Is there a course of actions to improve these interactions?
January 4, 2017 7:45 AM   Subscribe

But I've always had a great relationships with ex's...

I ended a 6 month relationship back in early October and after some light conversation at a party a few weeks after the breakup I assumed all was fine. At a second party in November I attempted to say hello to this person, call her Ann, and was loudly informed that my attempts at conversation were unwanted.

Ann is someone I will have regular contact with due to shared friends, at several more social functions since then we have stayed out of each other's way. The issue is that I hate this, I hate acting like this, it seems so unnecessary. Watching where someone is at a party and making sure to steer clear is really counter to my personality and puts my anxiety through the roof.

I want to fix this, I want to repair this, I want to ask Ann if we can talk and hopefully reach a better common ground than the current one. Checking if she is on an invite list because being around her makes me uncomfortable sucks.

What can I do? Am I selfish to expect a friction-free life? Is the ball completely in her court? Do I just suck it up? Is it completely unacceptable to attempt to talk with Ann again after her stated wish that I not do so?
posted by Cosine to Human Relations (32 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
It sucks, but you can't talk someone into wanting to talk to you. You should just give Ann some space, she might be ok with having a casual friendship with you somewhere down the road. It is unfortunate that you move in the same social circles, but this is far from the first time exes have had to navigate that and it is totally possible to do.
posted by cakelite at 7:48 AM on January 4, 2017 [3 favorites]


You don't have to steer clear, just don't purposefully talk to her. No big deal. And yeah, you do have to respect her wishes if she says she doesn't want to talk to you, at least as far as you specifically seeking her out and initiating conversation.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 7:50 AM on January 4, 2017 [27 favorites]


Also this is a good lesson to learn: relationships take two people. "You" don't always do anything after breakups. You and the other person involved in your previous breakups have always been civil. That's because you both decided to do that. It's not just up to you. If you can't accept that without feeling overwhelmingly anxious, you ought to try to manage the anxiety, not the other person's behavior.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 7:51 AM on January 4, 2017 [43 favorites]


Yup, you just suck it up. It takes two to have a conversation, and one of the parties involved doesn't want to.
posted by xingcat at 7:51 AM on January 4, 2017 [3 favorites]


She has the perfectly reasonable right to want no contact with you. It doesn't matter if you will be at the same parties, or if this runs counter to your personality. She in entitled to her feelings, and is not responsible for your feelings or reaction or sense of awkwardness at this point. You are asking her to do emotional labor to make things easier for you, when she has no responsibility for your emotions and preferences at this point.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 7:53 AM on January 4, 2017 [45 favorites]


> Is it completely unacceptable to attempt to talk with Ann again after her stated wish that I not do so?

Well, yeah, unless the house is on fire or she accidentally left life-saving medications at your place. There's nothing to fix, really. She doesn't want to be your friend and you can't force someone to make you comfortable.
posted by tchemgrrl at 7:59 AM on January 4, 2017 [34 favorites]


Several people always had great relationships with Exes until I became one of those Exes. I choose not to have relationships with Exes. It's got nothing to do with them, or their personalities, or anything other than how I choose to order my life.

As everyone has said, if the woman does want to be your friend, you can't make her. And trying to "repair" this is really intruding on her personal space and defined boundaries, which you have no privilege to do based on a brief dating relationship.

Just nod hello or say hello and then disengage when you see her in a social setting. If you can't do that without feeling like the world is ending, that's on you. If she's actively insulting you when you see her, that's an opening to talk to her about it, but it does not sound like that's the case.

It will definitely get better over time. But you can't control that with anything other than respecting her boundaries and being polite but not pushing her into conversation when you see her.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:23 AM on January 4, 2017 [4 favorites]


She's made her preference clear. Trying to talk her into changing her mind is not only disrespectful but counterproductive. When you're in a hole, stop digging.

Some people prefer to go no-contact with exes as a rule, even if they're on good terms; maybe it'll put you at ease to think of it that way. And some people just aren't going to like you no matter how likable you are.

