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My friend at work dumped me: Should I keep hanging on to hope?

November 1, 2012 | By | 7 Replies Continue Reading
Breakups in the workplace can be particularly challenging to get over.

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

It’s been one-and-a-half years since my good friend and I broke up. As background, I’m 39 and she’s 45. I’m single and she’s divorced. Neither of us have kids. We had been good friends for seven years…met at work. We still have the same workplace and have the same group of lunch buddies. We don’t work closely together but we do see each other at lunch and in the hallway.

I had finally come to a place where our breakup wasn’t affecting me as much. Immediately after the breakup, I went for counseling, as I was so distraught over the end of the friendship. I had never had such a good friend dump me. I’m pretty good at weeding out friends before they become very close but I didn’t see this one coming. I can count my best friends on one hand and she was one of them until it ended.

I was able to, gradually, over a year, get to a place where I didn’t feel so upset every time I saw her. Essentially, she dumped me without an explanation. I had tried, throughout our friendship, to talk things out as issues arose but she never responded well so I didn’t think it would be right to have a post-breakup talk. I have always left the door open, saying hi in the hallway and chatting briefly with her at lunch.

Just recently, she started talking more to me so I thought she was coming around. I started emailing her every now and then to say hello and see how things were going. Then, she started distancing herself again. Once again, I feel defeated, used, angry, and confused. All my being is telling me to talk this out with her so I understand once and for all what happened and where things went wrong.

Unfortunately, I cannot do that as it takes two to tango, as the saying goes. I find myself caring again about her and going through all the same emotions. What’s happening? Why is she acting this way towards me? And on and on. What advice do you have for moving beyond this fully or – perhaps – holding out for the friendship to return (although I doubt it will)?

It’s not that I lack friends but I do miss what we used to have. I am still keeping busy with extra-curricular activities.  But the question remains…why did this happen and how can I get past if even though part of me wants to hang on to hope?

Many thanks, Holly

ANSWER

Hi Holly,

When friendships fall apart in the workplace, it can be very complicated and painful because it’s so difficult to make a clean break and begin recovering from the breakup: You have to see your ex-friend on a regular basis, and wind up in the awkward position of sharing mutual friends and colleagues.

It sounds like you handled the initial breakup as well as anyone might. To work through the disappointment, you spoke to someone outside of the office, remained collegial and cordial in the workplace, and left the door open should things change.

Perhaps, because this friendship was so meaningful to you, you held out some hope that this friend would want to resurrect the friendship as you did. You may have inadvertently taken small signs of her being more civil as her wanting to reconnect. This is totally understandable.

It’s unrealistic to think you will be able to obtain any more understanding about what happened to this friendship from this woman: Don’t hang on to that hope any longer. Instead, continue your own healing and emotional recovery from this breakup. Here are some suggestions:

1) Consider this friendship over. You don’t need to search for reasons why.

2) Since you are co-workers, be cordial to her in the workplace, only speaking to her about work-related matters when you have to. Focus on your job.

3) Don’t involve any other co-workers in what has happened between you and your ex-friend.

4) Remind yourself that you don’t need to obtain closure from your ex-friend. This is something you can achieve on your own as you did before.

There may be things going on with her that are totally unrelated to you but, regardless, you deserve more rewarding and reliable friendships that this one. I hope this helps.

Warm regards, Irene

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Category: Getting over getting dumped

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  1. Confused and upset over being rebuffed by a friend : The Friendship Blog | February 4, 2013
  1. Henry says:

    I am dealing with the loss of a friendship. My friend was my “work-wife.” We still see each other everyday but she has decided that she needs her space. I was always loving and gave her all the support she needed. I always felt that the relationship was one-sided (me giving, she taking) but I didn’t care, she was fun to be around. Now she has thrown away our ~5 year relationship. I have never been so heart-broken in my life. All the secrets, tears, laughs, heart to heart talks, everything is now gone. How can you just drop a friend? I struggle each day to move on. Hard when you see your friend with other people having a good time. Doesn’t help when coworkers ask me, “hey, where is your friend?” I say, “she’s busy,” busy tearing my heart out. This really sucks!! I’m trying the four suggestions but it hurts so much. It hurts when you are the rock in the relationship and don’t get reciprocation. She doesn’t seemed phased by the situation at all. Maybe this is a red flag that I should have seen from the start. Too late now, need to find the strength to rebuild.

