I came out last summer to friends while working at a summer camp. By the end of the summer, I had a girlfriend and was starting my first long distance relationship. I’m not sure I was ready for all that right away, but I was in love. We broke up a few times because she couldn’t decide what she wanted.
After seven months, she broke up with me in a text message and I was done. We did the friend thing right away and both realized we needed some space first before that could happen. Once in a while I get a text from her but we don’t talk that often. She couldn’t decide if she wanted to return to work at the summer camp where we met. She finally decided not to go back, which I was kind of happy about because I wasn’t sure I was ready to work with her.
Well, last night she tells me she is actually going back and asks to borrow my guitar so she doesn’t have to trek hers on an airplane. I’m worried how the summer is going to be; it’s a small camp and I can’t just ignore her. I’m not use to being friends with exes. Any suggestions on how to make the transition to friends/working together smooth?
Anna says: Well, the good news is, you still don’t have to be friends with her. You can’t avoid her completely, which blows, but if you’re not ready or comfortable, you are in no way obligated to, like, make birdfeeders out of pinecones and peanut butter with her (I went to ghetto camp at the YMCA. I don’t actually know what people do at real summer camps. My guess is it involves chasing squirrels and making windmills out of construction paper and straws).
What you do have to do is keep your relationship professional. Treat her like you would any other coworker. Stay focused on being an awesome camp counselor, and keep an active social calendar in your free time if you can. This is probably inevitable, but try to avoid or deflect those sticky conversations about your relationship with your ex – especially if it involves dredging up past arguments or topics that will emotionally trigger you. For instance, “I can’t believe you broke up with me via text message. What are you, Lindsay Lohan?” The past is past. You have to work on reconciling your future now.
Also, while you don’t have to spend time with her, you also shouldn’t outright ignore her. Such behavior might have the opposite intended effect, and may start a fight. Plus, you’ll appear more mature if you prove you can be around her. No biggie.
Try not to involve your other coworkers. It’s tempting to have confidants that will join you in a “harmless” ex-bashing fest over s’mores, but it will no doubt get back to her, make you seem immature, and create more dram-o-rama.
I’ll leave the should-you-bring-the-guitar-or-not dilemma up to you. If doing such will greatly inconvenience you though, then don’t bother. Remember, you don’t have any obligations to her, except to be courteous and professional. On the other hand, chicks with guitars are a personal weakness of mine, so it’s hard for me to say no to something that might squelch a campfire rendition of “Teenage Dream.”
Readers, have y’all had to work with your exes? If so, what helped make the situation less painful?
Hailing from the rough-and-tumble deserts of southern Arizona, where one doesn’t have to bother with such trivialities as “coats” or “daylight savings time,” Anna Pulley is a professional tweeter/blogger for Mother Jones and a freelance writer living in San Francisco. Find her at annapulley.com and on Twitter @annapulley. Send her your Hook Up questions at email@example.com.