Don't seek her out, but don't go out of your way to avoid her. If you run into each other at an event, say hi and move on. If she's uncomfortable with you to the point where you can't briefly and politely acknowledge her presence, that's her problem to solve.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:25 AM on January 4, 2017 [2 favorites]


Watching where someone is at a party and making sure to steer clear...

Checking if she is on an invite list...


You're overdramatizing this. You've been informed that she doesn't want to have conversation with you, so don't start any, and don't hover if you realize you're near her at a gathering.

I don't see where you were asked to steer clear or check the invite list. She can do those things if she chooses. Just relax and accept that it's best to respect that she does not want to be involved in conversation with you.

Clearly this makes you uncomfortable, and that sucks. But the alternative makes her uncomfortable, and that sucks too, so be kind and respect her stated wishes.
posted by whoiam at 8:26 AM on January 4, 2017 [15 favorites]


You can't make someone want to talk to you, and it's quite possible that you will either scare her or royally piss her off if you keep pushing when she's told you clearly she doesn't want to talk to you. Or, in other words, by trying to talk to her again you would probably just reinforce her feeling that she never wants to talk to you again.

On the other hand, I don't think you need to be constantly scanning social events to make sure you never get near her, etc. That seems a bit like an overreaction. Just go to parties and do your thing and don't try to start any more conversations with her.
posted by colfax at 8:38 AM on January 4, 2017 [2 favorites]


Am I selfish to expect a friction-free life? Is the ball completely in her court? Do I just suck it up? Is it completely unacceptable to attempt to talk with Ann again after her stated wish that I not do so?

Yes.
Yes.
Yes.
Yes.

It's a tough lesson to learn but once you are not in a relationship with someone you don't go back to being strangers you move to being exes and different people deal with this differently. I know it can chafe and I sympathize with your feelings on this but it's not okay to tell people how to feel and while it's okay to want what you want, it's actually an uncool move to try to bend someone else's responses to fit what makes you comfortable, especially after you have broken up.

The issue is that I hate this, I hate acting like this, it seems so unnecessary.


You and Ann are different people and you not being able to control this situation is what is making you feel weird. Managing this new landscape with Ann is going to include getting a handle on some of this social anxiety (in whatever way you are currently managing it) and acknowledging that if your response to Ann's not wanting to be in contact is "I hate this" then that is also an indicator that everything is NOT fine. Put another way, if the only way things are fine is if other people act the way you want them to (and you can't deal otherwise) that's actually not fine.

So, again, I am an anxious person and I know this is a bad feeling but finding ways to just live with this bad feeling instead of trying to wrestle it and control it (and, by extension, other people) is going to serve you better in the long run.
posted by jessamyn at 8:38 AM on January 4, 2017 [18 favorites]


crush-onastick: depends what you consider insulting, I do not feel insulted at all however she did spend NYE leaving the room if I came in, tragically sighing if she entered a room I was in, offering food she had made to everyone but me, etc. This isn't only about my comfort, I care about her and would like her to feel more comfortable again. She's worked hard to fit in with this group and people telling me she is acting like a high school girl is not helping her.
posted by Cosine at 8:43 AM on January 4, 2017


Cosine, you need to give it up. Why are you trying so hard to have a relationship with her if she is 'acting like a high school girl'? You behavior seems extremely controlling to me. She doesn't want to talk to you. If she is truly being disrespectful, your friends will see it and stop inviting her places and you won't have to see her. I think it's less about 'wanting to help her' and more about her acting the way you want her to.
posted by seesom at 8:49 AM on January 4, 2017 [19 favorites]


Is it completely unacceptable to attempt to talk with Ann again after her stated wish that I not do so?
...
I care about her and would like her to feel more comfortable again.

It sounds like she has laid out exactly how you can make her feel more comfortable again: don't find yourself around her and don't try to engage her in conversation. Literally anything else you do will make her more uncomfortable entirely of your doing.

