Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I dated "Jeff" for four years. I still think of him often as the one who got away. Anchorage is small, and sometimes I run into him, and it's just the worst. I'm definitely not ready to have him in my life, or anywhere near over the pain of our breakup. I even find myself avoiding some of our old hangouts just to cut back on the chance I will see him.
Last week, my friend "Anne" asked if I wanted to meet for drinks. We're good friends though not best friends. We often hang out in groups, but it was unusual for her to approach me individually. She said she needed to talk. Once we sat down, she told me she and Jeff have been hanging out and things may get serious. She was very clear that she was telling me as a courtesy so I didn't find out through the grapevine or by seeing them together — and she was very clear that she wasn't asking for permission.
I wasn't totally surprised. Jeff has remained in my social orbit and we share many friends. Yet I find myself spinning from her revelation. I feel like I'll die when I see them together.
Let's just be real here: it is never, ever pleasant when someone we were once involved with gets involved with one of our friends. And by "once involved," I mean someone we went out with once, or hooked up with a couple times, or even dated for several years.
We all have our pride, a little something called ego, and a perhaps unrealistic wistfulness about being absolutely the best, smartest, hottest, most exciting thing that has happened to every single one of our exes.
So when we see the ex solidly land with someone who was within arm's reach of our own circle all along, it quite simply sucks. It especially sucks when said person is a friend. It rattles our sense of history, of significance, and calls into question matters of trust and priorities.
Let me acknowledge, formally, that this must be difficult for you. And you appear to be taking a high, gracious road. Some would flip the table and demand a gal pal drop the dude and stay loyal to the lady friends. You're attempting to be supportive. It's commendable. It doesn't have to mean you put on a placid game face that masks your discomfort and confusion.
In fact, start there. Follow up with your friend and let her know that now that you've had time to process, you want her to know that you care about her, but that this is strange for you, and likely will be difficult moving forward. But you fundamentally care about her happiness and want to preserve your friendship because that, absolutely, is important to you. With respect and communication, your friendship may weather this. Or it may not. And certainly your friend knew that risk when she embarked down this path.
I'm sure you're feeling some shell shock from this relationship revelation. But before you go running back and telling her how sick you will feel at the thought of seeing them together and that your friendship with both of them is pretty much over forever because how dare they, why don't you catch your breath and start processing it all a bit.
Now, instead of guessing how you will feel at seeing them and making big declarations to your ex and your friend, why don't you just leave them alone and let the feelings come to you organically? You know you're going to see them eventually, whether at a party or by happenstance. But overthinking, obsessing and getting yourself all anxious before an encounter even occurs isn't healthy for you. And it might not even be reality.
Who knows, you might be happy to see them happy together. You might see him in action, doing all those things that used to annoy you, and realize how lucky you are not to be with him anymore, which could give you a sense of relief.
Or yeah, the sight of them may make you feel bitter, sad, embarrassed, angry or any combination of those emotions.
But really, there's nothing you can do about it. So give yourself as much peace as possible by not dwelling on it and not planting the seeds of sorrow. You broke up for a reason — remember that, too. And be thankful that she actually broke the news to you like a good friend versus seeing them together without knowing they're a couple in advance. Now that's a situation, and explosion of emotions, that you can't control.
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