is right now."

Other people will probably have much better coping mechanisms, so I hope it doesn't seem dismissive of your feelings that my first and strongest thought was that, since you know the above, this seems like the ideal time for the oft-told advice that "the best way to get over someone is to get under/on top of/scissor someone else."*

That's not to say that you should just randomly grab onto the next person who you many any sort of connection with. But the woman who you are trying to get over is occupying headspace that you want to evict her from and another person can help with that, even if it's just another passing thing with a person who you don't have to see every day.

And eventually, it's quite likely that once you are over this, you will realize that seeing somebody every day is, in some ways, easier than 'no contact' without that because you can't put them on a pedestal quite so easily.

* I know you're trying to meet others. And I don't want to make it sound like I am saying 'try harder' but I do want to say 'keep trying.'
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:07 PM on July 15, 2013

No-contact is NOT the only way to get over her. You will get over her. It will take a bit longer this way than it would if you could go no contact, but it will eventually happen. You're in the same space, but I assume you're at least trying to minimize the direct contact.

I had a long-term relationship that fell apart where we basically shared all the same hobbies and social group and we kind of carved pieces of that out so that we each got as much space as possible, and it's been a bit, but it's working out okay. Was a lot longer than your relationship, probably, but it's also been a bunch longer than two months at this point.

This notion that people need to be ready and able to date again X months after falling for someone, even when it's not long-term, is just silly, to me. If you're a warm-hearted person, having feelings for someone is not unreasonable, and taking a little while to move on is not unreasonable. Give yourself time. Be patient. Cry sometimes, grieve sometimes, get maudlin sometimes, but then get up and go do something else, don't let it consume you completely. Do try to avoid even internally using language like the whole 'never going to get over her' thing, it's poisonous, but you don't have to rush it.
posted by Sequence at 3:20 PM on July 15, 2013

Depending on the circumstances of your workplace, maybe you can enlist your coworkers' help in minimizing your contact with this person, in a way that avoids coming off as dramatic or inappropriately bringing your personal-life baggage into the facility. It's not always possible, but it might be.

More generally, my advice would be that your dilemma—being forced to interact with her six hours per week—might feel like a wrinkle in the typical breakup narrative. It's totally reasonable for you to feel that way. But objectively, it's not atypical. One thing you might do is to solicit stories from friends, other MeFites, etc: "Has anything like this happened to you?" You might be surprised how many people have been there.

The point isn't to trivialize your pain, but rather to keep your thinking framed. This doesn't sound like a wildly unusual breakup circumstance where you need to go outside the box for creative solutions. On the contrary, lots of us have been there or someplace similar (often far more than six hours a week), so the best advice for you might be to immerse yourself in the best advice for breakups. You might be lonely, but your circumstance isn't.
posted by cribcage at 3:21 PM on July 15, 2013

FWIW, I've rarely found that "no contact" is the best move unless the other person is a danger to you. I find that it's better to see the other person in a clear but incredibly average way, giving you the opportunity to see them trip over their own shoelaces, or mispronounce a word, or be awkward in a eleventeen non-adorable ways. Seeing them be incredibly average helps remind you that they weren't the magical being you imagined them to be when they lived inside your head. Sometimes, the MORE you see someone, the easier it is to replace fake happy hope-y memories with "hm, orange just really isn't X's color" thoughts.

People fall out of love with the people they LIVE with all the time. "No contact" is only one way to help you heal. Good luck.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 3:52 PM on July 15, 2013 [8 favorites]

I'm with TWKoC on this. I feel like the "STRICT NO CONTACT IS THE ONLY WAY" stuff is some kind of recycled Dan Savage garbage trope that won't die. And it's awfully unrealistic in a lot of real life situations(like yours!) and can even come off as immature when someone is going far out of their way to ditch on social situations and such to avoid the person.

It's just one tool in the toolbox, but it's a fairly extreme one like the jaws of life or something; it only feels like it's being properly used in extreme situations of abuse/emotional instability/personal danger/etc.

Ideally a lot of people would have experienced this type of thing in highschool, college, or one of their first jobs to realize that if you "shit where you eat" in this sense then not only will you have to see the person, but that seeing the person isn't some horrible thing it's usually equated with along the lines of "you just don't want to let them go and are you using this as an excuse to be around them". It can be that, but assuming some sort of thing like that is the default is tiresome.

This is one of those things you just have to power through. Seeing the person all the time prolongs the getting over it period sometimes, but it won't stop it. Eventually they'll just be a bit more of a blip than another person working out at the gym. Maybe a mental shelf above that weird coworker who annoyed you all the time.

And eventually, it's quite likely that once you are over this, you will realize that seeing somebody every day is, in some ways, easier than 'no contact' without that because you can't put them on a pedestal quite so easily.

Is kinda the heart of what i was getting at here. You will probably get tired of seeing them, and that will help you get over it.
posted by emptythought at 4:24 PM on July 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

Yes, yes, I agree with TWKoC and emptythought -- the "no contact" rule is just a hard and fast rule that you repeat to yourself when you think that one little email wouldn't hurt or you're at risk of drunk dialing or what have you.

You're the better/bigger person. Own it. Hey, you're the TRAINER. I believe in you. I know it hurts but seeing her around and having to interact civilly is the emotional equivalent of ripping the bandaid off quickly rather than slowly. It burns, but it also burns out way more quickly.
posted by janey47 at 5:55 PM on July 15, 2013

I'm with the others who have said "no contact" is only one way of dealing with a relationship that's ended. I'm still friends with my last partner, and we maintained the friendship pretty much continuously without a no contact period. It's been very tough at times (she ended it and it was very painful for me) and I think at about the point where you are, I realised I was not going to deal without help. For me, that meant meds and seeing a psychologist rather than going no contact. I found that the chance to talk through some of my issues and also work out how much of the relationship ending was not about me, but about her (yes, I know it sounds like a cliché, but I am a bit clichéd in blaming myself) really helped me accept her as a friend with all her flaws as well as her good points, and accept myself as someone who just needs someone different.

In summary, if you're still having a lot of problems, consider talking to someone professional. It can at least help you work out why you're still having problems and do some work on those, and depending on the type of therapy (CBT for example is good at interrupting recurring thoughts) can also help you come up with strategies to deal with having to see her at your workplace.

In the meantime, maybe just try a bit of accepting the emotions and not getting caught up in them. Observe the distress you're feeling, but you don't have to get completely involved with it. You feel emotions, but you are not your emotions. This is hard to explain, but is similar to what you do when meditating (if you've ever tried that) where thoughts inevitably creep in and you just accept that they're there and gently push them away again. Return to the breath, that most basic level of "I will survive". You will. I hope it gets easier for you soon.
posted by Athanassiel at 6:47 PM on July 15, 2013

i think it will only get better as you develop your new relationship with her: acquaintance. don't talk to her any more than a polite "hi, how are you?" anything more than that is over and will forever be over. if she's there and you start to feel uncomfortable give yourself permission to take a break, step outside, go to the restroom and regroup.

Is there anything besides curt civility that I can do?

no, it's the only thing you can do.

this woman is not your friend, maybe she once was, but not any more. i'd also avoid any conversation that's not absolutely necessary. if you can get a work related question answered by someone else, go to them instead.
posted by cupcake1337 at 8:07 PM on July 15, 2013

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