Whoever is telling you she is acting like a high school girl is stirring shit up in places they should know better than to do so. No one with an actual interest in her well-being would be coming to you, the ex she wants nothing to do with, to tell you that she's having interpersonal issues. The only people who do that want to sit back and watch what happens when you act on that information and then have a laugh about it.
posted by griphus at 8:50 AM on January 4, 2017 [28 favorites]


Cosine, her social life is not yours to manage though. You may feel badly about what you just described, and I don't blame you - but feeling badly still doesn't mean you hold an appropriate role in her life to try to help. She's made her wishes clear to you and the kindest thing you can do is respect them.
posted by augustimagination at 8:51 AM on January 4, 2017


"This isn't only about my comfort, I care about her and would like her to feel more comfortable again. She's worked hard to fit in with this group and people telling me she is acting like a high school girl is not helping her."

This comes off as fairly obnoxious. "It is just so hard being the bigger, more mature person in every situation. I want nothing more than to spread my self-assurance to the less-mature around me, even this poor thing I used to date who is so unfortunately acting like a schoolgirl..."

I know you do not mean it like that, your intentions are good but very misplaced. Focus on yourself and less, or not-at-all, on her. She doesn't need or want you to solve this "problem" for her, so let this one go.
posted by scantee at 8:51 AM on January 4, 2017 [24 favorites]


I care about her and would like her to feel more comfortable again. She's worked hard to fit in with this group and people telling me she is acting like a high school girl is not helping her.
Well, you can't do anything about her comfort. That's on her. But you've got two different "goals" that you state here, and I honestly feel like the first one -- your desire to not be anxious -- is your actual goal, and your updated goal of "I care about her and want her to be comfortable" is kind of a defensive cover, in reaction to some of the responses you've read here. You don't get to decide how Ann feels. When "people" tell you she's acting like a "high school girl" you can say: "That's too bad. Have you seen any good movies/read any good books/seen anything cool on a walk recently?" Do not engage with this stuff, if and when it comes up. But honestly, this is a pretty gross characterization of her, and it makes it seem like you're being very paternalistic about this woman.

I want to fix this, I want to repair this, I want to ask Ann if we can talk
It's really good that you haven't done these things even though you want to. Keep going with that instinct. Leave this lie, get on with your life, treat her graciously as you would any stranger in the room. Let Ann be Ann.

What can I do?

Learn to sit with discomfort sometimes. This is part of life.

Am I selfish to expect a friction-free life?
Yeah, you are. You're asking if it's OK to ask Ann to do more emotional labor to make you more comfortable (and by extension you think this will somehow help her "feel more comfortable again") and you're not allowed to ask for that anymore; you broke up.

Is the ball completely in her court?
No. There is no ball; there is no court. It is over.

Do I just suck it up?
Yes, basically. You're going to have to learn to live with discomfort sometimes. This is part of being an adult.

Is it completely unacceptable to attempt to talk with Ann again after her stated wish that I not do so?
Definitely, she told you what she needed and you should respect that. Don't push.
posted by sockermom at 8:53 AM on January 4, 2017 [9 favorites]


I was you; it didn't end well. Which is saying something, considering that we were already exes. The number one tool for being an effective adult is learning how to sit with our discomfort and cope with unpleasant feelings that we prefer not to have but have anyway. That is your job now. You don't have any control over her feels, and you may feel like you have no control over your own feels. But you can work on controlling your responses to those feels. That's your job now. Do it well and that skill will serve you the rest of your life in all the many situations in which people you cannot control are doing things that lead to uncomfortable feelings. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 8:57 AM on January 4, 2017 [3 favorites]


You are being controlling and you need to stop. You are not required nor entitled to manage her behavior by contradicting her directly stated wishes.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 9:05 AM on January 4, 2017 [11 favorites]


Thanks everyone, the overwhelming message here is to stay the course, I haven't pushed things at all (literally, I have said hello twice since the breakup, once it was well received and once not so much, no other interaction) and I guess I already knew I wasn't going to, perhaps I was just looking for a loophole.
posted by Cosine at 9:06 AM on January 4, 2017 [1 favorite]


crush-onastick: depends what you consider insulting, I do not feel insulted at all however she did spend NYE leaving the room if I came in, tragically sighing if she entered a room I was in, offering food she had made to everyone but me, etc. This isn't only about my comfort, I care about her and would like her to feel more comfortable again. She's worked hard to fit in with this group and people telling me she is acting like a high school girl is not helping her.

