Working with an ex? Tips?

Discussion in 'Relationships' started by alphabet, Dec 1, 2014.

  1. alphabet

    alphabet Well-Known Member

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    Hey gang,

    Some background
    After a year of an intense relationship - we called it quits back in September. We had gone on a trip out of town and after that trip she decided to end things. We had some not great things in our relationship including me wanting more of a long-term commitment. I've really learned a lot about myself in the meantime even going to therapy. I know I made a lot of mistakes.

    Anyways, she stayed out of town for work and just returned. Since, our breakup we have only remained in email contact - maybe a few times a week. We work in the same field and work on a variety of projects together -- so the emails were mostly work related. Now that she is back in town we have to find a way to work together but I am unsure how.

    I know it's really hard to separate work and personal feelings. We don't work together in the traditional sense so we don't see each other in an office space. Still, our project requires seeing each other at least twice a week and staying in regular contact. We have not talked about being friends or anything about our relationship. We have exchanged a few friendly texts since her return but I've kept it work and socially light. I am unsure really how to proceed? So much of being a good team requires trust and openness and I feel unsure about how she feels. She is still committed to the project and we are tentatively working together. Is feeling the need to talk being selfish on my part?
     
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  2. Narley

    Narley Well-Known Member

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    Hey alphabet, aww man that's a tough one.
    Firstly I think you have to honestly ask yourself if you're wanting the chat for personal closure or for work as you state. It's seems neither of you is playing the cold shoulder card and doing Very well considering the history between you. So based on what you've said I am inclined to think that this could be more a personal need for closure. But I could be misinterpreting what you've written.
    My advice regarding work... If the boats not sinking don't rock it.

    We ladies have a tendency to over analyse things... You asking to have a personal chat could make fresh the wounds you've been trying to heal.

    Ask yourself... Really really ask yourself, if your past relationship and both of your current behaviour is detrimental to the project. If not I say leave it be. Of course if it is, then definitely it needs to be addressed, but keep it professional and possibly have a mediator that you both trust to oversee the conversation. It should be someone she is comfortable with and even chooses herself.
     
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  3. Spygirl

    Spygirl Well-Known Member

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    This is why it's always a bad idea to get involved with someone at work. But, you can't change that now.

    The question becomes....what do you hope to accomplish? It seems you were looking for more out of the relationship than the ex in the first place? What do you hope to gain by talking? If it's closure, then by all means, closure is a good thing. If you're trying to remain friends or somehow remain close to her, then it's a bad idea.

    You need to learn to figure out who you are on your own. You intimated that you had a lot of the issues in the relationship (which could very well be the reason for her ending it), and if I were her, I really wouldn't want to continue to be involved anymore than I would be required to do (work). She ended it for a reason, and you need to give her space. You also need to give yourself space to heal, pick up the pieces and work on changing yourself for the better.
     
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  4. alphabet

    alphabet Well-Known Member

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    Thanks! I think I will just let things be for now. As you said don't rock the boat if you don't need too. When we broke up she said she didn't want any contact but maybe 2 weeks afterwards we were back in tentative contact. Since, then I'd say she has warmed up even more such as messaging me on my birthday, and actually coming through for me on a couple of favors.

    I think I have felt anxious because our breakup was not in person nor a conversation. It was an email and I didn't follow up on it either -- I just let her have space. I feel like we do have unresolved things and I do think it will ultimately impact our project. That is just my opinion though we started the project together and a lot of it hinged our shared passion and creative minds meeting, which is why I want to reestablish some trust between us.

    One of the reasons she broke up with me was my inability to listen to her needs (her words) and I do want to prove I have changed so we can enjoy being around each other like we used too. I am not really aiming for any particular kind of relationship. She has always been so open about how she feels even when she was angry except for now where she is mum on the subject. I've sent her an email and asked her point blank and she didn't respond yet, we have corresponded since then. I guess I should take her pointed silence as an answer -- yet it just leaves me feeling confused.
     
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  5. Bluenote

    Bluenote Well-Known Member

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    You dated for a year and she dumped you via email? Ouch, super harsh.

    I think you are setting yourself up for disappointment if you work on this project with her. She seems selfish and unpredictable.
     
