Working With Your Ex: When Going Cold Turkey is Not Possible


From co-worker to lover to co-worker – 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 everyday at work? You utilize the unique solutions to combat the unique complications presented when working with an ex. In order to understand the techniques we offer, let’s first address the specific problems.

Problems 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 us 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.

245 thoughts on “Working With Your Ex: When Going Cold Turkey is Not Possible”

  1. Here’s my dilemma.
    Ive bern dating my coworker for 6 months, though it’s been full of ups and downs for the entire time. We worked initially in the same department, with limited interaction, but would find ourselves smiling at each other and making up excuses to interact. Went to lunch a couple times, and then made plans for after work to go dancing, which led to day trips to a winery, etc. the night we went out, we realized we cliqued and were inseparable within weeks afterwards, dating exclusively ( at least from my end).
    After dating for 2months, duties changed at work and our offices are within mere feet of each other.
    We ended up being acquainted with one another’s families through this period, though it isnt known that we’re dating at work- mainly due to nosy colleagues.
    Also, to further complicate matters, he possibly may still be involved in some form with an ex or 2, and is a self professed alcoholic, who is quite volatile and lashes out when too many drinks consumed.
    (Though its been more than once that i’ve been aware of his drinking during work hours and sent him home once when visibly intoxicated at the office.)
    Really wish i could heal and find a way to move on as being with him isn’t healthy nor do I have any peace when with him.
    I notice that being with him makes me feel even more inadequate, and unfulfilled.

  2. Yes i really hate seeing her now. She is with another man and she brought him to work. We were together for 4 years and now i still see her at work. I’m getting better. I cut the relationship off because i felt it was wrong but now that she has a new man, i’m starting to feel hurt. Maybe i am juvenile and this is what i deserve. I wish it could have worked. I really miss her loving on me and her closeness to me. But i knew it was wrong and now that its over and I not going to ever get her back again. I need to move on. I’ve been praying a lot. When i see her it hurts. When she talks to me it stings. Shes a nice person but i hate her. and that not good. She rejected me and oh well i feel like i deserve it, i’m the one who broke it off so what do i expect. I need prayer. I’m working through this, it hurts. But i will make it through.

  3. I started up a relationship 4 months ago with a new employee, all was amazing until it went bad. Now I have to see her at work 4 days a week and wow it is tough. Constant mixed signals or offish moods (from her and me). Some days shes skipping round behind me like she wants to fix things, next day cold as a frosty morning. I knew it could end like this, but did i listen to myself? Nooooo…. So here I am in exactly the position i feared. I don’t even have good reason to fire her! (that would be mean and horrible anyway) so i”m forced to endure it. I guess things will improve, or indeed get a hell of a lot worse! So from my current experience, unless you are the type that can easily have flings or are absolutly 100% sure (and everyone is at the start) then i’d avoid if possible!

  4. My ex fling is now dating someone in the same area. It hurts. I was told they didn’t want to fall in love since they were hurt so badly last time. So I just went with the flow though ultimately I did catch some feelings. Now I see my fling treating someone else the way she use to treat me actually a bit better and this happens every single day and I can’t get away from it. On the other hand they give me the cold shoulder and im not sure why as it ended abruptly. We were fine but one day after we took things “further” my ex just got super weird and stopped talking to me which also hurts because it feels like they regretted it. I try to have as little contact with them but every time I see my ex walk to sit with the new person or when they laugh together and share secrets I feel horrible I feel used really. I think one part of me hurts because the new person is exactly the type my ex was always attracted to, young, fit and they have more in common so i feel like a fool that of course I was just a throw away. Then I think about all the times my ex never treated me the way she does the new person. They go out and the new person hangs out with my ex’s friends which makes me feel like crap was I not attractive enough.

    When we did mess around she said she was always drunk which looking back makes me feel horrible. My ex had to be drunk to fool around with me. The ex didnt want me to be drunk but with the new person its ok.

  5. I started a job in an office for a towing company. One of the guys would started texting me and just touching my back if we were behind the front desk together. I’m married and he was in a 5 year relationship with a live in GF. Things escalated, and we fell in love. He surely is not the type of guy I’d ever be attracted to!! Smoker, tow truck driver, but very handsome and an amazing lover!