Not your problem.

If she is publicly sighing and pointedly not giving you cookies, it might be easiest/kindest (for both of you) to just go to different parties for a couple of months. And yeah steer clear of her if she's around.

But no, of course you can't control how other people respond to you. How do you imagine that would work?
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:10 AM on January 4, 2017 [1 favorite]


Maybe you are being controlling and she's being kind of overdramatic - I mean, if she is literally leaving every room you enter, sighing and very pointedly ignoring you when you're doing ordinary group things, that's not actually good behavior. (Note: I have done this behavior in my early twenties; I feel a lot of sympathy but it's not good behavior.) (I am also assuming that this was a fairly ordinary break-up where people are sad but no one has behaved abusively or otherwise egregiously.)

But the thing is, even if she is doing the super-ostentatious sighs, etc, you can't control that.

The awkwardness of her sighs, etc, is on her. Be polite and leave her alone, and let her sigh or refuse to offer you food, etc, and let that be her thing. Detach - remind yourself that this is her choice about her behavior. What's more, if she's really upset and needs time to get things under control, it's much kinder to just let her sigh and leave the room without making a big deal about it.

Two things come to mind:

1. It's perfectly possible to handle a break-up poorly in the sense of "making too big a deal about it". If you and she parted on fairly neutral terms and there's no distinct fault on either side, one of you making a big deal about it at shared social events would be behaving badly. In that case, if it truly is a mutual social event (not, for instance, one person's best friend's intimate get-together) the person who can't handle seeing the other one should stay home rather than sigh, etc. But if that person doesn't stay home, their behavior is on them. Ostentatiously ignoring someone is poor form.

2. There's some stuff that's legit difficult in mutual social circles unless you directly negotiate it, and direct negotiation has its own drawbacks. Some of this may be inevitable. Let's say two people both go to a certain book group. They have a no-fault break-up. One of them really doesn't want to see the other one; the other doesn't really care. Who gets to go to the book group? For one person, it's fine to see the other one; for the other, it's upsetting. Does the "it's fine" person win the bookgroup because they're less upset? Does the upset person win the bookgroup because they're more upset? A way around this is to split custody of the book group, of course, but this requires potentially upsetting conversations in itself.

Basically, I think mutual social events are likely to be awkward for a while. You can either stay home or let your ex do her own things, respecting her wishes not to chat.
posted by Frowner at 9:19 AM on January 4, 2017 [3 favorites]


You broke up with her. You probably hurt her feelings and now you want her to make you feel less guilty by acting like she's fine. That's all it is.


Also, you don't mention new partners but plenty of people avoid being friendly with exes because their current partner wouldn't like it. Maybe she's dating someone new. Or maybe you are?

Six months is long enough to get hurt by being broken up with. It's only been three months since you dissed her. Deal with it yourself.
posted by spitbull at 9:21 AM on January 4, 2017 [8 favorites]


This is a slightly different tack than pretty much unanimously suggested above but my advice is to ignore her.

You might have to do this actively at first: You notice that she's on the an invite list -- remind yourself that you don't care. You see her in the same room at a party -- look in the other direction, but don't leave. She plays petty "this room is tainted now that Cosine is in it" games, you stay where you wanted to be. If you hear her speaking, actively tune her out, or strike up a conversation with someone else.