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  6. alphabet

    alphabet Well-Known Member

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    Haha. I am laughing only because that's what my friends say. I just want to give her the benefit of the doubt. We have talked today and made plans for our project, but I definitely sense coldness on her part. I am not completely innocent here I know I did hurt her with some of my actions so I want to be understanding about why she wouldn't immediately want to be cool. So maybe I am just impatient. Either way it's hard and I wish it wasn't this way.
     
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  7. Bluenote

    Bluenote Well-Known Member

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    Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

    Seems like a lot of things going against this - working with an ex, working in such close contact, needing to have so much trust and passion in the work, her mixed messages and her dumping you via email. It sounds like a lot of risk to me.

    So I'm gonna ask you honestly -

    How much do you want to work with her as a way of keeping her close?

    How much do you want to work with her to maybe rekindle things?

    How much do you passionately want to do this project, so you're willing to jump on any ship - even hers?

    I'm guessing the answer isn't black and white but more like percentages. So what percentages is it for you? For example 20% / 10 % / 70%, etc...

    The nice thing about online is we don't know / judge you. If it's some measure of wanting to be close, etc... We can offer opinions on how to move forward.
     
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  8. alphabet

    alphabet Well-Known Member

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    Those are good questions. I want to at least give it a week to see how it goes I think before making a decision to quit. We are suppose to see each other tomorrow night. I mean the dumping via email does sound pretty bad, but she is the kind of person where writing things down makes it easier for her to express herself and she is not confrontational. I still think that it was cowardly though and she should have called. I just don't want to dwell on that because it's already in the past.

    I was still doing this project when she was out of town in the Fall so I do believe I am 100% committed to it's success. I have tried to involve other people into a leadership role with various degrees of success. I do think it's all of those questions you said. I still care for her and though I don't imagine we would get back together I still want her in my life. My boss accidentally let it slip to me today that this girl is helping in nominating me for an award. I guess she was working with my boss on this and it was suppose to be a surprise. That is certainly a confusing message, so I suppose I do still hope that we can find a way to reconcile. I think seeing her in person tomorrow will help things.

    My intuition is that she is trying very hard to set hard boundaries with me and mostly because in the past if we argued she always came around very quickly. I do believe she doubts if I have changed at all. I hope I can show with my actions that I have but I don't necessarily believe that healing will mean we are friends...does that make sense?
     
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  9. Bluenote

    Bluenote Well-Known Member

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    Makes a lot of sense. So let's logic our way through this.

    First, you've decided to wait a week-ish, to decide about working with her. So, for now, let's table talk of working with her and just focus on the relationship stuff.

    It seems like you are in a bit of a pickle here. Correct me if I have any of this wrong, but here is the story so far:

    -You gals were together for a year.

    1) You described it as intense. I'm taking this to mean you guys had real chemistry in the physical department, but also had more. Such as making each other laugh, admiring her passion and talent and so on.

    -But you guys also had problems. She'd try to bring things up and work on them with you.
    -You wanted more of a commitment, more quickly than her and she felt pressured.

    2) You didn't take her various concerns as seriously as you could have, and didn't act on her concerns / pushed back, etc...

    -She broke up with you via email.

    3) You can see her side of things. Maybe how she broke up was harsh, but you see your part in it. That maybe if you had listened earlier, things would have been different. If you were easier to talk to, maybe she wouldn't have gone the email route, etc...

    -She said she didn't want contact.
    -She's been going back on wanting contact and has been initiating reaching out to you - at least a little.

    -You'd like to have a second chance on #2 (listening to her and working on things), because of #1 (your chemistry and deeper compatibility).

    So this puts you in a bind. Because she broke up via email, you didn't really get a chance to tell her - #3 I'm sorry, I'll try to change, I never meant to make you feel so bad, etc... But now if you do tell her that, you are violating the 'no contact' thingie, which puts you back #2 at not listening, not taking her concerns truly to heart. It's a seemingly unsolvable problem.

    Adding it all up, I think you can try to rebuild your relationship with her, or I think you can work with her, but I don't think you can do both. If you try to do both, you're going to be constantly compromising - what is good for the relationship versus what is good for work. That is hard for anyone, but particularly if you are trying to rebuild the relationship and build the project.

