My ex-girlfriend and I broke up three months ago (her idea). She wasn’t happy. She wanted to go out more and wanted me to be more social than I really am (I’m an introvert, plain and simple). I started dating someone new, and it’s been pretty casual between us (she travels a lot for work) and I’m happy. At least I thought I was until my Ex updated her Facebook profile to show that she is “in a relationship” with a new guy. I thought I was over her and had moved on with my life, but seeing this update makes me so angry I can’t see straight. We’ve had some contact since the breakup (occasional texting, I ran into her at a party) and she has said nothing about the new guy. Then, suddenly she’s in a committed relationship out of the blue, and my friends are all asking me what I think about it. When I think about it, I’m not jealous, really. I’m just angry at her for making a public announcement like this without telling me first. I never changed my [Facebook] status to show I was dating someone new, because it’s not serious. I’m just so angry that she would tell me like this.
-Blood-boiling in Arlington
I’m so sorry that you are feeling humiliated – no one likes that feeling -- and I’m impressed that you can already name it amid all the boiling blood and such. Your anger (Justified? I’m not sure . . .) makes sense as it functions as a surface emotion giving your mind the “permission” it needs to experience the humiliation. That’s what anger is, a surface experience giving us clues to a deeper, more difficult emotion. Your humiliation may be part of what’s driving the anger, but I would also imagine there was a little bit of denial operating under there as well. You got into another, very “casual” relationship soon after the breakup of a long-term coupling. This hints that you may not have really worked through the pain that comes when any relationship ends – regardless of who chose to exit first, there is always sadness and mourning when a partnership ends. As you said, you “moved on” quite quickly into a casual dating situation with someone who is not overly available. This also suggests that you were working to find a quick fix to numb the pain of the breakup. So, here you are, several months later with a still burning wound lacking any intentional medical treatment (stick with this metaphor, I’m getting somewhere, I promise). Her status update was a new blow to that still-tender gash – super painful and undoing any of the minor remediation provided by New Girl’s presence. You need to clean this wound: e.g., pay attention to all the feelings of the breakup (which included basically being rejected for who you are and how you like to spend your time – not exactly easy to swallow). Process this grief with a friend, mentor or counselor, and finally set yourself to healing from this. Oh, and stop reading her Facebook updates. That’s masochistic behavior, and you need to start treating yourself better.
I’m feeling caught in the middle of an argument between friends, and I need some advice. My friends, let’s call them Ross and Rachel, recently got married. We are all 24 years old, friends from college and former group housemates. They are now off living on their own and not adjusting to marital life too well. Both are complaining about the other to me – fights ranging from who should clean their apartment to how much money they should be saving. Rachel is miserable at her job, all her friends know it, and wants to quit, but Ross is not supportive. I’m really on her side about this, but he keeps talking about it. I feel like I’m being dishonest even listening to his rants about her selfishness. The short question is what advice to give about Rachel’s job since I really think she should quit. The larger question is how do I deal with my friends and their dramas now that they are a married unit?
-Middlegrounded in Northwest
You’re describing a very common, tricky situation as we transition from the Roommate Phase of life into True Adulthood. I completely understand your sympathy for their conflict, but I want to let you off the hook: this is not your problem. It’s a subtle shift, to be sure, but their move from housemates to lifemates necessitates another round of cord cutting. Ross and Rachel chose to leave the group house nest and start a new life together, meaning they cannot rely on the old process of going down the hall to complain about the odd housemate out. They are in their partnership together and need to sort through these issues on their own.
The good news is that you really don’t have to be the one to lay down the law about this new life phase – they will make this realization on their own with time. What you can do is use the so-called “smaller question” about Rachel’s job troubles as an exercise in boundary-setting. You are beginning a new phase in your relationship with them as well, one where you will not want to become the tiebreaker voter – believe me, taking on that role a few times will guarantee that when Couple realizes they are in a two-person marriage, you probably won’t even have a place as a confidant anymore. You aren’t less of a friend just because you don’t process their every move the way you used to – rather, you are evolving along with them. This is about growing up, and it’s not pain-free. Protect your investment: Tell both that you love them and admire their commitment so much that you don’t want to get involved. It’s the best long-term solution here.
Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed, professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist, practicing in Georgetown. Her website is www.stacymurphyLPC.com, and you can follow her on twitter @StacyMurphyLPC. This column is meant for entertainment only and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Send your confidential question to firstname.lastname@example.org