Eventually, just get to the point where her existence/presence/or lack thereof means nothing to you. Because it shouldn't. Right now, you're spending way too much mental energy on what she's doing and how she's reacting and all of that, and it's just unnecessary (and possibly counter productive). Just make her not exist in your eyes and go about your life.
posted by sparklemotion at 9:24 AM on January 4, 2017 [3 favorites]


Look, she might be trying to get your attention by acting the fool and making this a bigger deal than it is (and your friends are drama). But that almost doesn't matter. If she's baiting you, don't take the bait. If she's not baiting you, you're giving her what she wants by respecting her wishes. Either way, you win.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 9:39 AM on January 4, 2017 [3 favorites]


i'm honestly proud of her for stating her boundary and sticking with it. that's a pretty awesome thing to do that so many women get talked out of. also, engaging in conversations with your shared friends where she's infantilized is pretty crappy behavior. as someone with anxiety, i get it, but your obsessing and that's not helping your anxiety or your social circle.
posted by radiopaste at 9:50 AM on January 4, 2017 [7 favorites]


crush-onastick: depends what you consider insulting, I do not feel insulted at all however she did spend NYE leaving the room if I came in, tragically sighing if she entered a room I was in, offering food she had made to everyone but me, etc. This isn't only about my comfort, I care about her and would like her to feel more comfortable again. She's worked hard to fit in with this group and people telling me she is acting like a high school girl is not helping her.

None of this is your responsibility or your problem. How she acts is her business not yours.She is not your girlfriend or even your friend and has been clear she doesn't want to talk to you, which includes hearing advice you may have on how she should navigate her social circle.

Ignore her drama and don't create any of your own. Rise above without engaging. If friends come to you concerned tell them to talk to her.
posted by qi at 9:54 AM on January 4, 2017 [1 favorite]


I don't think you're being controlling or overdramatic or anything. Ignore the haters. I also think that it would be best to just pretend she doesn't exist or is a total stranger that you've never met. That might be psychologically easier than trying to track her moves and not step on her toes. There's probably nothing you can do right in her mind at this point, so just don't bother. It's really her problem, you just go on enjoying yourself, and if she gets the cold shoulder from the group because of her behavior, then she'll either be gone and out of your hair or she will wise up and start acting like an adult. I would expect, though, that the second she has a new boyfriend she'll bring him around to try to make you jealous so just be prepared for that :)
posted by greta simone at 10:25 AM on January 4, 2017 [2 favorites]


You've gotten a lot of constructive ,if a bit brutal, advice here so I won't pile on any further. I agree with the assessment that this is a control issue. That doesn't mean you're bad, or abusive or anything horrible, it just means this situation is way more about your insecurity with other's emotions and not with those emotions themselves.

I'd highly reccommend reading Codependent No More.
Slowly understanding why you feel the need to tie up all the loose ends and messy emotions, then learning to let go for the sake of your own mind(and other's) will help immensely going forward into new relationships.
posted by InkDrinker at 10:51 AM on January 4, 2017


Reading between the lines, and apologies if this is off-base, but I think there might be a kind of territorialism on her part, a "custody of the friends" situation, where your presence is cockblocking her from generally "being single" again. This could be bridged a bit with, "so, have you been dating," or "are you seeing anyone," type questions, but she unequivocally doesn't want to have even that much conversation with you, so they are nonstarters.

It may be the kindest thing you could do to dial down the frequency of being at the same events and parties so she has the space to get back to normal, but I can also see that this is your circle of friends, too, and you wouldn't want to fade on them. You could confide in mutual friends that this is what you're doing, so that they don't assume you're off to a new life, and that you're just on a break to give her some space? Seems charitable and navigable this way, and once she has someone new, or gets a rebound, or otherwise turns the page, you can possibly re-establish some semblance of fraternité. If she's a "no exes" person, then you're going to have to manage your own anxiety about being friendly with exes and figure out a way to give up on the idea.
posted by rhizome at 11:28 AM on January 4, 2017


From your update she sounds like a drama Llama with sighing and pointedly ignoring you. She has every right to not want to communicate but bringing her sighing/ignoring to a party is ridiculous. Luckily if she continues to act that way she will no longer be invited to anymore parties. In the interim as others have noted stay neutral and don't initiate any contact. I've been guilty of the same lame drama she is exhibiting now. Hopefully her friends will do what mine did and tell her to knock it off at parties
posted by biggreenplant at 11:47 AM on January 4, 2017


She didn't get to override your decision to end the relationship with her, you don't get to override her decision not to have a friendship with you.
posted by Dwardles at 8:03 AM on January 5, 2017 [4 favorites]


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