How do you dispel the awkwardness that comes after a hookup?
July 21, 2007 3:34 PM   Subscribe

How do you dispel the awkwardness that comes after a hookup?

So, I recently joined a great volunteer organization, in which I've met many interesting people who I really like and in which I want very very much to stay involved over the long run. The problem is that pretty soon after I showed up, it became clear that there was a strong mutual attraction between me and the founder and leader of the organization, a much older woman whose boyfriend is also in the group. We ended up sleeping together a few weeks after I joined, and ever since then, things have been tense between us. In fact, we never really talked about it afterwards, even though we see each other several times a week and she calls me on the phone just about daily--always about matters related to the organization. I know, I know, it was a big mistake to do it, and in fact my hesitation about it was that it might have a negative impact on the dynamics in the group. Be that as it may, I'd like to try and fix things, and my question is on how to do this. I really like this person, and want to be friends whether or not we're sleeping together--it's totally OK with me if we don't. What can I do or say to get over this awkward stage as quickly and as neatly as possible? Anyone have experience with doing this successfully? Care to share? (for confidential answers, 4651475 at gmail dot com).
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

In situations like this, I think it's always best to fake it until you make it. It sounds like you are doing everything right. If you continue to act out the way you want the relationship to be, the uncomfortable feelings will pass. And of course, don't mention what happened to any other person in the group.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:46 PM on July 21, 2007 [3 favorites]

She cheated on her boyfriend with you.

All three of you are members of the same (small?) volunteer group.

It is highly unlikely that you will find yourself/-selves able to "fix" things and have anything even remotely resembling a normal group dynamic even *if* no-one but the two of you knows about it.

If anyone else *does* find out, forget about it.

You are probably better off moving on and finding a different volunteer organization that serves your area of interest.
posted by dersins at 4:01 PM on July 21, 2007

The reason for the tension is that one, or both, of you is worried that the other is going to do or say something. Probably she's more worried about it than you, since as the leader of the organization it might make her look bad to have slept with a subordinate, on top of the usual issue of what would happen if her boyfriend found out. She may also have some guilt and possibly worry about what you think of her.

I don't think it's necessary that you take any action. She is telling you very clearly that it's back to business and there will be no further hanky-panky. Just be friendly, but not too friendly. After a while she will realize that you're not going to make any trouble or expect anything she's not willing to offer, and she will probably warm up.
posted by kindall at 4:03 PM on July 21, 2007

I think that a little intense awkwardness, in the form of an actual conversation between the two of you, would be worth it to dispel the long-term seething unspoken awkwardness of not saying anything.

It's easier to never speak about it, sure. But if you have a conversation with her where you clarify that you're not going to say anything, it will likely take a huge load off her mind, and make both of you able to be at ease around one another.
posted by jennyjenny at 4:24 PM on July 21, 2007

Until you talk to her about it, any theories on what she's thinking are just that. Maybe she was ready to break up with her boyfriend for you, and now she's disappointed. Or maybe she's angry because she feels you just used her for sex. Maybe she's hoping that it will happen again every Thursday. Maybe she's on the edge of quitting because she's afraid you're going to say something.

Prepare what you're going to say carefully. Keep it concise and clear, something that you can basically say in one or two sentences, so that you can get it out before you chicken out and before she cuts you off. What it is depends on what you want.
posted by bingo at 5:02 PM on July 21, 2007

before you discuss it with her, prepare yourself for the possibility that you are just the most recent hookup she's had with one of the volunteers.
posted by Good Brain at 5:56 PM on July 21, 2007

Write her a note saying pretty much what you said here and also offering to discuss it further if she initiates the discussion. Also say that if she doesn't initiate the discussion you won't bring it up again and you are fine with that. Be very subtle and careful how you give the note. I recommend handing it to her when alone with a terse explanatory comment. Then, act casually around her and give it time.
posted by Manjusri at 6:00 PM on July 21, 2007

I don't think there's a quick fix. Like PinkSH said, "fake it until you make it".

Incidentally, that was really unethical what she did - putting you a subordinate and newcomer in an awkward position - and I can't imagine what possessed her to do that with her boyfriend there too. Maybe they were having a fight. In any case, I think the onus is on her to make it right. Time will help, as will you moving on with another relationship, but you might want to keep your eyes open for another job. She sounds like a potential mind-messer.
posted by MiffyCLB at 7:11 PM on July 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

Don't talk about it. Do not dwell on what happened. Do not discuss your feelings. Don't even really acknowledge what happened. Just look her in the eyes, smile, and say something along the line of 'Let's just be friends' or 'I'm glad we're friends'. A firm handshake can be applied also for emphasis. The result is a short, unmistakable gesture that reestablishes the boundary between you. Eventually the tension will fade away and as you're both adults the whole thing will be funny in the end and take its place along side the many other mistakes of youth.

(If she responds with anything but 'yes' then instantly drop the 'mistake' bomb. Destroy any hope and leave nothing alive. These things just have to be nipped in the bud.)

As for getting over the awkwardness rationalizing it away is always good. You might ask herself who's actually been harmed by what happened, consider that it's hardly the first time such a thing has occurred, that humans are pretty stupid overall and they make a lot of stupid mistakes and this a good thing otherwise we wouldn't have chocolate ice cream and there'd be a lot less people running around, finally comfort yourself with the knowledge that this is an opportunity to learn a valuable lesson that you've duly learned and taken to heart. Then get wasted. Seriously; hangovers are the only "closure" that really works.
posted by nixerman at 1:38 AM on July 22, 2007

The Pinksuperhero's right. You just behave normally and eventually it is normal.

The weirdness is in your head and it's about your own discomfort, not anyone else's. That means you can just decide not to let it be awkward. You don't know what she's thinking. Take her actions at face value. Not everyone is freaked out by casual sex.
posted by loiseau at 5:26 PM on July 22, 2007

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