    • KC says:

      Sorry. I know what you are going through. I am just finishing going through the same thing with a “work-wife”. Although in my case, she is having an affair with our boss so I understand that her priorities in what she wants have changed. And you are right, she doesn’t seem too phases by it. Probably because she is getting something she wants from the boss (attention, sex, whatever), and that fills her time.

      The really hard part is that she still wants to be friends with me. For obvious reasons we can’t be as close (no more complaining about the boss for example). Ever day i go into work a little bit of me dies because I see her and miss our close friendship. Death by a 1000 cuts.

      Oh well. I have to move on. I don’t know what I will do if, or when, her affair comes to an end. Will she want to be close again? If so, what do I do. If she doesnt want to be close friends, hopefully enough time will have passed that I will be much stronger and better and not feel rejected again.

      • Henry says:

        Thx for your relay. Nice to hear I am not alone. The other day we had lunch and she turned down my usual harmless hug. Made me feel worthless. Yesterday she could tell I was not acting myself and started probing. I blew it off, but later unloaded in a stream of texts. I told her that I was hurt from her withdraw. She told me she notice months back that she was hiding from her boyfriend to message me. I did the same with my wife. We were both having an emotional affair. Rather than tell me, she cut me out of her life with no explanation. I have been trying to figure out for months why she cut me off. Now I know. We never did anything sexual. We even established boundaries at the start. Still, the closeness made me fall in love with her. Now I have the face the harsh reality of what I have done to myself. I try to forget the good feelings I felt and focus on what I need from my wife. I was feeling neglected from my wife and my friend was always around to listen. Trying to make this a learning experience to improve my marriage. It has been a very painful route. It was a hard pill to swallow when two women started to ignoring and neglecting me.

        Funny thing she said, “she would be sad if/when I start distancing myself from her. She may get mad and think ugly thoughts.” That is exactly what she did to me. Now if I do it back, she is going to be rude? Very selfish. I’m not out for revenge. Just want a friendship with equal give and take.

        Sounds like your friend is the same.
        I am afraid that after her affair is over, she is going to run back to you for support. Try to focus on yourself and try not to rely on her for validation. That is what I am trying to do. You deserve someone that is truely there for you and not their option. I know it’s hard. One thing about my work-wife is that she is a good communicator. Even if it hurts, we let it all out. Maybe tell your friend how it makes YOU feel. Don’t attack her, make her see your side. If that doesn’t work, try to move on. You deserve better.

  2. Ann says:

    Hi Holly,

    I am so sorry about you and your friend. I know first hand how painful that is. My work friend of three years dumped me with no explanation too. It has been over two months now. What I can say is hang in there. I know how incredibly difficult is to have an abrupt change in your friendship and have to face that everyday at work. I too sought counseling after the break up. As much as we want to know why our friendship status has changed, Irene is right. We will never know. My hope for you is that each day continues to be less painful and that you will be able to take comfort and solace in the good and rich friendships you have. I know how much you miss what you had with your friend at work. While work friendships are the most complicated (given we spend a large part of our life there), there are some which do last and can be very rewarding. It is good you are keeping busy, and in time this too shall pass.

    Ann

  3. Holly says:

    Hi Irene: I have a related question. Last year, after we broke up, my former friend sent me an email message inviting me to be treated to a birthday meal. After having not interacted with me for quite awhile, she sent this message. I didn’t know what to do with it initially but I accepted as I was happy to have an opportunity to interact with her. It was civil and somewhat enjoyable. I say somewhat because we didn’t talk about the demise of our friendship…we just talked about superficial things. She gave me mixed messages. If she wasn’t interested in being my friend, why did she ask me out for a meal and follow through with it? I know that she doesn’t take her colleagues out for meals on their birthdays. In turn, when her birthday rolled around, I took her out for a meal. I wanted to reciprocate. This is one reason why it’s so hard to heal. I suppose I could have not accepted her invitation to a meal but I wanted to keep the door open. She seems to want to remain connected on her terms, which is a struggle for me, but something I believe that I need to do as we see each other often at work. Time will tell if she asks me out for my next birthday. I almost wish she wouldn’t because it’s hard to heal that way. Any insight as to why she might be doing this?

  4. Holly says:

    That’s helpful. Thanks, Irene.

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