    So let's say you decide not to work on the project with her. How to proceed in the relationship then. My first reaction was to be torn between just coming out and apologizing 'I really screwed up, I want to change' and between just showing her via your actions.

    I do think you can find a line between the two. You can not push for contact and not try to do a bunch of pushing and processing about the relationship. But you can drop a few understated hints here and there.

    Like let's say you actually interrupt her. You can apologize and say 'I'm really sorry, I'm trying to be a better listener.' Or you can acknowledge that you've made some mistakes in life and are trying to make changes for the better, without really going into what those mistakes are or pushing her into a long convo. Over time she can see from your actions that you've changed (more patient, letting her be more in control, willing to listen and change). But you can slowly reestablish more serious dialogue.

    Hope seeing her went well.
     
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  10. alphabet

    alphabet Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Bluenote. Just returned from seeing her and it went totally great considering everything...I mean just a few weeks ago we werent even speaking so I think this was a vast improvement.

    It's definitely true that keeping my work feelings for her and my personal feelings separate is hard. They are almost the same feeling...because we are in the same field and we collaborate a lot. I admire her a great deal. When we first met I actually didnt want a relationship. We have such great chemistry and I wanted it to be more physical. Oddly, she was the one who actually said sleeping together would be bad because she would fall in love with me (this is right after we met).

    Let's just say I was persistent but in the meantime discovered I was falling for her. At the same time I was kinda a cad because it probably seemed to her that I went from 0 to 100. She wanted to take it a bit slower and be more sure about things. And you are exactly right I did not listen to her and I was hard to talk too. She would try to tell me how she felt but I would always have to have the last word or I would get really angry. Obviously, this type of behavior made her distance herself from wanting a relationship with me.

    I am saying these unpleasant things about myself to show that I have learned. When I knew she was coming back last week I wanted to meet and I did want to talk about it. But, I realized she clearly does not. I did write her one email that said how sorry I was etc. She didn't respond though we still would email. I realized my mistake was that by pushing to talk it was keeping her from wanting too. When I backed off I think it made her be okay to see me. I know I need to work hard on regaining her trust before she will want to open up again. I think she is afraid to let her walls down because she doesn't yet trust me to listen and respect her needs.

    I know I can be different and I want to prove that with my actions -- and I like your idea about slipping in I've learned from my mistakes. I think by focusing on the project and showing a kinder side -- it will get better. I would say we are past no contact now though I still want to keep it limited and keep it light. She is actually pretty direct so if she wanted to talk or if she wanted me to know something she would just tell me. I hope I can stay this focused two months from now.
     
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  11. Bluenote

    Bluenote Well-Known Member

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    I'm gonna stay away from the 'work decision' for a bit and just talk about the relationship stuff. You've kicked 'the decision' down the road a bit, so no point in beating a dead horse.

    I think therapy, or writing more on AE, or journaling, or what have you will help you. You've learned / you are in the process of learning from your mistakes.

    Some of this, I think, comes from experience. At first you wanted something physical, but now you realize it's not always that cut and dried with you. So in the future, you'd handle things differently.

    Now you see that you could be too pushy, too angry, what have you. That is an important and hard realization. Kudos to you for seeing it. That being said, it can be harder to get to the root of why. Do you have an insecurity and always need to be right, are you not used to being told 'No,' do you need to learn more patience, etc...? So it can take time to get through all that and make deep and lasting change.

    So continuing to work on yourself is a good step.

    It seems like you guys mismatched a bit on how you wanted to go about your relationship. At first you wanted a FWB type thing, then you wanted a relationship. She wanted more of a slow and gradual thing, but knew she couldn't do FWB.

    It certainly happens. Some couples can work it out and others can't. At least you are willing to try. Right now she isn't. So it's up to you. Is she worth it enough for you to give it some time and see if she'll change her mind. If she doesn't change her mind, can you accept it and not push her? Can you be her friend and be open to a relationship, without pushing her toward said relationship? Can you live in said limbo for a time without hurting yourself too much? I don't think you should accept an indefinite limbo. But you can assess if it's worth a few months to try and rebuild with her?

