Dealing with the stress, anxiety, and sadness associated with a breakup can be hard enough under normal circumstances, but if your ex is your co-worker, moving forward could be even more difficult. Chances are, you probably considered the potential awkwardness of dating, and possibly breaking up with your coworker before you started seeing them. However, nothing can quite prepare you for the utter dread of knowing that you will have to see your ex every day, all while trying to keep the mood light and professional.
According to NYC-based relationship expert Susan Winter, having to work with your ex shortly after a breakup is probably going to be tough. "It's normal to feel a little awkward when working with your ex after a breakup," Winter tells Elite Daily. "Your relationship dynamic has changed. Though you'd like to dial it back to how it was as colleagues, much has occurred that alters the ease of that form of relationship, and chances are good they don't want to work with you either." Fortunately, if you're both willing to be patient and keep yourselves in check, then it is possible to co-exist in a working environment with certain exes.
Accept That Transitioning From Being A Couple To Just Coworkers Is Going To Be Unpleasant.
Although you may be hoping that maturity and mutual respect are enough to combat most of the weirdness, the truth is that feelings can linger for a long time after parting ways with someone. These lingering feels can make even the most well-intentioned and easy-going of exes feel triggered or on-edge. "There could be lingering feelings of desire, resentment, and hurt," explains Winter. "There could also be jealousy and reactivity."
That's why it's so important to remember that separating yourself from an intimate relationship is a process that takes time, understanding, and boundaries. "You can't just dial back knowing someone intimately," agrees Winter. "It will be an adjustment that is prone to reactivity and emotional fallout." The good news is that there are some things you can do to avoid letting the breakup drama affect your working relationship.
Try To Keep An Open Line Of Communication.
It's also important to keep in mind that there are unique dynamics at play in every breakup scenario. For some people, staying friends might feel like the most natural thing in the world, and for others, permanently cutting the cord is the only real way to move on. However, when you have to see each other and communicate regularly in a work environment, you're probably going to need to set the tone beforehand.
There will likely need to be an open and honest dialogue about your respective concerns, issues that may come up, and the protocol for managing any weirdness, recommends Winter. "The two of you will need to work together, and therefore, must maintain a professional demeanor," she adds. "Acknowledge that there will be uncomfortable moments, and ask your ex to cooperate so you can both strive to diplomatically maneuver any issues you may encounter. This conversation will enlist them as an ally, rather than an adversary."
Consider Transferring To Another Department, Office, Or Location.
If you're lucky enough to work for a company that has multiple offices, divisions, locations, then filing for a transfer could be a solid option if the situation with your ex isn't improving, or starts to escalate. In situations where transferring isn't possible, it may also be helpful to reach out to your manager or supervisor to see if any adjustments can be made. "You can also speak to human resources and gain clarity on all of your options," suggests Winter. "Having established the conversation about your professional demeanor, the two of you may also be able to work as a team to stay out of each other's orbit."
If The Conflict Consistently Affects Your Performance At Work, It May Be Time To Consider Other Options.
Despite your best efforts, there are breakup scenarios and certain personality types that simply can't support a healthy working relationship with an ex. If you've tried talking to your ex, but feel like the situation is still volatile, it may be time to think about making a serious change. "Leaving your job may feel like the only choice available to you if you have ongoing work problems with your ex," says Winter. "Especially, if they're antagonistic and seeking to undermine your professional life. Leaving a job you love would be a tragedy, but leaving a job you disliked (as well an antagonistic ex) may be a blessing."
There is no way to get around the fact that working with someone who you used to have an intimate relationship with is probably going to feel super awkward and uncomfortable for a while. Best-case-scenario, you'll both be able to agree on an approach for avoiding tension, handling personal conflicts outside of the office, and not making the situation unnecessarily uncomfortable for your other coworkers. If this can't happen and you'd feel more comfortable seeking employment elsewhere, then this is OK too. Everyone heals differently, and the most important thing is that you are doing whatever you need to do to move forward.