"I want this person in my life, but deep down I know she is toxic to my moving on and finding someone who appreciates me."
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Dear Miss Information,
My girlfriend of four years broke up with me a few months ago and I've had a very hard time moving on. The problem was compounded by us working together. Days after dumping me, she began seeing my boss—the person I report to daily. I have since quit that job, which is something I regret now, but working not 10 feet from her was too much for the time I stuck it out. We've stayed in contact and have talked every day after the breakup. I know this is a big mistake, but I do love this woman and was a month away from proposing when we broke up. Bought the ring and everything.
Recently, her relationship with my ex-boss ended, and, when it did, she made more of an effort to see me. A week later she started dating another guy. She never admitted to dating my ex-boss, and I know she owes me no explanation since I'm not part of her life in that way anymore. I want this person in my life, but deep down I know she is toxic to my moving on and finding someone who appreciates me. Please tell me what I should do.
—Stuck in Time
Dear Stuck in Time:
Though I generally advocate moral/emotional prudence (has a sexier phrase ever been typed?), situations like yours are one exception. Get irrational. Sometimes it’s beneficial to hate an ex—respectfully, quietly, and entirely behind their back. As long as you have rose-tinged feelings about her, it will be nearly impossible to move on.
Have you read 1984? You know the Two Minutes’ Hate the citizens of Oceania take part in, where they scream, yell, and rage against enemies of the state? I don’t say this often, but let The Party be your guide. Getting angry at your ex is the first step in recognizing that a) You weren’t meant to be together, and b) You'll be better off without her. So put together your own mental propaganda film. Tap into the hurt and anger the break-up caused, and use it to push her from your (immediate) life. I’m not recommending you get a “Cindy sucks” tattoo or burn her effigy, but focus on the negatives until you are able to believe, fully, that you aren’t meant to be together.
Now for some logistics. As hard as it is, stop talking to her every day, and don’t hang out with her. Delete her number from your phone, do whatever you have to do to keep from sending Late Night Mistake Emails, and generally try to put a communication blackout with her. Having her in your life now, while you still are dealing with boundaries, will impede your ability to have her in your life later.
You already know, intellectually, that her presence is toxic. Now you need to recognize it viscerally. She broke up with you! She dated your boss! What a nasty so-and-so! Throw rocks at the telescreen! Eventually the anger and hurt you feel will die down, and be replaced with indifference. That’s the goal.