    (But I still wouldn't recommend working with her).

    This is an awful metaphor, but it fits. It's like petting a cat. If you try and are too pushy, they run away. But if you play it cool, more often than not, they get curious and come to you. Maybe she will and maybe she won't. Is it worth it to you to try? Do you think you are able?

    Is the thought of her initiating with you totally hot? Hey, maybe change can be a really good thing....
     
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  12. alphabet

    alphabet Well-Known Member

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    Just a quick update: We have been getting along very well and the project is going really well. Today she finally told me that "nothing has changed for me, I am happy we can work together but I am not ready to go beyond that". I am happy to know since she hadn't given me any answer while she was out of town. I feel like she could trust me to tell me her current boundary and know I wasn't going to freak out -- get angry or overly emotional. I was proud of myself for having control over my emotions. I just told her I understood.

    We texted, emailed, gchatted and she even called me today to rant about something (but not frustration because of my actions - rather defending me). Our contact level is extremely high, and even though she said she wasn't ready...I am not too bothered. I think I will continue to show I have changed my actions and I hope I will continue to establish trust. Considering, it has been one week this is pretty good progress -- since just last week we were not even really in contact.
     
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  13. Moses

    Moses Well-Known Member

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    I think you've hit the nail in the head there. It's all well and good 'telling' her you've changed and you can do this and that, but you've said she doesn't really trust you or believe you. However, if you behave as you outlined there, ie. respect her needs and keep it light and polite and respectful and not push, then you are not telling her you've changed. You are showing her. And that, she can believe and she can trust. You've got time so be patient. It shouldn't be that hard for you to treat her as she wishes as you seem like a self-aware person who is working to overcome habits/behaviors that have previously got in your way. So self-monitor, talk to yourself, curb your instinct to push and pull. Calm that energy right down as this effort you are putting in now could potentially lead to a long term pay off i.e having a long-term relationship with a lovely woman. I admire your honesty and your efforts to change. Good luck.
     
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  14. alphabet

    alphabet Well-Known Member

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    Thank you all. I really appreciate everyone's feedback. I am confident in myself that I am able to be different now. I want to be better not just for her but really myself. Like Moses said it shouldn't be hard to respect someone's wishes. I keep forgetting that's still been less than one week. We have so much room to grow as people and together with some time and I am committed to being that person. I also think that this will make our project better and I realize that my commitment to work has been a common thread amongst us. When I stay focused on what really matters -- helping people -- it's a much more admirable trait than being worried about her attention and affection. I feel foolish a bit for being so worried about working together. I think Bluenote was right I was more worried about how things were going to be with her than the actual project.
     
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  15. alphabet

    alphabet Well-Known Member

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    Hi all,

    Back and need some help sorting through what has happened now. I have been following the encouragement given to me here by working on showing not telling how I can be trustworthy. But, now I am completely confused. We had a situation come up recently with the Board of an organization we are part of and that of course has become a big mess. We had talked about it and she is involved with the whole issue.

    We had talked about meeting up today to discuss strategy on that. Today I called her to find a meeting time and she blinded-sided me with some stuff. First, she said she wasn't available all of a sudden even though yesterday we had agreed to meet up. I said okay sure let's just talk on the phone. Then she told me that she just flat out wasn't available to talk to me bout it at all. She went on to tell me that she felt like I was using this situation with the Board to get closer to her. I have to say honestly I had not thought of that. This is a group we work with together and have for awhile. I am even getting an award at our end of year banquet and she was so happy for me (she helped with the nomination).

    I asked her why she always thinks I am up to no good. She told me because our history and this is why she doesn't trust me and she is not going to trust me and I just need to deal with it. She said she has forgiven me, doesn't hate me, but still needs time to process feelings of bitterness and hurt. She also said she is not interesting in engaging on talk about rebuilding our relationship. Yet, she does want to work together and says we need to learn to deal with the fact that she doesn't trust within work.

    I feel dumb. Everything has been really chill recently or so I thought. We have laughed and enjoyed each other's company. She has been asking me more and more questions about my life and has been encouraging and excited when I won a fellowship. We talk almost everyday. Either on phone, texting, gchat and email. Some days we talk on all of those! My point about that is that we are in a lot of contact. She even invited me to an event last week.

