She Said, He Said: Sleeping with the enemy
She Said, He Said
Dear Lori and Jeff,
My ex and I were together for two years. We ended it three weeks ago on good terms, both of us acknowledging that we weren’t ready for the next step toward marriage. We decided to try to maintain a friendship because we share a social circle, and we genuinely still like each other as people. But now I’m struggling because I learned that a week after we broke up, he started sleeping with someone I know. She’s part of our group of friends but truthfully I’ve never really liked her. She tends to take little digs at me but plays it off as just joking. I can’t believe that of all people, my ex has to be with her, and so soon after we broke up. I know I can’t make him stop, so can you please help me figure out how to deal with being around them.
Mean Girl Got My Guy
Lori and Jeff: Ouch! We feel for you. Breakups are hard enough on their own without the complications of extenuating circumstances like these. Yet, given how ugly this current arrangement could be, we commend you on your desire and willingness to maintain your dignity and integrity.
Lori: When we’re in the midst of an emotional clusterf(udge), it can be difficult to actually pinpoint our emotions, let alone understand what we need in order to feel better. Our feelings can be an overwhelming, amorphous storm cloud, perceptible but hard to grasp. Navigating your way to a healthy acceptance of mean girl with guy starts with untangling the stories and feelings you have. Are you sad because you still want to be with him? Or are you angry because your story is that she won? Or perhaps you feel sorry for yourself because you don’t have someone, while each of them do? Who do you have stronger feelings about in this twisted triangle, your ex or her? What stories are driving those feelings?
Our emotional unease with others is usually a reflection of something that’s not quite solid within ourselves. If your stories are creating comparisons between her and you, then you’re unnecessarily amping up your vulnerability. And in response to that heightened rawness, you’re going to become even more uncomfortable around them. Take yourself emotionally out of the equation by refocusing on you. What do you see as your strengths and attributes? What are the areas in which you’re committed to growing, and what is it you want in your next relationship that you didn’t have with your ex?
Jeff: What I could say is “Don’t take his actions personally,” but I know that won’t make you feel any better. Instead, I’ll say that sometimes (OK, a lot of the time) men don’t think things all the way through when it comes to hooking up. In other words, your ex may not have taken your feelings into account when he decided to sleep with this other woman. Without considering the consequences of his actions, he probably was clueless about how it might make you feel (or, in the heat of the moment, didn’t particularly care). Have a talk with him and ask him to stop seeing her. Let him know that even though you are no longer together, his actions can still have an impact on how you feel. If he still cares about you — even just as a friend — he might consider changing his priorities and realize that your friendship is more important than sleeping with the enemy.
Lori and Jeff: One of the challenges to ending relationships is the ripple effect it has on friends and social groups. But each transition that you go through in life is an opportunity to take a new inventory on what’s most important. You have to decide if this friend circle is worth fighting for. If so, ask yourself how much do you really care about this particular girl, and why. If you feel disrespected by her or your ex, speak up for yourself and set boundaries. But if you find that you’re just indulging in the drama or feeling bad for yourself, that choice is yours to own.
Lori and Jeff are married, licensed psychotherapists and couple-to-couple coaches at Aspen Relationship Institute. Submit your relationship questions to info@AspenRelationshipCoaching.com and your query may be selected for a future column. For more relationship advice, subscribe to our “Love Matters” podcast on iTunes.
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