Dear Amelie, How do I go Cold Turkey?


Dear Amelie, how do I go cold turkey when I work with my ex?

From co-worker to lover back to co-worker again–do you fit into this scenario? Creating deliberate distance from your ex is a key ingredient in the prescription for recovery. So what do you do when you still have to see them each day at work? You can employ some unique solutions to combat your unique challenges. Let’s first examine these challenges.

Challenges Unique To Working With An Ex:

Undercover Lovers. Romances that develop at the office are often not made public. For various reasons – company policy, unwritten rules, negative connotations, extramarital status – people keep office relationships under wraps. The issue with any clandestine romance is that the break up is also concealed. Not that you want to send out announcements about your broken heart, but keeping your relationship private denies you the support from friends and co-workers that help you through this difficult time.

Contact Overload. Office relationships often come with lots of emails, texts, ims, and hallway looks. You are in the presence of this person all day and are experiencing the effects of “in sight and in mind”. Going from constant correspondence to normal communication can be grueling.

That Little Something Extra. Regardless of your level of professionalism with one another, when you are dating in the office, you always get a little something extra in your exchanges. Whether it is a wink in the hallway, an email with a smiley, or a special lunch together, there are often veiled signs of affection. After the break up, the extras vanish and this can be difficult to bear.

Mixed Signals. Sometimes the little something extras do not actually disappear as quickly as they should setting in motion a state of confusion. You may still get that special email, but there is no other sign of a reconciliation to come. Mixed signals will keep you in limbo. This neither gets you the relationship you seek with your ex, nor does it allow you to move forward.

TMI. One of the reasons that distance is required for the healing process is that having all the information about your ex such as their reaction to the break up or new dating prospects does not help your recovery. When you work with an ex, you just have too much information about all aspects of their post break-up life.

Give me Hope, Hope, Hope!

There is hope. Many of the issues endured when working with an ex are based on expectations and habits that remain on auto-pilot. We wait for that email and expect the that little something extra. We can’t get them off our mind because they are sitting in front of us. Well, we are going to teach you some methods to get rid of those expectations and habits. Soon your constant thought of walking past his desk or incessant impulse to check for her email will fade. You will build strength and move forward.

Lean heavily. If you fall under the category of a private romance with a private break up, lean heavily on someone outside of work that you can trust. Tell them everything. Use the community here to help you. We are not here to judge, we are here to help.

Change. You’ve probably had the experience of scent or a song triggering a poignant memory of a person or point in time. This is because our mind is like a filing cabinet that efficiently stores memories with certain associations. We have yet to unravel the mystery of all of the triggers; however, we do know that even the most mundane detail can generate an association to your ex – the angle of your computer, the scent of your office, etc. With this in mind, it makes sense to change some details and create fresh associations.

•    Rearrange your work space.
•    Place your computer in a different spot.
•    Change your pictures and knick-knacks.
•    Spray an unfamiliar scent in your office.
•    Drive a different route to work.
•    Walk a different path to your workspace.
•    Wear new clothes.
•    Talk to different co-workers.
•    Mix up your lunch destinations.

Email and other correspondence. Write down how you feel while waiting for his email or after receiving a disappointing text from her. Write it in code (if you have to) and put it on a post-it next to your computer, phone etc. Every time you want to send your ex a message, reference your post-it. If your urge overwhelms you, try the following:

•    Write an email. Yes, open a document and each time you want to send them a message, type it into this document. Record the time and the date and write it. Do not send it, just keep the document as a running trail. Review the document after a few weeks – we promise your urges will reduce in quantity.
•    Get raisins. If you hit “F5” fifty times an hour to refresh your screen, get a bag of raisins. Each time you want to hit refresh, eat a raisin instead. What you are doing is exhibiting addictive behavior and this technique helps to break it. Don’t not feel bad about it or reinvent the wheel, there are plenty of techniques to kill addictive habits and this is one of them.

Count before answering. It is of utmost importance to maintain your professionalism with your ex during the recovery process. While there may be a fleeting moment of satisfaction from throwing your swinger stapler at his head, we promise you will not feel good in the morning. Before answering any direct or indirect question to your ex, count to ten and ask yourself how your co-worker would respond. Respond in that manner.

Quit. Not your job, the game. Quit the game of sending and receiving inappropriate signals to and from your ex at work. If he or she winks at you in the hall, it is in your control to deny this signal. It is in your control to take a different route to the bathroom and reduce run ins at the office.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. You don’t need to discuss your personal life, nor do you need  find out about what your ex is up to. Do not fool yourself into thinking that finding out about his dating life or her weekend plans is providing you closure. Closure comes from within, from working through healing steps. Think of how you act with another colleague that you are not friends with at work – mimic this behavior with your ex.

You can do it. You were a working professional before this relationship and you can continue to be one. A unique challenge has been presented to you in this life. You will conquer it and when you come out on the other side, you will be better, brighter, and stronger.

Do you work with your ex? Perhaps you go to school with them or are still living with them- tell us why it’s hard for you to go cold turkey.

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