    I understand she is hurt by my past actions. I understand why she feels like she needs to be tough and draw lines with me and not immediately return to trust. I do not understand the mixed signals. I don't really know how I am suppose to act anymore. What am I missing?
     
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  16. Bluenote

    Bluenote Well-Known Member

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    I think this is why a lot of employers have rules against dating. And why a lot of people have the opinion - don't date a coworker.

    The lines get blurred about what people are doing because of the job, versus what they are doing because of the relationship. Work can manifest in the relationship and the relationship can manifest in work - even if people aren't conckously aware of it.

    That is what is happening here. Work is a way for you to remain connected to her. You are hoping that where you are at - willing to change and earn her trust - will manifest in how you work together. For her, she doesn't want to be connected to you. So her emotions - angery, distrust, frustration are manifesting in work. Her behavior isn't totally rational, but to be fair, neither is yours. (Most people aren't totally raltional, btw).

    She is not going to get over her anger in a few weeks, or even months. Just like you ahvn't gotten over her.

    That being said, I see some red flags from her. Beyond the obvious - you work together - she seems to bottle stuff up and then snap with an over reactiooon. This then sets you off into doubting yourself and trying to placate her.

    This is a risky situation. Risky in that her blow up might hapen in a work related way - refusing to work with you, filing some kind of copmplaint, etc.... And risky in what it is doikng to you. You are bending over backwards to make everything OK for her - but what if she's wrong?

    I wasn't there in you guys' relationship, so I can't judge if you were lousy enough to be 1) dumped via email 2) told you can't be trusted 3) accused of trying to manipulate her. From your description, you did things that commonly happen in relationships - you were crazy about her and pushed too far too fast. OK, maybe you were a jerk - but to never trust you again? I mean - is that really in proportion to how you behaved? And to be dumped via email and totally cut off?

    From what I observe, you seem like a good, caring, decent, trustworthy, passionate person. You aer willing to look at yourself and make changes. You know you are not perfect. You try to see things from her point of view. You care about your work and your commitments. I know you have made some changes in therapy - but I find it hard to believe that you have evolved from someone she can't trust, to the thoughtful person here on AE in a few short months.

    Which is a very long way of saying: She doesn't trust you, she's most likely totally wrong, she's stupid to misjudge you, it's her damned probelm.

    Find yourself a girl who loves you and isn't constatnly with the drama. One who appreciates your passion and zest for life. And who doesn't leave you doubting yourslef and feeling like shit. Because I sincerely doubt you've done something horrible enough to deserve the totally doghouse.

    Serviously, her fucking loss. Someone is going to be lucky to have you.

    Sorry atbout all the typos, I'm not feeling great.
     
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  17. alphabet

    alphabet Well-Known Member

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    I know. I have dated an actual co-worker before and that was really horrible. The plus thing here is that we don't have an employer so there is no HR fears or complaints that could be filed. We are part of a professional organization for people in our field and through that we run several volunteer projects together. So it's work but it isn't official in the way that it would be if we were in an office. Since it's volunteer I realize that I could just quit. Yet, we have worked on these projects for years now so I am not willingly to walk away after my hard work. It's mine too.

    You are right. I am trying to find some crazy rational for her behavior and the answer is that there is none. We have been getting along so well. I shouldn't be surprised that she would have a find a way to push me away and accuse me of having other motives. This is a girl who has had trust issues long before I even met her so she definitely needs to get help dealing with those.

    I really did not do anything intentional or harmful. I loved her and I wanted something serious and maybe I was too crazy in love with her to see that she did not but I hardly see that as a reason to act like I am the devil. It's so messed up because she also shows that she still cares about me. We met up the other night and she said finally that she has bitterness towards me and needs time to process through that before we can go on and heal.

    It just feels insane though because if I don't give her the attention she wants she gets upset. If I try to act friendly and nice she thinks I am manipulating her. It's hard to please her. I find it so stupid because I care about her and I told her I would follow her lead and do whatever she wants to earn her trust back. I know she is going through some tough personal shit. So I never want to judge a person too harshly. However, I have sorta decided that I think she feels guilty and is angry at herself and angry at life right now. I have always been an easy target for her pent up anger because I am so docile and patient. The fucked up thing is that I do see good in her and I care about her a lot. I want to just put it all behind us but for some reason she wants to hold onto bitterness.
     