    His mom recently passed away, and he became very distant, and he texts me saying he has done some deep thinking and doesn’t believe I’m unhappy in my marriage and he needs more than passionate and amazing sex.
    He now has a Gf but says we can still “play”…as one or both of us have been in a relationship the 2 years we’ve been seeing each other.
    He took her with him for a weekend away with other friends, and I’m devastated.
    We are friends on FB, so I see his photos of his weekend away, which is so hard.

    I’m afraid to leave the security of my marriage, but I want to be with my coworker.
    He has been married twice and then forced his last GF out, so his track record isnt the best, but I love him.
    What to do?? I’m desperate. Please help.

  6. I thought I would share my story as it is something I have been battling with for a very long time at work.

    It’s not an ex, but working with a former lover is absolutely killing me.

    It started out innocent. A girl from my work had expressed interest in me by telling a colleague of mine. She started emailing me, and they gradually increased. After weeks of back and forth emailing she reveals she has a long term partner but she really likes me. I tell her that this isn’t right and that she needs to forget about me. She agrees and lasts a total of 2 days. She says she can’t forget about me and can’t stop thinking about me and that she is leaving her boyfriend. I tell her this cannot go any further until she has done so.

    We continue talking, under the impression that she is leaving her partner, I begin to develop feelings for this amazingly beautiful girl who is an absolute stunner. Weeks upon weeks of talking, and she keeps mentioning that she is going to do it but never does. She asks to meet up, and I refrain from kissing her as she hasn’t yet left her boyfriend. Weeks and weeks move on and she tells me she cannot leave her partner. To this I say it’s fine, and to leave me alone so I can move on from her. She doesn’t leave me alone. She asks me to get physical with her, we start hooking up. Months and months of hooking up and talking 24/7 and she eventually tells me she is in love with me.

    I tell her this isn’t fair, and she needs to do something about it now. She never does. She tells me she is working herself up to it, and eventually does it (or said she did) only for him to propose to win her back. She’s now engaged. She said yes.

    She messages me regularly telling me how much she fucked up, I basically tell her to fuck off and leave me alone. She gradually tries to worm her way back in with me, telling me that she made a massive error and that she will make things right. She leaves her boyfriend for a second time, i tell her it’s too late, and she promptly get’s back with her boyfriend. She is an absolute headfuck, but I was completely and utterly in love with her. Physical appearance wise, she is an absolute stunner. The guys from work all love her, and we had a connection that I’ve never had with a girl before in my life (I’ve never been in love).

    She is the perfect girl for me, yet I know it will never work and nor should it ever be considered. She cheated for months and months, led me on and we are both now paying massive repercussions from it. She is severely depressed, lost a bunch of weight and I lost weight myself from all the anxiety I was having. We work in the same team, about a distance of 25 metres away from each other and our job involves constant communication.

    We are far from civil. Some days we get along, other days we don’t and me making a little comment will throw her right off. I have until the end of the year and hopefully she leaves, otherwise I will.

  7. So, she is single. I’m married. I was her trainer. It started like any other training- other than I was immediately taken by her height (about 5’10), she was brunette, and I found her very attractive. She was a country girl, but not beautiful- at least not in society’s modern definition- but she’s pretty. She’s been dropping weight and working out- and looking better and better. Anyway, it started more as a joke. I made a comment one morning about how hot it was in her office- she pointed at herself and shrugged her shoulders. I sent her a text one day when she was with another trainer- “do you miss me yet?” Her immediate reply “oh yeah!” Then came the constant exchanges, innuendo, plans to meet(but never actually did)- she even asked me to go on a trip with her! She would give me sexy looks, look me up and down- tell me about how good the sex would be- without actually saying it explicitly. The attention I was getting was overwhelming. This went on for about 3 months- until a couple of weeks ago she told me I was a friend- and it stopped. I was out of work for a month. We talked the whole time- but it changed. All of it. She told me she had to focus on work. I talked to her about everything. She was who I turned to. My confidant. I can say I didn’t fall in love- but I fell for her. Hard. I miss her. I see her everyday. We talk- but I have to BS my way through every conversation- because part of me wants to be away from her and part of me can’t stand to be away from her. It hurts. I’m glad it was never sexual. But then part of me regrets we never did. She looks better than ever- and it breaks my heart daily. I feel like I broke up with a girlfriend.

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