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  18. alphabet

    alphabet Well-Known Member

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    Hi everyone,

    So it's been a minute and so much has changed since last year. In April she also wrote me a letter and apologized for being mean and a bitch to me. She said she was still so hurt from stuff that happened to us in the past. She said that I did deserve better and she needed some time apart in order to process more those feelings of hurt and anger. So we didn't speak for about 4 months. Tho we got back in touch again via email over the summer and started talking on a regular basis this last two months. The time apart really changed things between us and she has started to trust me again. I started a new job and she has been very sweet and supportive when I feel anxious and been good about making time to talk with me. I told her about what happened with that other girl (see: she want's to focus on herself) and she even told me that that girl was wrong about me and was on my side concerning everything.

    She also told me that she is committed to not just disappearing on me again and promised to talk to me about how she feels more openly. It's hard to believe but I definitely feel like we are on a new page. We are seeing each other this week for the first time since May. We are attending a conference together and then flying across the country to see some mutual friends for the weekend. So we will also be on a 6+ long plane ride together. We have plans to spend my birthday together in two weeks too.

    Maybe I shouldn't but I am still in love with her. I've since dated several girls since we broke up and I still maintain online dating profiles. I've also recently moved to a new city where there aren't as many out folks..so it has been harder to even make new queer friends here. We talked the other day and she told me that she is single and has only been going out on casual dates. We haven't had a talk about what we are doing or where we stand yet. I've not wanted to bring it up yet because things are still so new. Now that we have another chance I don't want to push too much. Or do you think I should ask her to define what we are doing?

    I'm trying hard not to get my hopes all worked up, but with improved communication and help of a professional I feel like things are truly different and I know I've changed and grown as a person. I'm pleased to see her changing towards me too. In Jan/Feb she was telling me that we would never been friends even, because she was too hurt and was afraid to trust me again so I feel like we have made a lot of progress since then.
     
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  19. Bluenote

    Bluenote Well-Known Member

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    No, don't push. No, don't ask her to define where you gals are and what you are doing.

    1) You gals are already defining things organically. You have talked about:
    - you both needed time apart to process / reflect / grow
    - she admits that you deserved better
    - she admits that she was hurt / angry, but has mostly moved past that
    - you are dating people casually, but nothing has really 'clicked' yet
    - you have gotten support from each other for general life stuff
    - you are moving into spending more time together

    OK, add it all together and viola:

    our current relationship = fresh new page + treating each other better + support each other + casually dating people

    Another way to say it is - exs who are trying to treat each other better, are unsure of where that may lead, but are open to finding out.

    2) One of the big issues before was you pushed to fast, too hard. Don't do that again.
    - she likely can't answer "what are we," because she doesn't know yet. What you gals are, likely depends some on what happens - it's not written yet. If you both keep working to rebuild trust - things go in one direction. If you gals backslide into old habits - it goes another direction.

    What is she going to say? "I still have feelings for you, but I don't want to get hurt again. If you treat me right, maybe we can date again. If you blow it and act like a pushy asshole, I will cut you out so fast it will make your head spin."

    3) Enjoy spending time with her. Don't worry about what you gals are, just enjoy it. There is plenty of time to define things later. But now, you need to rebuild so that there actual is something there to define.
     
    #19
    alphabet likes this.
  20. alphabet

    alphabet Well-Known Member

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    I literally just laughed out loud in my office. Thanks Bluenote.

    You are def right...I've only hinted at our relationship and she purposefully avoided it, which is to say I don't believe she knows. Thanks for reminding me though not to repeat the same mistakes of pushing for too much so soon. Hard to believe just a few months ago she was saying never again and here we are talking every day. Guess time does heal all.

    I'm so excited about having another chance with her, so my goal is just not get all caught up and think with a clear head. I've made plans too to see some friends while I'm in town so I'm making an effort not to plan my whole week around what she is doing and have my own life too. I know that's what I would respect in someone else.
     
    #20

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